You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:


Over two years ago I wrote Are You a 21st Century Librarian? and proposed the following six behaviors that would describe a 21st Century librarian.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

1. Are Creative – …

2. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit – …

3. Are Customer Oriented – …

4. Embrace Technology – …

5. Are Business-like – …

6. Adopt a New Library Paradigm – …

I also wrote that there are definitely more than six characteristics of a 21st Century Librarian and more would follow. Life is what happens while you’re doing something else.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

7. Develop New Skill Sets – These are the skills they don’t teach you in library school; team building, collaboration, application of cutting edge technology, conducting training, individual professional development, applications of social media, crowd sourcing, open innovation, and many more. The point is to recognize what skill set is needed now and next year and develop it within yourself – on your own time if necessary.

8. Build A Great Team – In the 21st Century Library everything is done through collaboration, strategic partnerships and team work. Having the skills to bring people together through a shared vision and clear advantage in a joint venture is crucial to being successful in the 21st Century environment.

9. Think Strategically – Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library [as of 2011]. The Fayetteville [NY] Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things.

Smedley says she plans on adding other equipment as well, including a CNC Router and a laser cutter. Smedley helped her library win a $10,000 innovation grant at the recent Contact Summit in New York and is also raising money via an Indiegogo campaign. She’s reaching out to local science teachers, as well as encouraging those already active in area hackerspaces and makerspaces to get involved.

10. Are Creative – “You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone.” [Jack Andraka, age 15, Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize Winner] The point is librarians MUST be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries. Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” during the first decade of the 21st Century in the same way it has been done for centuries. The reason the old way does not work is because the environment, conditions and library user’s expectations of libraries have all changed drastically. Without a new perspective of librarianship and the ability to create and implement new ideas to address new challenges, as well as old challenges, libraries will never reach their 21st Century capabilities.

11. Give Exemplary Selfless Service – “The needs and mission of the organization ALWAYS come first. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about the staff. I am responsible to see that this organization functions at the highest possible level of efficiency, responsibility, accountability and integrity. My job is to always meet that expectation and see to it that everyone else gets as close as possible.” [The Highly Successful 21st Century Library Director]

12. Make Your Library Relevant to Your Community – This is the ONLY thing that truly matters in the end analysis. You can have all the bells and whistles, all the latest technology, the best customer service in the world, but if the products and services your library is offering to your community do not “connect” with what the community wants – you will still not be relevant. PERIOD! End of story! End of library?

[Read also: Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders

A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face

A New Perspective of Librarianship

Re-Imagining The Public Library

21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

Please contribute to this list with ideas and experience of your own.

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