M25 Library Consortium – Applying to Library School (Post 1)

Last week Amy and I attended an event presented by the M25 Consortium of Libraries which was targeted at graduate trainees who are considering applying to library school. I have decided to split my report of this day into two (or potentially three) posts to allow myself to really go into the depths of the information I was given. The day proved to be an excellent starting point for me in terms of getting a solid foundation of understanding into realistically, what sort of jobs will be shaping the information profession that I intend to build my career into. This post will focus on Dr Stephen Pinfield’s (University of Sheffield) presentation which rounded up some of the top trends in academic libraries.

For me, it was a very welcome event as I have recently felt the pressure of imminent deadlines for applications looming, and with so much information bombarding me I’d got myself in a slight mental scramble! Attending the event were representatives from UCL, Sheffield, Aberystwyth, Bristol and CILIP plus a panel of individuals who had either recently qualified or were mid-study from a variety of different backgrounds and courses.

After mingling with some of the other trainees (the main consequence of which was to feel extremely grateful for my place at the London Library!) we were ushered into the main conference room where Stephen Pinfield from Sheffield University was first to speak. Entitled “The Information Profession: Opportunities and Challenges”, his talk focused on two recent articles which explored trends in library services and information; the purpose of which was to provide some general context on the information profession as a whole and to examine the role of librarians in today’s society.

The IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) report focused on five key trends:

  1. The first one of which was new technology and consequentially, a newly established need for information literacy. Another by-product of these changes and shifts will be the tensions caused over ownership and rights in a redesigned landscape of information services.
  2. The next key trend was online education which has sparked all sorts of debates; the most prominent of which is the open access debate and open education research which, Stephen suggested has added value to the role “intermediaries” can provide. From this I deduced he meant, more digital information means more need for professionals who can navigate and facilitate effective learning – enter librarians! The report also explored the possibility of more recognition for “informal” learning.
  3. Privacy and data protection were also red-flagged as a hot topic; new technologies have given rise to much more sophisticated individual and social group profiling. The monitoring and analysis of communication data and meta-data are redefining the boundaries of privacy and data-protection. People are rightfully living in fear of the potentially non-erasable digital footprint they may leave. The challenge here is how to regulate a borderless entity like the internet.
  4. A Slightly more positive trend that the report identified is the implications of a hyper-connected society. The growth of the internet is uniting and giving voice to a range of different social groups and movements, often at the expense of traditional political parties. Access to public sector data will hopefully lead to more transparent and citizen focused public services.
  5. A general over-haul of the global information economy was the final forecast. Again, the term “hyper-connected” came into play here to describe the global economy, and referred to network sensors in appliances, 3D printing and language translation technologies. As the growing number of smart devices cultivates the rapidly proliferating “internet of things”, traditional business models are being creatively disrupted (a perfect example is the recent reports of disruption to black cab services by apps like Halo).

The Association of College and Research Libraries, (the biggest branch of The ALA) explored the opportunities for collaboration and new initiatives in the evolving landscape of information. The expanding arena of data, the report suggested, will create cooperative roles for researchers, repositories and journal publishers. There will be partnerships related to discovery and the re-use of data and perhaps a new position for device neutral digital services.

Again, the subject of open access in higher education was highlighted as a leader in transforming the educational environment. The more recently coined term “altmetrics”, have emerged and are eclipsing traditional metrics; they facilitate a more sophisticated analysis and give deeper insight to scholarly and scientific works by assessing it’s impact, not only through citation count but through analysing data such as how many times it appears on a knowledge or database, article views and mentions on social media and news media. Another higher-education related trend was the emergence of contemporary fields of study such as digital humanities which combines methods from traditional subjects like classics, history, literature, art, archaeology and music with the tools provided by computing such as data visualisation, digital mapping, information retrieval, statistics and text mapping.

Dr Pinfield then went on to provide a general overview of the challenges facing academic research libraries today;

  • Maintaining excellent standards despite reduced budgets.
  • Greater use of outsourcing and cloud delivery.
  • Increasing access to information resources for study and research on static or reduced budgets.
  • Supporting widening participation and nationalisation.
  • Promoting external cooperation and partnerships, balancing institutional, consortial and network activities.
  • Continue to get the basics right whilst innovating.

He predicted that some of the future information job roles may be such things as systems librarians, electronic resources librarians, digital librarians, repository managers, digital curators and research managers, information literacy educators and web managers.

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