Developing a Vital
Research Library
Workforce
Mark A. Puente, Director of Diversity Programs, ARL
Ipresent
n a recent report entitled “The Once and Future Library,” based on a
study commissioned by the Herman Miller corporation, researchers
a view of the future academic library that includes dramatic
transformations of roles librarians will be playing in the future—from the
“keepers of the flammable inventory” to the role of knowledge navigator,
presiding over spaces and services that are increasingly collaborative,
complex, and dynamic.1
The full impact of the recent economic downturn will not be fully
understood for some time, however, it is clear that it has accelerated the
assessment of workflows, personnel structures, acquisitions priorities, and
every other facet of the workings of research libraries today. Anecdotal
evidence tells us that libraries and information centers are reorganizing,
outsourcing, consolidating service points, weeding collections, and making
any other adjustments necessary to telegraph the flexibility of the organization
and the willingness to implement new strategies for provision of services
relevant to the modern research enterprise.
What remain to be seen are the long-term implications for the research
library workforce in terms of the staffing needs and anticipated competencies
for library and information professionals of the future. These competencies
include subject-domain expertise and functional and/or sociopolitical acumen
that will be needed as organizations continue to evolve in response to
continued economic pressures, changing pedagogical strategies, and rapid
evolutions in the way researchers today search for, consume, and, in some
instances, create knowledge. In a broader social context, complexity increases
when dealing with the question of best practices for creating services that are
best suited for researchers who are “next-gen,” “digital natives,” or other
appropriate synonyms. Throw in the added layer of shifting demographics
RLI 272
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OCTOBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC