Transforming Roles for
Academic Librarians:
Leading and Participating
in New Partnerships
Brenda L. Johnson
Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries
Indiana University
s a beginning point to look at the changing roles of academic
librarians, a brief scan of library websites uncovers a dizzying array
of titles assigned to library professionals. Just take a look at a few of
the titles of librarian positions in academic libraries these days: Repository
Architecture Specialist, Bioinformationist, Intellectual Property Officer, Digital
User Experience Librarian, Metadata Harvesting Librarian, Global Health
Librarian, Curriculum Integration Librarian, Digital Research and Scholarship
Librarian, Outreach Librarian, Interface and User Testing Librarian, Instructional
Design Librarian, Chief Technology Strategist, Translational Science Information
Specialist, and the list goes on.
One might ask if these new titles have confused our users or even librarians
themselves. Perhaps. But, does the typical faculty member or student even know
our titles. The answer I am quite sure is, “no.” Why should they care what
librarians are calling themselves? They do care about what we are doing for
and, perhaps more importantly, with them.
The point is not what we call ourselves. I’ll grant you an argument could be
made that some of these new titles may intrigue our colleagues on campus and
may even garner new respect. And, I’m the first to admit I like some of the new
titles and some degree of re-branding for librarians may be desirable. It matters
less what we call librarians and matters more that we have confidence that what
we offer is valued and that the roles we play are in sync with and critical to the
mission of our university.
The “Transforming Research Libraries” section of the ARL Strategic Plan of
RLI 272
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