New Teams for a New Era
SCONUL will be holding its one-day 2012 Winter conference at the Wellcome Institute on the theme of the emerging skills needs of university and academic libraries. As usual, it will provide delegates with an opportunity to debate current issues with peers, and to hear from a range of expert opinion from within and beyond the library community. However, this year the conference will be structured in such a way as to deliver a specific set of outputs: a map of future skills needs and the core elements of job descriptions which will be developed further after the conference.
Wellcome Collection Conference Centre,
SCONUL’s Winter conference 2012 at the Wellcome Institute is on the theme of the emerging skills needs of university and academic libraries. The conference is structured to help delegates work through the process of identifying and then specifying emerging skills needs, and then discuss how these can be delivered with the community's core partners.
Identifying emerging skills needs
One of the objectives of SCONUL’s current strategy is to identify, and help members prepare for, new trends in library provision. The subject matter of this year’s conference is designed to do just this in relation to emerging skills needs. Two dynamics are having a significant impact on skills requirements: the growth of digital technology and content, and the increased emphasis of a student-centered approach to academic services.
Before the advent of digital technologies and content, the skills required of library staff to undertake the three main tasks of supporting library users; managing resources, including library systems; and managing spaces enjoyed a high degree of commonality. However, those areas of work have become increasingly disaggregated and with them, the skills sets required to deliver them. This presents significant challenges for those leading academic libraries who will need to broaden the range of skills available from within their team, despite falling employee numbers; locate sources of skills new to libraries and change library team cultures and ways of working.
The following schema is designed to illustrate where current primary skills (information and knowledge management; support for library users and library technology) overlap and how demands for new library skills are being generated. For example, while teaching digital literacy and support in the use of library systems remain core elements of the library’s role in enabling students to learn, new skills arise in the overlap between this and library systems. These include the creation of user-friendly interfaces with library systems.
Other areas of new skills identified are managing research data and personalising library services. The conference will explore these and help identify any other new skills.
There are two other factors not captured in this schema which should inform any discussion of future library needs. The first is the requirement for senior leadership teams to be able to exhibit a broad range of leadership and management skills to a high level of professionalism as they operate across and beyond the institution in partnership with other professionals. The second is the erosion of the boundary between the library and other parts of the institution. Convergence between academic support services is one result, as is the requirement for staff to work outside or at least across silos, and to develop effective partnerships across and outside the institution.