Tenure academic librarian positions come at a considerable expense to the academic institution. As a result, universities want to ensure their applicants are qualified and dedicated to the university of choice. Jennine Knight (2013), a librarian at the University of the West Indies, explains, “If that new talent and skill should leave the institution whether on their own volition or fail within the first 6 to 18 months, the costs expended during the employee’s short tenure are practically wasted.” Universities are looking for committed staff members who are willing to learn for themselves and eventually share their knowledge. A commitment to learning is foundational for the academic librarian. Proof of learning comes not only from experience, as every new job brings different challenges, but also coursework.
As a result of this conclusion, I started tracking job listings posted on WSU’s listserve (LISJOBS@lists.wayne.edu). I wanted to focus on academic libraries and the common skills listed; the majority of my recorded data is based on jobs within the university library. I hoped to understand exactly what academic institutions are looking for and how much of that is based on pure experience and how much could be gleaned through a graduate education. What I found was not surprising: university libraries are looking for librarians with teaching skills, instructional experience delivering workshops and providing training, experience leading library instruction services and information literacy programs, and collaboratively developing and maintaining information literacy and educational curriculum. Essentially, academic librarians are lifelong learners with a commitment to spread their wealth of knowledge.
I also discovered that most university libraries wanted librarians who were comfortable utilizing technology for information literacy. For example, postings were looking for experience using a variety of research resources including library databases and web-based tools in the provision of reference and instruction, the ability to design tutorials, guides, and other research assistance products for both in-house and distance education programs, experience of digital learning, a working knowledge of contemporary online instructional aids and trends, and evidence of ability to use technology to produce instructional materials. Raju (2014) reiterates this, and also encourages aspiring librarians to develop their comprehension of the Internet. The “Digital library applications are closely linked to Web technology,” he explains. As an increasing percentage of the library’s information is stored online, additional knowledge of the World Wide Web is also important. Raju explains:
The following technologies becomes critical: digital library architecture and software, technical and quality standards, HTML coding, general computer skills and computer literacy, database development and management, Web mark-up languages such as SGML and XML, and Web development and design. (Raju as cited in Choi and Rasmussen, 2006 and Choi and Rasmussen, 2009)
What I found most conclusive in this small-scale study was my ability to define what the “well-rounded skillset” of an academic librarian might look like. Namely, I confirmed that one of the leading roles of the academic librarian is owning the skills to provide comprehensive instruction to students, whether in-person or online through web-based tutorials. Universities are looking for individuals comfortable with and committed to learning on every level, be it for themselves or for the students through various library instruction mediums.
Knight, J. (2013) “Rapid on-boarding of academic librarians: good economic sense”, The Bottom Line: Managing library finances, Vol. 26 Iss: 4, pp.152 – 160.
Raju, J. (2014). “Knowledge and skills for the digital era academic library”, The Journal of academic librarianship (0099-1333), 40 (2), p. 163.