The New Age of Librarianship
There’s a lot of talk these days about the “new age” of libraries and the role they play in a changing information landscape. While it’s true that the Internet has put vast amounts of information at people’s fingertips at the time and place of their choosing, the Internet does not take the place of a campus or community library. In fact, now more than ever, skilled librarians are needed to help people understand the changing ways information is accessed and to help them filter out good information from bad in the “white noise” of the Internet.
Access Versus Archives
Image via Flickr by Muffet
A major change in the new age of librarianship is the shift in focus from building collections to improving access. There is a vast amount of digital information available on national and global networks; collaborating and partnering with other library systems to improve access to information is an essential service for today’s libraries.
In addition, providing remote access to digital archives is another worthy goal of the modern library. Research libraries in particular are called upon to provide access to materials for patrons who cannot physically come into the library. Today’s Library Science degree programs frequently offer coursework on information science to prepare professional librarians to curate and manage access to digital collections.
Teaching, Training, and Outreach
Today, public libraries are one of the few places that offer free access to computers and the Internet to members of the community. As such, librarians assume the responsibility of educating visitors on how to use digital resources and other research media. In many cases, librarians become community ambassadors promoting the services the library offers. It is becoming increasingly common for librarians to host training seminars and outreach programs for underserved populations.
Librarians also help their patrons develop information literacy, the skill set that helps people locate, obtain, analyze, and act on information. Information literacy is not just for students in higher education; it helps people make informed decisions that influence everyday life such as buying a home, voting for an elected official, or coping with a medical condition.
Collection to Creation
The American Library Association (ALA) is currently supporting the development and shift from using libraries as a means of collecting and consuming information to having them become a source of media creation as well. The ALA hopes to have libraries become a space where media content can be created with the implementation of new digital programs and software, as well as potentially having librarians and other library employees creating content as well. This means librarian careers are about to have even more opportunities and freedom than ever before. This shift to creating media content could take many forms, so it will be interesting to see how the roles and duties of librarians evolve during this transitory time for libraries.
Although the specific duties of librarians may change in the “new age” of librarianship, their essential function remains the same: Connecting people with the information they want and need.