A quick LinkedIn search reveals that there are 158,455 Librarians, 71,224 Information Officers and 10,479 Knowledge Managers on the professional networking site. Whilst industries such as legal and academic tend to have more Librarians, and accounting and banking more Information Professionals, we are seeing a growing trend of library job titles shifting away from the traditional Librarian, towards a broader information role.
The Librarian & Their Misconceptions
The Librarian job title brings many preconceptions with it, some positive and others more negative. Many incorrectly perceive Librarians as being old fashioned. There is too strong a focus on books and print resources, all of which are static and behind the times. They don’t keep up with new news and “alerts” are already out of date.
Librarians are often assumed to be based in a physical library building which acts as a cost centre on an already budget short firm. In an age where we can “just Google it”, why does one need a Librarian at all?
These misinterpretations of the profession act as significant barriers to reaping the full benefit of your organisation’s library service.
Today’s Information Professional
Today’s reality sees a fast paced organization with constantly moving parts. The information service is ever changing to meet the continuously evolving needs of its organisation. Indeed, the service acts as a shop that will sell or source anything its customers need.
Information Professionals offer incredible context with information specifically tailored to meet the requirements and scope of its audience. Their service is the foundation of the company, boosting up employees and pushing forward the firm’s competitive advantage by generating information, aware business decisions. In effect, the information service builds an efficient and relevant firm.
Today we see Information Professionals embedded into the communities within which they work. No longer is a dedicated space necessary, instead they act as a fully fledged service which listens to the needs of its patrons, who just so happen to be their colleagues. The firm acts as one single unit. No longer is the library a place one has to visit, the service is there for you all the time.
Information Professionals are tech savvy and far more competent that the average information consumer. They offer training to their colleagues on research techniques and guide their organisation through information best practices. The Information Professional is able to curate content into a single digestible information package.
In a world where 80% of content is below the surface, it is the Information Professional who knows where to go access the deep web. They can find the niche resources, vet the most accurate sources and judge what is already out of date in our ever evolving industry.
Then there’s what goes on behind the scenes. Budget management, strategy, planning and negotiations all eat up a considerable chunk of the Information Professional's time. They must think strategically and forecast the needs of an organisation doesn’t even yet know itself. They must predict the future whilst analysing the past.
We’re seeing a general shift away from titles such as Librarian and Director of Library Services towards Information Professionals, PSLs, Knowledge Managers, Information Analysts, Head of Information Services and other broader, more encompassing information based titles.
Dictionary.com defines a library as, primarily:
“a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed”
Whilst information is defined to be:
“knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance; news”
In reality, however, we’re really talking about the same thing. For what really is in a name? Whilst their implicit definitions may seem vastly different, a job title doesn’t tell the whole story. Chances are, Librarians and Information Professionals are doing the same or very similar things within their roles, just with a different heading.
The Librarian’s title may well bring with it many stereotypes but for many it also brings a sense of prestige and authority. So by changing the name, what are we really altering? Should we be working to change the stereotype instead? Or have the name and the stereotype changed together?