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Top 4 skills Librarians have to navigate digital disruption

I wrote a much longer post regarding Librarians and Digital Disruption here and I realise it is a very long read. For the perpetually time poor I thought it worth separating the four core skills librarians need to navigate our digitally disrupted world. So what is the librarian toolkit that can help us towards customer focused solutions in a digitally disrupted world?

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  1. Empathy — it is about people and the trends in their behaviour responding to the technology— not about the technology itself. A selfie moment is not about the digitally savvy camera, the photo or the moment usually. It is about the need to build a social connection and to express who we are or who we want to be. So yes you do need to incorporate that selfie opportunity in the library or with your exhibition but remember the why for the person taking the selfie — not just the how and the what.

Empathy also means we need to use data ethically. Be clear, honest and transparent about what data the library is keeping, who owns it — because it may not be the library -what it is used for and allow library users to modify and control their own data. Library Managers need to start demanding this from our vendors — because who is going to care about our customers if not us? Tom Goodwin in his book Digital Darwinism challenges all business to not think technology first but think about the problem from a customer point of view first and then find the technology to solve it. Applying creative solutions around what real people want from the library and in doing this we must question all the assumptions and rules of the past to design these solutions. So it is important to remember empathy is the most important factor — not the technology. Libraries pride themselves on being about people but can be seduced by technology lust so we must be cautious about why the technology is needed.

Photo by James & Carol Lee on Unsplash

2. Curiosity — keep our curiosity alive. All library staff need to let go of the concept of being trained before having to incorporate the new into their daily practice. Embrace the embarrassing moment of not knowing and learning and not being good at something. I have previously written about Libraries and incorporating learning into our everyday practice here and totally believe we need to do to learn. If we keep our own curiosity alive then we can excite our users to be curious to. Once we are confident to learn and adapt to always being on a learning journey we can let go of the need to be the expert and embrace the role of facilitator for our community — whether they are students, the general public or special businesses. And curiosity drives changes in behaviour and confidence. Sending staff to training without an accompanying curiosity and opportunity to practice some of the learning will result in limited to no change in behaviour or confidence so is a waste of everyone’s time. Learning is driven by creative application and if we want to build an innovative, creative digital first culture we need to involve staff in the problem solving, give them the opportunity to undertake pilot projects to practice on to learn and to build confidence. Technology can be a great engagement tool and remember to intentionally build library engagement through play. Ask the audience to become a member and ensure you have a collection, even if it is a collection of things, to support the technology program. Yarra Plenty Regional Library has recently launched a STEM Toy Library to drive engagement and learning through technology.

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Dr Matt Finch getting creative

3. Creativity. I have written about the importance of creativity in a library before and totally believe it essential to drive change. To be creative we need constraints so libraries are very lucky because we have constraints galore so it follows that we can be, and are, very creative. Budgets are limited, time is limited but these limitations can drive creativity. Dave Snowden in his keynote presentation at APLIC18 presented a new way to think about organisational change. Forget a change management plan he challenged the audience as that will conjure up all the bad memories of previous change, often with failures embedded in them as we cannot get everything right. Instead let us acknowledge that in today’s world we are on a continuous learning journey — and simply focus on a pain point in your library user journey and get creative. Problem solve only from the user point of view — the library centric view does not get a look in here. The change journey is constant so undertake small pilot projects and then ask the question what did we learn — not what failed. Build this learning into the next pilot project — so we just get better. But to do this we must allocate time to improvement, pilot projects and creative thinking. And we do have time. Anyone who tells me they haven’t got time for creativity is telling me this isn’t important to them. And maybe the freeing up of time can be the problem you all creatively solve in the first project. Budgets are tight but you can allocate some funds to a small pilot that helps build a case for more funds or build a case for a grant. Try stuff and then learn.

4. Audacity: and no I do not mean the free audio software program! It is time to take the leap — into learning, into coding, into robotics, into digital disruption — whatever you are most challenged by — be audacious and just learn it. I am not saying every library staff member needs to be an amazing programmer. But I am saying we should all know about coding, the art of problem solving and then writing a piece of code to make a robot turn around. I am saying we should all be exploring this new world — for ourselves, our libraries and our users. And sometimes being audacious is slicing off a piece of the budget for innovation, creative play, and learning. Recognising that this is an investment for our futures — giving ourselves time to be audacious, creative and curious. And then of course we need to share our learning, in blogs, in forums and across our networks. Believe in yourself and your library. Believe in ‘LIBRARY’.

Written by

Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics

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