Session 1: 4-5.45pm: 2nd April 1997 - break out groups and feedback session.

Brainstorming the semantics: defining the ‘Information Professional’

You might like to consider the following statements:

“We are recommending the abolition of the term ‘professional’, when used to describe a grade of staff, and the investigation, through some pilot studies, of the potential for implementing an integrated grading system for all LIS

staff in universities”.

Fielden, J. Supporting expansion: a study of human resource management in academic libraries. (A report for the Management Sub-group of the Library Review). Bristol: HEFCE, 1994, executive summary, p.6. (The Fielden Report)

“ As information providers, we need to focus on and provide training for those functions that are uniquely ours, and we need to do this well”.

Kalvee, D. Library Administration and Management, 10 (4), Fall 1996 (citation on front cover).

“the information content professional must achieve the level of competence in the information conduit (technology) necessary and sufficient to fulfil his or her role. This will vary from post to post, but it ought not to be confused with the core competence in information (content) organisation”

Corrall, S. Defining professional competence: skills and prospects for the information profession. In: Vision 2020: Training for the new millennium. Circle of State Librarians Annual Study Day, 4 November 1996.

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in order to provide the requirements of the new academic libraries...library schools will produce at least two different types of graduate, following two separate paths, but both being called librarian. The need for information specialists can be met by a short course designed for graduates in conventional disciplines....the librarian interested in working within the support functions will require a high level of awareness of the implications and applications of technology, not as a user but as a designer and innovator”.

Adams, R. Staffing Requirements. In: Information technology and libraries. A future for academic libraries. Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, 1986, ch. 9, pp.147- 160.

Questions/discussion points:

Session 2: 9-10am: 3rd April 1997 - break out groups and feedback session.

Exploring emerging roles for the ‘Information Professional’

Group A: Subject specialists: dodos or special envoys?

Fielden predicted that the subject or information librarian was one of three roles which were most likely to change in the future. Visits to participating institutions provided ample evidence that the subject specialist role persists, although it tends to be combined with several other roles, for reasons of cost effectiveness. A pattern of roles and tasks emerged from the interviews:

Subject specialists also undertake a range of other more traditional duties. These include: assessing user needs; collection development; supervising staff, and planning and budgeting for a variety of materials (periodicals, books, electronic information resources, interlibrary loans).

SKIP is focusing on the new roles which are emerging, and is evaluating how these map on to the more traditional tasks and roles - some of which are being devolved to non-professional staff.

continued on next page...

You might like to consider the following points:

Session 2: 9-10am: 3rd April 1997 - break out groups and feedback session.

Exploring emerging roles for the ‘Information Professional’

Group B: Para-professionals and library assistants

The term ‘para-professional’ is quite widely used, but in many different ways: it can refer to a post which sits somewhere between ‘professional’ and ‘other’ staff; it might include a supervisory role; it can be just a polite term for library assistants or support staff.

Fielden predicted that ‘professional’ staff would take on a greater role in learner support and academic liaison, whilst other staff would provide technical support and enquiry services. To some extent this is already happening - continued constraints on resources has forced more organisations to re-structure, and so tasks get shunted down the line.

The SKIP project is trying to establish the range of tasks now being carried out by library assistant/para-professional staff. We have asked them if they consider themselves adequately skilled and trained for their new roles and responsibilities? To what extent are they undertaking tasks, such as cataloguing and enquiry work, which were once the province of the ‘professional’? What impact has IT had on their skills base etc.?

The SKIP interviews revealed that front-line staff, many of whom had taken on new responsibilities, felt undervalued and generally ‘dumped on’. They frequently referred to themselves as being at ‘the bottom of the heap’, and felt that their concerns went unheeded. They also felt that the training they had received failed to provide them with the skills they needed. It tended to be delivered at the wrong time, and at the wrong level, and they had little opportunity to put what they had learnt into practice. In some cases they did not have easy access to a PC.

Sykes highlights certain factors which need to be considered in relation to training and development of library assistants.1 These are: the pressure towards ‘upskilling’; the need to cope with constant change, and the trend towards team-based working. He warns against making generalisations about this group of workers as they are not homogenous. They can comprise:

Graduates non-graduates

temporary permanent

part-time full-time

daytime evening

weekday weekend

eager for change prefer status quo

Discussion points:


1. Sykes, P. Staff development for library assistants. In: Oldroyd, M. (ed.) Staff development in academic libraries: present practice and future challenges. London: Library Association Publishing, 1996, ch. 7, pp.81-92.

Session 2: 9-10am: 3rd April 1997 - break out groups and feedback session.

Exploring emerging roles for the ‘Information Professional’

Group C: multiskilled or ‘hybrid’ staff

The concept of the ‘hybrid’ information professional is one that has been mooted since the mid 1980’s. The term arose in response to the move towards the convergence of services (e.g. computing, library and audio visual services), which was taking place in several Higher Education Institutions around this time. The ‘hybrid’, or multiskilled member of staff, represented an ideal - that is someone whose skills embraced both computing and information management, and matched the requirements of an integrated service.

Sutherland, investigating the issues surrounding integrated services in 1992, concludes that the hybrid member of staff, although popular in theory, had failed to materialise in practice.1 She adds that the consensus at the time of writing was for the preservation of professional specialisms; she also found that disparities between the different groups of staff, coupled with resistance to change, had ensured that the ‘hybrid’ had failed to materialise.

During visits to participating institutions SKIP found several examples of staff who could be described as multiskilled, or who will, in time, become multiskilled. These staff are often employed at Information or Help desks, where their IT expertise is used to provide user support e.g. IT troubleshooting, and software support. They tend to be employed in ‘one stop shop’ services, within a purpose built building. The building will typically house networked PCs, printers, stand-alone CD-ROM terminals, printed resources etc. to provide a converged or integrated service under one overall Head or Director.

Questions/discussion points:

1. Several Schools of Library and Information Studies are starting to address the need for ‘new information professionals’ by introducing new courses with a high IT content, which are geared to electronic and networked information resources. (e.g. Robert Gordon and Loughborough Universities). What are the implications for the traditional ‘library studies’ courses, and for the profession as a whole?

continued over ...

2. Are there two cultures at stake here - rather than two specialisms? Could this impede the rise of the multiskilled information professional? One manager saw this as a confidence issue - where IT staff saw no problem in making referrals for enquires which were outside their area of expertise, library staff felt inadequate and anxious about this - they felt they should be able to answer all enquiries, and see them through from beginning to end.

3. Do you envisage a growing requirement for multiskilled staff? What other roles might they fulfil?

4. Could other types of ‘hybrids’ be equally useful in the changing learning environment e.g. lecturers/teachers with multimedia experience?

5. Other issues??


1. Sutherland, P. The management of integrated learning resources. Brighton: Council of Polytechnic Librarians, 1992.

*The mail list: ‘cristal-ed’ in the USA provides a useful window on what is happening across the pond. It has hosted discussions, over the past year, on topics such as: changing skills, library school curricula, the future of the library profession etc.

To subscribe send message to:

Message to read: subscribe cristal-ed

(nothing else is required)

The eLib project NetLinkS also has a mail list: nls-forum for all those interested in the issues surrounding networked learner support.

Session 2: 9-10am: 3rd April 1997 - break out groups and feedback session.

Exploring emerging roles for the ‘Information Professional’

Group D: management/senior management

Visits to participating institutions highlighted the key role played by the Head of Service in the re-focusing of services. The requirement for someone with vision and good leadership abilities is vital. It is also important that this person is able to communicate their vision of what the service should be, and then turn that vision into practical reality. Heads of service might come from either a library or a computing background, but whatever their qualifications and experience they are now required to be effective managers of change. They will be required to manage diverse groups of staff - especially in converged services, and may have several projects underway which requires that they act as Project Managers.

Fielden states that training for managers at all levels has been ‘under-stressed’.1 He makes several recommendations to remedy this situation, including improved training provision for those aspiring to be heads of service, and the development of open learning materials.

Noon devotes a whole chapter to possible areas for the training of senior managers in LIS in a book on Staff Training and Development. 2 The chapter carries the subtitle: ‘The Pilot, the Doctor and the Magician’ - useful food for thought on possible roles. Noon talks about the need for managers to cultivate self-awareness, and to recognise that they too have development needs. The major barrier to this being their actually finding the time. He cites Follett’s warning that librarians should not allow their professional identity to isolate them from institutional management. He notes that courses and qualifications are only a small part of the development process.

Corrall, in a 1994 article, discusses the topic of management development in depth. 3 She cites Fielden who points to the need for ‘high level management skills’ to cope with the technically and politically complex world of the modern academic library. Corrall lists the skills on the management development agenda: strategic planning - to facilitate the formulation of an integrated information strategy; financial management; performance measurement, and effective staff management:

effective staff management underpins all other activities and the changes anticipated in library operations and organisation, and particularly in the roles of key groups of staff, will present significant challenges in many institutions, involving major cultural change. 3

Corrall examines a range of past training initiatives and studies which have focused on management development, but she concludes that there is no formal requirement for managers to attend training programmes. She states that individuals should be responsible for their own development - a point which Fielden fails to emphasise, but adds that they also need ability in the development of others. Commentators in the USA advocate a radical approach to managerial effectiveness - develop those with talent and remove the ineffective.

Questions/discussion points

· What balance of skills, experience, and personal qualities might the ideal senior manager possess in order to be effective in the current changing climate in HE?

Are different skills required by senior managers in converged services?


1. Fielden, J. Supporting expansion: a study of human resource management in academic libraries. (A report for the Management Sub-group of the Library Review). Bristol: HEFCE, 1994, pp.45, 5.4.

2 Noon, P. Staff development for heads of service/chief librarians. In: Oldroyd, M. ed., Staff development in academic libraries. Present practice and future challenges. Library Association Publishing, 1996, ch. 9. pp. 107-116.

3. Corrall, S. Management development in academic libraries. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 9 (3), 1994, pp. 209-223.

4. Ibid., p.221.

Session 3: 11-12.30am: 3rd April 1997

Defining skills: information skills + IT/technical skills

Staff interviewed at participating institutions identified a number of areas of IT where they felt they might benefit from additional training. (see bottom of page 2) However, they were often unsure as to whether these skills were really what they needed; they also felt that rapid advances in technology might render new skills redundant overnight.

There is also considerable debate as to the extent to which information services staff need to become IT specialists. Confusion arises as information becomes increasingly available in electronic format; this makes it difficult to separate ‘information skills’ from ‘technical or IT skills’. The requirements of the post usually dictate the level of skills or experience required, but SKIP found many instances of staff who had developed specific skills (e.g. Web authoring), through personal interest and on their own initiative, which were then utilised by the service. These tasks and skills are then incorporated into the post and may be lost if the post holder leaves.

Woodsworth and the “Information Job Family”

Woodsworth and Maylone’s work on the “Information Job Family”, provides a useful model for evaluating the work of information professionals within a networked environment.1,2 They found a high degree of “cross over in terms of function” between jobs in libraries and computer centres, although the common goal for both types of staff is the same - assisting end users to retrieve and use information with the help of technology.

Woodsworth and Maylone identified eight tasks which were performed in both libraries and computing centres:

Mission: Impossible: Groups A and B: defining the ‘ information’ skills

We would like you to contribute to the skills debate by identifying/listing/ categorising/grading, or using whatever method you decide is appropriate, the information skills (not IT skills) you feel are required by staff working in the ‘electronic library’.

Which of these skills can be considered ‘uniquely ours’ 3 as ‘information professionals’?

Mission: Impossible: Groups C and D: defining the ‘IT/technical’ skills

We would like you to tackle the IT skills in a similar way.

IT Training needs identified by staff at SKIP interviews:

Operating systems - theory and use (DOS/Windows)

Basic computing

Overview of LAN/WAN set-up (as used by institution)

Fault diagnosis/troubleshooting

Printers - how to fix them

Servers - which does what and how

CD-ROM networking and searching

Networked printers - how they are configured

html - advanced including use of graphics


UNIX - basic or advanced according to post

Word-processing - Advanced features

Excel - all levels

SPSS or other statistical packages

Database packages e.g. Access

Bibliographic referencing tools (e.g. Papyrus)

Downloading to disk and manipulating data

Internet - searching, downloading etc.

In general: junior staff wanted more ‘hands-on’ training and time to practice; they wanted to be shown shortcuts/tips for Windows etc. They were fazed by the number of CD -ROM databases in use and wanted more practice in using them before they were released for student use.


  1. Woodsworth, A. and Maylone, T. Reinvesting in the Information Job Family: context, changes, new jobs, and models for evaluation and compensation. CAUSE Professional Paper Series, No.11. Boulder, Colorado: CAUSE, 1993.
  2. Woodsworth, A. and Maylone, T. Chief Information Officers, academic libraries and the Information Job Family. In: Pitkin, G. (ed.) Information Management and organisational change in Higher Education. Westport, CT. and London: Meckler, 1992.
  3. Kalvee, D. Library Administration and Management, 10 (4), Fall 1996 (front cover)

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