There are two schools of thought with regards to library and information services today. The first is a pervasive negative doom and gloomâ€¦ "libraries are going to disappear" or "libraries are no longer relevant". Then there is the school of thought I choose to subscribe to, the one that suggest that these are extraordinary and dynamic, exciting times for the Library and Information Services sector.
Whatever school of thought you choose to subscribe to, the fact stands that there is enormous change, and that change starts with library workers themselves, for it is up to them to navigate their libraries through this period of sector wide disruption. It is clear that libraries are no longer simply a repository of books and information, or â€˜just about the books'. Libraries that continue to subscribe to these modus operandi, will simply disappear. They can no longer justify their existence. However, libraries that adapt and embrace the new digital world, flourish and add enormous value to their communities.
Libraries are now focused not just on being a repository of information, but of being a centre of service to their communities. They are having to value add their service offering, to include various initiatives, activities, events, learning opportunities, outreach services, information services, business and entrepreneur support etc.
These changes require library workers to drive them. And this new digital world economy requires fresh thinking, up-to-date knowledge, and 21st century skills. This is where education is so important. A good qualification, whether it is a library assistant course such as a Certificate III in Information and Cultural Services or a Certificate IV in Library, Information and Cultural Services, or a library technician course such as a Diploma of Library and Information Services, they need to focus on 21st century library skills, which are critical not only to the survival of libraries, but also to the employees themselves.
A good qualification that encourages adaptation, 21st century skills, and people-centric skills such as exceptional customer service, communication, emotional intelligence and leadership, can mitigate against many of the risks that both the Library and Information Services (LIS) sector and library workers face.
Individually, a qualification can certainly help enhance a person's employability in the sector, can increase their value to their employer, and can often justify a higher wage. It can provide evidence that the library worker, despite often years in the job, has attained a certain level of knowledge in best-practice knowledge, and 21st century skills. It also demonstrates a commitment to life-long learning - a founding principle and core value of library and information services.
It is common practice that library workers without qualifications and who learned purely â€˜on the job' are sometimes perpetuating incorrect practice, or bad habits. A qualification can update even an experienced worker on the latest methods of best practice in libraries and information services, and provide the evidence that the employee has achieved a certain level of knowledge and understanding. It also demonstrates a commitment to enhancing one's own information literacy skills - determining what information is needed by the client, where reliable and relevant information can be sourced, and how that information will be applied at the level of understanding of the customer.
Gaining a qualification and maintaining up-to-date best practice can ensure that a library worker remains efficient, effective, and adaptable with the skills to take the library to where it needs to go in the digital economy. It also enables an employee to future-proof themselves and their career, and can enhance job liquidity. It certainly helps a library worker stand out from their peers, and the competition for limited job vacancies.
For certain occupations and certain qualifications, a qualification also opens doors to registration and memberships with relevant associations, which provide advocacy, campaigns, professional development, resources and information.
A 21st century qualification can also help create the next generation of leaders in Library and Information Services. Because 21st century challenges require 21st century thinkers, leaders, innovators and educators! Open up opportunities for new roles and progression in your current (or a new) LIS workplace, and reap the benefits that you have sowed from a qualification - you won't regret it!