Obsolete Academic Librarian Skills

A few bloggers were having fun identifying totally obsolete skills. You know, the sort of things we all used to do all the time that nobody has to bother with anymore. For example, dialing a rotary phone, using carbon paper to make copies, or changing the ball on a selectric typewriter. That got me to thinking that in the years I’ve been in this profession, for the vast majority of academic librarians, there are more than a few accumulated skills and practices that could now be considered obsolete. Here are some that come to mind:

1. Filing order for catalog cards (heck, anything to do with catalog cards)
2. Installing, setting up and using communications software (anyone use SmartCom lately)
3. Understanding the difference between (w) and (n) (for most of us on a day-to-day basis)
4. Creating a menu for choosing CD-ROMs off the networked player (who misses that one)
5. Knowing pretty much every book in the reference collection (or what’s left of it)
6. Printing and distributing pathfinders (path…what)
7. Mailing out reprints of your article (when’s the last time anyone asked for one)
8. Required training sessions before end-users can search online databases (and silly certification practices)
9. CD-ROM training classes (and training the CD-ROM trainer workshops – as if they were ever needed)
10. Setting meetings by going around and asking everyone when they’re available. (thank you meeting wizard)
11. Feeding the paper into the printer so the holes fit into the tractor pins (I hope you still don’t have to do that)

There’s a few to start with – or maybe you don’t agree with some of these. What would you add to your list of obsolete skills for academic librarians. And to not alienate our highly creative newer to the profession readers, use your imagination and let us know which of the skills or practices you are using today will be obsolete 20 or 30 years from now.

54 thoughts on “Obsolete Academic Librarian Skills

  1. After working on an OCLC “beehive” terminal at a university library for six years, I went to Library School. In cataloging class, as we typed cards, I left the parentheses off the series statement, as this was system-supplied.

  2. If we still had to use the card catalog, I would not be a librarian. As a kid, card catalogs confused me to no end. I remember the librarian at the public library showing me how to look up a book (early 1980s) and how I wondered why it had to be so very complicated.

  3. How about flipping it? What are our new skills that we didn’t need 10 years ago?
    –Explaining the Google search algorithm.
    –Making cafe mochas at the library’s coffee shop.
    –Troubleshooting the new wifi system.
    –Designing “collaboration spaces” for where the books used to be.

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