Technology Skills For Academic Librarians

I came across this article that appeared in a 2005 issue of T.H.E. Journal titled “20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have“. Many academic librarians think of themselves as educators – or one who has a significant participatory role in the education of the college student – so let’s replace “Educator” with “Librarian” in that title. Do we have the necessary technology skills? And how would we fare against real “Educators” if we did a comparison? Looking at the list I think the majority of academic librarians would do quite well, although in some areas our skills may need strengthening. Here’s the list:

1. Word Processing Skills
2. Spreadsheets Skills
3. Database Skills
4. Electronic Presentation Skills
5. Web Navigation Skills
6. Web Site Design Skills
7. E-Mail Management Skills
8. Digital Cameras
9. Computer Network Knowledge Applicable to your School System
10. File Management & Windows Explorer Skills
11. Downloading Software From the Web (Knowledge including eBooks)
12. Installing Computer Software onto a Computer System
13. WebCT or Blackboard Teaching Skills
14. Videoconferencing skills
15. Computer-Related Storage Devices (Knowledge: disks, CDs, USB drives, zip disks, DVDs)
16. Scanner Knowledge
17. Knowledge of PDAs
18. Deep Web Knowledge
19. Educational Copyright Knowledge
20. Computer Security Knowledge

Some thoughts and observations:

1-4: I think academic librarians have the basic MS Office stuff pretty well under control. Without more opportunities to create databases it’s tough to get practice with Access. When I attend conferences it’s obvious knowledge of PPT is pretty universal – but maybe the real skill is knowing when not to use it or to do so only in limited ways.

5-6: When it comes to #5 I think librarians rule especially if we’re talking about web search skills, but I’m not so sure #6 is a universal skill although lots of librarians are pretty handy with web development.

7: Seems obvious but I find in my “keeping up” workshops that many librarians still do not use their e-mail rules to achieve efficiency in dealing with the e-mail deluge.

8: The use of digital cameras is pretty widespread, but I can’t say the same for manipulating digital images, storing them, sharing them, etc. Seems like an area that needs more development.

9-12: I fee pretty safe saying that most academic librarians are computer savvy. We understand PC management, know our networks, we know how to download just about anything, and we can do installs. Have you sharpened some of these skills helping students at your library’s computers? Most of us have played the role of IT technician at one time or another.

13: A year or two ago I’d say we didn’t have this one, but now we’re much stronger in our courseware knowledge and skills. If you haven’t created and managed your own course, it’s the best way to learn.

14: That’s a broad range of skills that can include everything from participating in a videoconference to running one. Librarians may have less access to this technology, but if you talk about webconferencing I think it’s only now just developing. It’s definitely an area where we need to strengthen our skills (keep an eye out for the March 2006 issue of Library Journal for an article on this exact topic).

15-17: I’d say that 15 is no problem, 16 is something many of us have done minimally or extensively depending on our job – but we’re not intimidated by scanning, and 17 is an area where we still need development – not as much in the area of personal use but how to make our resources more useful for PDA users.

18: We’ve been talking about this for years, so I’m saying we’re way ahead of the curve on this one.

19: I’d venture to say that on most campuses the library professionals are the go to guys for getting copyright questions answered.

20: If you haven’t been burnt on this one you’re ahead of the game, but most of us have learned about computer security the hard way and now we can help advocate it on our campuses.

21 – Okay, there is no 21, but there should be and it’s a big oversight. Every educator should know how to find the right library database for an information need, and how to properly search the library databases. The author didn’t consider this an essential technology skill. Looks like we still have a lot of work to do to get educators to improve their library technology skills.

And for good measure I’ll add #22 – knowledge of instructional design and technology. Acdemic librarians should be knowledgeable about teaching technologies and media, how it can be used to design instruction products, and how to assess their effectiveness.

If you gave yourself a point for competency in each skill area – particulary #22, and you scored in the 15-20 range you just might be a “Blended Librarian“. But my guess is that many of us realize that we need to improve our skill set in more than a few of these areas. I’d say it’s a good list to use as a guide to getting “blended”.

Do you think that today’s library school students are learning all of these skills, but missing other more basic skills that are necessary to the practice of academic librarianship, such as reference negotiation? How about other “educator” technology skills that we need to have? What would you add to the list?

Take a look at the article for loads of resources you can use to build your skills in any of these technology areas.

3 thoughts on “Technology Skills For Academic Librarians”

  1. What is great about the list is that it actually provides resources, rather than just saying “learn about this, somehow.” At St. John’s University (NY) we have used this list as a springboard for discussion among faculty, administrators and librarians who are attempting to incorporate information literacy/fluency as seamlessly as possible within the curriculum, assignments and pedagogy of the classroom. In acquiring these skills we are (a) modelling the “life-long learning” we prize in our students, and (b) we get students used to adapting to new technology as part of their own intellectual and professional development.

    There will always be those who are early-adopters in every discipline — but librarians undoubtedly need to become proactive in figuring out the newer technologies in order to actively facilitate teaching, research and accessibility of resources. To that extent, another handy list of education-related technologies are provided in the Educause/ELI series “7 things you should know about ….” (

    In presenting such lists, it is important to reassure other faculty/librarians that they don’t need to be programmers, but all of us do need to be on top of the applications within our fields, and realize that if we are going to participate in the pedagogical life of the university and support the life-long learning of our students after they leave our care, learning, teaching and research must include the use of these technologies.

  2. This is a good start on a list of core IT competencies that should be required of academic librarians (and supported through local professional development programs). One could also tweak it to reflect local initiatives, e.g., the existence of ETDs, image databases, or institutional repositories on your campus.

    I think that Steven’s assertion that “most” academic librarians would score highly when faced with this rubric, though, could use further unpacking. My experience has been that there are many early adopters, and even more willing adopters, but that there are also a fair number of librarians who do not have a wide range of these skills and are less than enthused about learning them. The same could be said of other core professional competency areas, e.g., assessment and teaching.

    I would be interested to hear from libraries that have established core IT competencies for librarians (and library staff) and have developed professional development opportunies aimed at helping a wide range of people to meet them (i.e., not just the “techies” on staff).

  3. Although somewhat dated at this point, my dissertation (2000) was on this topic.

    TITLE A comprehensive inventory of technology and computer skills for academic reference librarians
    AUTHOR Prestamo, Anne M.


    Scope and method of study. The purpose of this study was to develop a comprehensive inventory of the computer and related technology skills required of reference librarians in academic libraries. Using the Delphi Method, the study began Round #1 by asking the 14 participants this question: “What are the technology and computer skills required of reference librarians in academic libraries?” Round #1’s open-ended question elicited 848 skill statements. Multiple statements describing the same skill were revised and combined into one uniformly worded skill statement. The remaining 380 statements formed Questionnaire #2.

    Findings and conclusions. Thirteen respondents completed Questionnaire #2. Items with means greater than 3.0 and “Chi Square of Neg/Pos” values greater than the critical value were considered to show consensus and to have been considered important by the respondents. Of the 380 skill statements, 285 met these criteria. Nineteen statements had χ 2 value 3.77, means greater than 3.0, and at least 77 percent “Positive” responses. While these statements did not meet the χ2 test for statistical significance, they are worth noting nonetheless. Reference librarians working in academic libraries are faced with an ever-increasing number of electronic resources with unique interfaces and technical requirements. Providing adequate and timely training opportunities to address these needs presents challenges for academic administrators, as they strive to maintain levels of resources and services in the face of declining or stagnant budgets. It is critical that careful needs assessments be conducted to insure that training programs are carefully targeted and effective. Additionally, library schools are faced with the need to carefully analyze and update curricula to prepare new librarians for this evolving technological environment. An inventory of the technology and computer skills required of reference librarians in academic libraries can be a valuable tool to assist academic library administrators and library school administrators as they face these challenges. At the core of their mission, academic librarians have always been concerned with the physical preservation of materials. In today’s environment there is increasing recognition of the need to migrate digital media to new formats to maintain viability and access. This same attention to preservation must be focused on the renewal of human resources.

    Subject Area
    DATE 2000
    PAGES 194
    ISBN 0-599-94498-6
    SOURCE DAI-A 61/09, p. 3401, Mar 2001

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.