Developing 21st Century Library
Skills: How Do You Search Create and Inspire?

By Carla Powers, Duluth Public Library
highlight of this year’s MLA conference for me was Valerie Horton’s session on
developing 21st century library skills. In this session Valerie outlined important
trends in libraries and inspired participants to intentionally develop our
skill set around these trends.
The first
two trends she explained are megatrends related to reading. The first megatrend is that communication is
anywhere and everywhere, not limited by space or time, and expanding very
quickly. The second is that people are
reading in multiple formats and are likely to continue to do so.  E-books are not replacing print books, but
over time their use will continue to grow.
identifying these two megatrends she outlined six other trends:
  1. Tech is mobile. Valerie predicted death of the e-book reader and noted that the
    smartphone is becoming the reading tool of choice. 
  2. Social media is king. Social media is about learning, connecting
    and creating. Does that sound like
    something we have always been doing in libraries?
  3. Circulation is declining. This is especially apparent in academic
    libraries, where students are more interested in reading “short form” pieces
    such as journal articles than “long form” books.
  4. Learning shifts away from the academy. Roughly
    50% of college students take classes online, and Valerie predicts that this
    trend is only beginning.
  5. Space is for people. Because of a lack of facility space on
    college campuses, academic libraries are under a lot of pressure to weed or
    relocate their physical collections in order to make room for other purposes. Public libraries, too, are focusing more on
    space for people rather than for collections.
  6. Space is for making. Public libraries have always been places
    where people come in to do and make things. Valerie advised public libraries to “right name” it and do more of it.

With these trends in mind, Valerie then offered a list of
skills needed for 21st century librarianship:
  1. Local content creation. Capturing information
    and events important to our local community is one of the most important things
    that libraries can do. The skills needed
    to do this line up very well with what we have always done: identify and
    select, digitize and store, inform, enhance discovery, preserve.
  2. Outreach and embedding. We need to stop being associated with our
    building or our collections and get out into the community. The skills needed for this are simply showing
    up, paying attention, and staying in touch.
  3. Collaboration. Humans care about what we participate in. Skills needed for collaboration include
    negotiating, communicating and team building. 
  4. Tech integration. Valerie recommended picking between one and
    three social media platforms that you are interested in and using them to build
    community engagement with your library. 
    Apps are immensely popular and growing, so if you have a desire or an
    aptitude to learn how to develop apps, your skill set will be much in demand in
    the library world.
  5.  PR, branding, advocacy. This is an important
    skill set in a world where people are constantly being bombarded by

How do you decide what you want to spend your time learning
and how do you go about acquiring these skills? Valerie recommends having a plan for growing your skills and approaching
it in an intentional way.
  1.  Find out what motivates you.  Ask yourself what you crave (other than time
    or money) and what you need to give yourself permission to be. 
  2. Inventory your traits and skills. Seek information sources (Myers Briggs,
    journaling, life coach, career centers, learning styles, evaluations). Find a mentor. Create a personal self-assessment.
  3. Draft a personal learning plan. This should include a personal goal, a list
    of areas that need strengthening, and a compilation of the resources you need
    to reach your learning goals.  Valerie
    recommends writing this down and then looking for training opportunities that
    appeal to you.
Finally, end each day with a daily act of development. Take the last five minutes of your day and
reflect on what you learned. Say it out
loud to yourself to lock it into your brain or journal about your learning.
According to Pepsi CEO Indra
Noovi, “The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong learners.”  This session inspired me to more
intentionally learn about trends in libraries and make a plan for how I can
acquire new skill sets in order to embrace these trends
and improve library services for my community.