Do You Have the Skills Information Professionals Need to Succeed?

Career Blog

Published: April 8, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

Library Journal reveals the top 11 skills librarians will need in the next 20 years.

Recently, Library Journal surveyed academic and public library directors, as well as some LIS movers and shakers, to learn what skills they think librarians will need in the next 20 years. For students, that means having the 11 skills on this list will help you get a job. Do any of these look familiar? They should! Note: I’ve taken the skill name from the original source, but the descriptions are mine.


1. Advocacy/Politics
Library directors want librarians who can demonstrate and explain the value of their library to their community, politicians, budget committees, and donors, among others. Information professionals should be comfortable and articulate when interacting with lots of kinds of people.

2. Collaboration
Many directors think this skill will grow ever more important in our interconnected (and sometimes virtual) world. Collaboration is critical between and among staff, stakeholders, patrons, community groups, and other libraries.

3. Communication/People Skills
LIS professionals must be able to communicate to stakeholders the value their institution provides. They should be able to speak about all of their libraries’ services and programs and how they directly benefit their communities. Librarians must also deal professionally with library staff and patrons.

4. Creativity/Innovation
One director argues that creativity is both super important and underdeveloped, and that MLIS programs are not alone in failing to encourage this skill.

5. Critical Thinking   
LJ points out that this is a skill all librarians should have, but that a lack of critical thinking skills is what is usually noticed.    

6. Data Analysis
Information professionals should be able to determine what information they need, find and analyze data, and then use their new-found data+insight to make decisions. They should also be able to present all of this in a way that makes sense to others (we’re back to communication again!).

7. Flexibility
Given that change is constant in libraries, flexibility and adaptability are essential skills for any LIS professional.

8. Leadership
New and newish librarians must be able to step into the shoes of a generation of retiring managers, so leadership (and advocacy!) skills are must.

9. Marketing
Although frequently overlooked and undervalued, marketing is actually really important to libraries and other nonprofits.

10. Project Management
This seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of what librarians do – from scheduling to budgeting to programming – are really projects they must manage.

11. Technological Expertise
Specifically: web development, coding, and technological literacy. To best serve their communities, LIS professionals should know what is happening on the tech side of things, and must be willing to learn about new developments.

Analyze how your skillset matches up against this list. Highlight the ones you already have in your cover letters and resumes, and consider courses, internships, or volunteer experiences that will help you develop more!


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