Career Insight from a Library 2.014 Conference Distinguished Speaker

iStudent Blog

The Library 2.0 Worldwide Virtual Conference is a perfect way to attend a conference, no matter where you live. Just like the iSchool’s exclusively online programs, the conference is completely online, across time zones, and with participants from around the world.

I took time to listen to one of the noted Distinguished Speakers, Roy Tennant, who is the Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research and the creator and editor of the monthly newsletter, Current Cites. Tennant’s lecture entitled ‘How to be a 21st Century Librarian,’ focused on skills, traits and knowledge necessary for today’s librarian. His talk reflected on the history of computing and information (do you remember those PET Commodores that ran tape?!) and what the history of technologies means to information professionals as we navigate into the future.

“Change is a constant,” said Tennant, “but the pace is not.” He reflected on the rapidly evolving World Wide Web and the graphic technology that facilitated its change in the early 1990’s, and contrasted it with the relative latent period we are currently experiencing.

So what do we, as information professionals, do with all this change, the ebb and flow of technology and a constant flux in communities and their needs? “A librarian’s mission is to empower,” says Tennant. That means not just connecting individuals with information, but empowering communities by providing spaces to meet and empowering societies by providing free access to information. Organizations, too, need information professionals. “If organizations want to innovate, they need access to information.”

He also defined the differences between personality traits and skills, and noted that he considers personality traits (as well as skillsets) when making hiring decisions. According to Tennant, skills can be learned, but personality traits need to be carefully cultivated. He recommended fostering the following traits, which he believes are essential in the library workplace: the desire to learn, flexibility, an abiding public service perspective, the ability to foster change, an appreciation of what others bring to the project at hand, and the capacity and desire to work independently and be self-motivated.

When I read this list of traits in his presentation, it definitely reminded me of coursework and attending the iSchool. Self-motivation and the desire to learn are the first essential traits to have in order to begin any of the programs offered by the iSchool. You have to have a passion for the world of people and information, and you have to discipline yourself to get the work done. My core courses built this foundation—discipline begins in LIBR 203 and people management skills are emphasized in LIBR 204.

Tennant emphasized the importance of personality traits, but also stressed the importance of certain skills, including excellent communication skills, project management and competence with a variety of web technologies. “Don’t be reluctant to use any of these tools.” We are after all, supposed to be 21st century information professionals.

He also brought up the importance of having a general knowledge of software coding. His reasoning for this was that if you know at least the basics of how software coding functions operate, then you will know better why something might not be working, and how it might be fixed. “Take a software-writing class,” Tennant recommends, “to get the concept of how to write a program and understand what it can do.” School of Information classes LIBR 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications, as well as the advanced courses in LIBR 246 are great sources for software-writing. Check out the Web-Programming Career Pathway for further suggestions.

With kids, a job, schoolwork and life, taking the time to travel and attend a professional conference is outside the realm of possibility for me. I’d love to have the chance to hear information professionals talk about and discuss some of the most crucial issues affecting the library and information field. With the Library 2.0 Conference, I can!

There’s the option of attending live every year as your schedule allows, or you can go to the archived recordings page and select what looks most interesting to you. All the talks are recorded in Collaborate, and some of the presentations from this year and previous years are also available on the Library 2.0 YouTube channel.

Did you attend Library 2.0? What were your favorite take-away tips from the conference? Share with your fellow students! We’d love to know what you think and to connect with you!

Also be sure to check out:

Library Journal’s Recap of the Library 2.0 Conference by Dr. Michael Stephens

Your New Career Starts Here Webinar for New and Prospective Students

All About the MARA Program: Courses and Careers in Information Governance