Roles for Tomorrow’s Information Professionals: Unlimited Possibilities

iStudent Blog

Published: June 3, 2015 by Allison Randall Gatt

Want to know what the role of an information professional looks like? Want to choose more than one role and mix and match a little? Not sure what this is even all about?

According to an article by Bruce Rosenstein from the Department of Library and Information Science at The Catholic University of America, there are six emerging roles in the information professions: the librarian as teacher, the technology specialist, the embedded librarian, the information consultant, the knowledge manager and the subject librarian. At the iSchool, you can find information about these roles, as well as links that give you a variety of other resources for refining and defining your career goals.

Teachers and Tech Specialists
Find out about the teacher role through the Teacher Librarian career pathway as well as a thoughtful reflection by Dr. Mary Ann Harlan on the school’s Center for Information Research and Innovation (CIRI) blog. If you’d like to round out your skills as a technology specialist, iSchool Director Dr. Sandra Hirsh suggests using a variety of social media, instant messaging and lecture tools not just for teaching, but in the working world.

Says Hirsh in this interview, “I think there are more ways for educators to make use of social media platforms. For example, many of our instructors use blog platforms to host their course sites and get students to think about interacting with practitioners, rather than just interacting with people enrolled in the course.” In this way, technology expert and librarian as teacher are linked together, along with a few of Rosenstein’s other identified roles. Being in the iSchool gives you a good idea of how these roles and skill sets can intersect.

Opportunities to become a tech specialist, or add to your skills in your current job position, are available by taking a few (or more) classes in the iSchool’s Web Programming career pathway. You don’t need to be a “techie” as an information professional in every environment, but you should be familiar with technical terminology and a variety on internet tools. If you truly want to become a techie, there are also plenty of opportunities to learn programming software and computer languages.

Embedded Librarians and More
Assistant professor Dr. Michael Stephens, who teaches and presents virtually and all over the world, writes frequently about the role of the embedded librarian on his blog Tame the Web. A series of posts about librarians offering information services—especially following the role of embedded librarian but good for all the roles mentioned by Rosenstein—can be found here.

A subject librarian or knowledge manager, as well as the kind of embedded librarian Rosenstein mentions, serves a very specific community, and the iSchool’s Special Librarianship pathway will give you a few options to focus on. The website also categorizes and describes the role of academic librarians according to institution here.

The role of information consultant that Rosenstein mentions does not necessarily refer to someone who is hired on a temporary basis for their knowledge and expertise. Information consultant roles are most prevalent in academic and special libraries where they function as gurus of information. Many start-up businesses and corporate employers need information professionals to find, define and organize data, too. Says former iSchool instructor and information guru Dr. Michelle Simmons, “An aptitude and flexibility with technology is essential—understanding how information is structured, understanding databases and how to get information out of an information system.”

If this sounds like a role that would fit, you can check out more about what Simmons and Dr. Lili Luo say about the iSchool’s Information Intermediation career pathway.

You Are the Future
So what does this all mean for you as an iSchool student or as someone about to enter the world of libraries, archives and information? Well, there are a variety of ways to look at it. The way not to look at it is simply being the spinster in the sweater set and the glasses on a beaded chain (though I personally love that fashion combo—tongue firmly set in cheek) shushing a table of rowdy teenagers.

An information professional can be at least a dozen (a hundred?) different things depending on their environment, their specific skill set and their interests. In another article, Hirsh talks about the continued emphasis of a user-centered focus, regardless of environment or job title. She also goes on to share her enthusiasm about the growth of libraries and information professionals. “I love our profession,” she says. “We have so much to offer, and I’m excited about the possibilities. I truly believe that we are only limited by our own creativity and vision.”

Being in a learning environment like the iSchool with resources, networks, and amazing faculty, staff and fellow students creates a rich environment for you to sample this and that and stay current with what is going on in the information profession.

Rosenstein concludes in his article, “In today’s knowledge-focused world, it is preferable to be aligned with the future rather than the past.”

The future, as they say, is now. And you are the future.

Career Insight from a Library 2.014 Conference Distinguished Speaker

Advice for Finding the Best Career for You in the Information Profession

Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals 2014

images courtesy of and cooldesigns


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