Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Technology Skills in the Workplace: Information Professionals' Current Use and Future Aspirations

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Technology Skills in the Workplace: Information Professionals' Current Use and Future Aspirations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Information technology serves as an essential tool for today's information professional, and ongoing research is needed to assess the technological directions of the field over time. This paper presents the results of a survey of the technologies used by library and information science practitioners, with attention to the combinations of technologies employed and the technology skills that practitioners wish to learn. The most common technologies employed were email, office productivity tools, web browsers, library catalog--and database-searching tools, and printers, with programming topping the list of most-desired technology skill to learn. Similar technology usage patterns were observed for early and later-career practitioners. Findings also suggested the relative rarity of emerging technologies, such as the makerspace, in current practice.

INTRODUCTION

Over the past several decades, technology has rapidly moved from a specialized set of tools to an indispensable element of the library and information science (LIS) workplace, and today it is woven throughout all aspects of librarianship and the information professions. Information professionals engage with technology in traditional ways, such as working with integrated library systems, and in new innovative activities, such as mobile-app development or the creation of makerspaces. (1) The vital role of technology has motivated a growing body of research literature, exploring the application of technology tools in the workplace, as well as within LIS education, to effectively prepare tech-savvy practitioners. Such work is instrumental to the progression of the field, and with the rapidly-changing technological landscape, requires ongoing attention from the research community.

One of the most valuable perspectives in such research is that of the current practitioner. Understanding current information professionals' technology use can help in understanding the role and shape of the LIS field, provide a baseline for related research efforts, and suggest future directions. The practitioner perspective is also valuable in separating the hype that often surrounds emerging technologies from the reality of their use and application within the LIS field. This paper presents the results of a survey of LIS practitioners, oriented toward understanding the participants' current technology use and future technology aspirations. The guiding research questions for this work are as follows:

1. What combinations of technology skillsets do LIS practitioners commonly use?

2. What combinations of technology skillsets do LIS practitioners desire to learn?

3. What technology skillsets do newer LIS practitioners use and desire to learn as compared to those with ten-plus years of experience in the field?

LITERATURE REVIEW

The growth and increasing diversity of technologies used in library settings has been matched by a desire to explore how these technologies impact expectations for LIS practitioner skill sets. Triumph and Beile examined the academic library job market in 2011 by describing the required qualifications for 957 positions posted on the ALA JobLIST and ARL Job Announcements websites. (2) The authors also compared their results with similar studies conducted in 1996 and 1988 to see if they could track changes in requirements over a twenty-three-year period. They found that the number of distinct job titles increased in each survey because of the addition of new technologies to the library work environment that require positions focused on handling them. The comparison also found that computer skills as a position requirement increased by 100 percent between 1988 and 2011, with 55 percent of 2011 announcements requiring them.

Looking more deeply at the technology requirements specifically, Mathews and Pardue conducted a content analysis of 620 jobs ads from the ALA JobList to identify skills required in those positions. …

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