In a rapidly changing environment, it is critical that Library and Information Services (LIS) workers are equipped with the right skills to not only get the job done, but to excel and contribute to the wider organisation’s success. Some of these skills are relevant no matter what your role or level is within your library or organisation. Other skills will be relevant specifically to your role. It is important to distinguish between these, and to start to consider these specifically in your context.
Some questions to ask yourself: Where are you at? What skills are you really good at? Where are your development opportunities? And importantly, what can you do to utilise the skills you do really well? What can you do to increase your skill level in areas where you might need some work?
The following list will give you a place to start! Universal Library and Information Services skills include:
Effective communication skills are required in all LIS roles. Effective communication involves active listening (such that the speaker feels heard and understood), non-verbal communication (how you read, understand and use non-verbal communication, such as body language, gestures, facial expressions and non-verbal signals), Speaking (adapt your speech to suit your audience, including tone and word choice awareness, and use language that is appropriate), and effective written communication. It also involves negotiation, using numeracy effectively and being able to empathise and understand the needs of others, especially customers.
We are always working together with people (either internally or externally of your organisation) to get things done. This means that we have to create, and function well in teams (a group of people working together with a common goal). This involves establishing and maintaining positive peer relationships, being approachable, interpersonal savvy (being able to build rapport, be patient, understand others, relating well to all kinds of people – up, down, sideways, inside and outside of the organisation), and motivating others to achieve the required goal. Effective teamwork can be demonstrated by working effectively with diversity, taking different roles in a team, being able to identify strengths and weaknesses of the team, and giving and receiving constructive feedback.
We are in a continuous process of self-development. If we don’t continue to further our own self development and education, we rapidly lose traction in adapting to the challenges that life and our work throws our way, we stop behaving effectively, we become obsolete in the market place, and importantly, we have the potential to fall into a ‘victim’ mindset, rather than an empowered one. Self-development is a commitment to actively work and continuously improve on oneself, to deploy your strengths, and identify development opportunities. This involves planning ahead and having a personal vision and goals, evaluating and monitoring one’s own performance, taking responsibility, articulating one’s ideas and vision, and holding oneself to account.
This one is really important, as we are functioning in a changing environment and sector. Change is the only true constant today, and we need to be able to accept, embrace and adapt to the changes that are occurring – whether we like it or not. Personal and organisational agility is required to ensure we remain current and thrive under the conditions we work in. We need to find ways of thriving in a changing environment.
Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay, and will continue to disrupt the industry. Its impact on the LIS sector will only grow, and it is imperative that we embrace technology in order to continue to deliver successful outcomes for our customers. For those of us who have grown up with computers, this may be quite easy. For those of us who did not, then developing this skill requires much greater effort. It is important that we are proficient at a minimum in messaging communications (such as email, SMS (text messaging) etc.), databases, troubleshooting, library systems (such as ILMS – Integrated Library Management Systems), the internet (including searching and finding appropriate information), basic computer operating systems, and software programs, such as Microsoft word or excel. Skills using technology are demonstrated by having a range of basic IT skills, be willing to learn new IT skills, having the OHS knowledge to apply new technology, and selecting the appropriate technology for a given task.
6. Customer Focus
In the end, libraries are a service industry. We are servicing a community and fulfilling a specific function. The community, or anyone who utilises the service, are our customers. Exceptional customer focus is required at all times, to ensure the delivery of exceptional experiences and outcomes for each and every person that walks through the door. They need to be the centre of focus – their needs, their wants, their interests, their goals. A library’s activities and performance needs to be aligned to this audience. If they aren’t, the library will lose relevance and no longer be meaningful to those for whom it delivers its service.
7. Problem solving
Every role involves solving problems, problems for customers (e.g. finding the right resources or information), for employees (e.g. negotiating through conflict), and organisation-wide (e.g. how to increase the number of people utilising services). The types of problems you face changes as your role changes, however, the ability to use rigorous logic and methods to solve difficult problems with effective solutions is critical. Effective problem solving skills are demonstrated by developing creative, practical or innovative solutions, solving problems together with others, applying a range of strategies to solve problems and find solutions, test assumptions and hypotheses, and resolving customer complaints satisfactorily.
8. Learning on the fly
It is important to learn quickly when faced with new unfamiliar problems. Learn from those around you, and from previous experiences – what went well? What could have been done differently? Ensure versatility in your learning, be open to change, embrace the challenge of unfamiliar tasks, and try and find a solution, no matter what! A commitment to and skill in learning also involves being open to new ideas and techniques, contributing to the learning community in the workplace, actively seeking learning opportunities, having an enthusiasm for learning, and being prepared to invest time and effort into learning new skills.
9. Planning, organising, and delivery
Libraries are far more than simply process oriented systems. There is an enormous amount of planning, organising and delivery of various activities and events. Assisting in this process involves demonstration of these skills, to ensure successful outcomes for both the customers and library. Examples of planning, organising and delivery include managing time and priorities, establishing clear goals and deliverables, collecting, analysing and organising information.
10. Initiative and enterprise
In today’s LIS environment, it is important to demonstrate innovative ways of doing things, seizing opportunities, and taking initiative (doing things without waiting to be told to). This may involve a new way of looking at a situation to improve or streamline existing processes. This also involves translating ideas into action, generating a range of options, and initiating innovative solutions.
At higher levels, there will be further skills required, such as process management, sales and marketing (yes, you have to sell your services to your community and your value to your financial director), decision making, presentation skills, motivating others, managing diversity, managing vision and purpose, innovation management, ethics and values, being politically savvy, building effective teams and delegation.
What are your thoughts? What skills are relevant to your environment? Do you agree with the above list? Get in touch and let us know!
By Natalia Huber