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Being "Librarian 2.0": It's all in the attitude

It's All in the Attitude

Helen Partridge, Queensland University of Technology | Dec 01, 2011

A recent Australian study identified the skills and knowledge that library and information professionals require in the Web 2.0 world. Funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, the study involved 81 librarians participating in a series of focus groups. The study concluded that a so-called "Librarian 2.0" needs a complex mix of transferable skills, including teamwork, communication, business skills, lifelong learning and personal traits such as creativity, flexibility, adaptability and persistence. However, the study's most interesting finding is that concepts like Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0 are "a watershed" for the Australian profession.

Participants in almost all of the focus groups said they are seeing and experiencing a cultural change in the profession. Librarian 2.0 requires a "different mindset or attitude." It is "challenging our mental models" and forcing us to think about and perceive our profession differently. Librarian 2.0 is an attitudinal shift for the Australian library and information science (LIS) profession. Interestingly, this shift also means that not everyone in the profession is ready to be, or wants to be, involved. As one participant noted, "If you want to do a job, you have to change your mindset. Otherwise in five years' time you won't have a job."

The real changes of Web 2.0 are not in how Australian LIS professionals now design and deliver services and resources, or what new skills and knowledge they must possess, but in how they view themselves.

The results of this study suggest that what it means to be an LIS professional in Australia is changing. The Levels of Perspective model by Daniel Kim (1996) helps us consider this point. Kim articulated five levels of perspectives from which to study a system (see Figure 1). He points out that the further one moves from specific events toward mental models or vision, the more leverage one has. According to Kim, leverage refers to small, well focused actions that can produce significant lasting change. Leverage to alter a system can occur at any level, but a key principle of systems thinking is that intervening at the higher levels (mental models or vision) is more likely to increase influence over future outcomes. A system is defined as "a perceived whole whose elements ‘hang together' because they continually affect each other over time and operate toward a common purpose."

Figure 1. Levels of Perspective (adapted from Kim 1996)

Assuming that the Australian LIS profession can be considered as a type of "system" (as it is under management expert Peter Senge's 1994 definition), it could be argued that the Australian LIS profession has focused its time, energies and attention on the lower levels of Kim's model (i.e., events, patterns, and systematic structures). Indeed, one participant noted, "We are very good at creating systems and processes" and that we "need to move away from this." The findings of this study suggest that we are witnessing a reawakening of the Australian LIS profession as it begins to move toward the higher levels of Kim's model (i.e., mental models). The study proposes that the Australian LIS profession is reconceptualizing itself in light of the emerging Web 2.0 world and beyond. We are identifying and exploring new mental models of what it means to be an LIS professional in the 21st century.

The real changes of Web 2.0 are not in how Australian LIS professionals now design and deliver services and resources, or what new skills and knowledge they must possess, but in how they view themselves. This study suggests Web 2.0 is the catalyst for a significant attitudinal shift. The challenge the profession now faces is to clearly articulate the nature and scope of this new professional attitude. The LIS profession in Australia must take stock not of "what we know and can do" but on "who we are becoming" (Dall'Alba, 2009). While it is beyond the scope of the current article to explore these questions in any great depth, an obvious first step would involve further research that explores the existing cultures and attitudes within the profession and what it means to "become an LIS professional" (Dall' Alba, 2009) in the 21st century. Full details of this project can be found at http://www.altc.edu.au/altc-teaching-fellow-helen-partridge.

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