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INCONECCS Conference in Berlin discussed the digital future of libraries

By 27. May 2019 No Comments
Conference Libraries Frank Seeliger

The two-day INCONECCS Conference in Berlin was one of the events to mark the 100th anniversary of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW). One of the panel discussions at the 2nd INCONECCS dealt with the topic of digital transformation from the human resource management viewpoint. Two German and two US experts have tackled this challenging issue, focusing especially on the necessary skills both for the established staff and the job profile for future recruiting.

It became explicit that software and data competences might become more important in the future, while some traditional skills will be rather less relevant. The discussants agreed upon the fact that the librarians’ skills and their work have deeply changed compared to their handwork-like procedures in the past. However, as Dr. Frank Seeliger pointed out, many traditional tasks as reshelf, cataloging and manual indexing will not entirely disappear. Due to the digital transition though, less time will be needed in order to accomplish those daily routines. For that reason, the job of a librarian will become more diverse and diverting.

Although metadata and research-data experts are needed, the challenges in the libraries will not be limited to those skills. Metadata is the core part of modern library routines, however, due to a general skill shortage, we must accept the fact that libraries are not the first choice for IT experts when it comes to finding their dream job. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to train the existing staff as intense as a football coach develops his players.

Furthermore, Dr. Seeliger pointed out that both the adjustment of existing study programs and practice-oriented advanced training are promising alternatives for the future. This process is already on its way, so that – compared to other public institutions – libraries in Germany are in good shape. They are developing innovative tools, for instance in the fields of Open Access and Research Data Management. These solutions are being used worldwide. The process of reengineering is also going well, as for instance search engines are being expanded to discovery solutions. The libraries are intensively involved in these fields and contribute a number of software solutions, including open source applications.

The automation and digitalization are embracing all aspects of the library world, including acquisition, cataloging, visitor’s service, storage, as well as the creation of new services. Dr. Seeliger pointed to the fact that there will be a number of two-day workshops focusing on issues like Radio Frequency Identification and IT basics for librarians. On the basis of workshops like these, a two-year part-time Master program in Library Computer Sciences was developed at the Technical University Wildau in 2015.

In general, there was a consensus among the INCONECCS participants regarding the question if rooms and facilities even are necessary in times of virtualization. In the future, a library will still remain a physical space. It will be still challenging to find out which formats are the most promising ones for motivating the staff to engage in shaping the digital future within the context of libraries. It is, however, a core issue that will remain highly topical as long as the libraries remain in the state of flux.