Jonathan McGlone

The New Academic Librarian

23 Jan 2014

After what seemed to be a never-ending publication process, the book The New Academic Librarian: Essays on Changing Roles and Responsibilities – edited by Wayne State University librarian Rebeca Peacock and the library’s associate director for marketing, Jill Wurm – is finally published and available. After skimming through the table of contents, this will no doubt be a valuable and necessary read for library and information science students interested in careers at an academic library; the essays featured in the volume present a very current inside look at the functions and responsibilities of academic librarians, especially in regards to how they interact with, use, play with, and rely on technology in their work.

I’m selfishly excited about this new book because I was fortunate enough to contribute a chapter about my experiences and reflections as a digital projects librarian. In addition to reflecting on what I’ve learned, I looked at over 80 job descriptions for “digital projects librarians” (or variantions of that title) and found the job descriptions matched my own hunches and experiences; the digital projects librarian is very much an amalgam of the traditional librarian and the fast moving, ever changing world of web development. Here’s the abstract to my chapter, “Looking Under the Hood: A View of the Digital Projects Librarian in the Academic Library”:

Despite the fact that digital libraries have been with the library profession for the last two decades, relatively little has been written about digital projects librarianship from a professional standpoint. Digitization of text and images, the creation of SGML and XML encoded texts, digital preservation, networked information, and large scale database searching have been with the library profession since the early 1990s. Less than an emerging role, it is more accurate to describe digital projects librarianship as an evolving role in the academic library. Over the last 20 years, this role has expanded to encompass a wide range of skills and responsibilities from web design and development to copyright and project management. Successful digital projects librarians are interested and unafraid to look underneath the hood of the web to see what powers it and makes things happen. As such, digital projects librarians should be experienced and versed in the traditional skill sets of their predecessors, while at the same time excited to adapt and learn new technologies by drawing from a very deep and wide pool of skills in the professional web design and web development communities. In addition, as academic libraries and institutions continue to embrace digital technologies to provide relevant services for faculty, students, and staff, the roles and projects of a digital projects librarian continue to expand well beyond digitization to involve library instruction, digital publishing, software and application development, user interface design, digital preservation, and data curation. To help you form a complete picture, this chapter will discuss a range of digital projects job descriptions, digital projects at academic libraries, the components underpinning many library digital collections, and also provide resources to help the reader build their digital project skill set and to illustrate emerging trends for this exciting and evolving form of librarianship.

Congratulations to Rebeca and Jill and all the contributing authors to this much needed understanding of academic librarianship in the 21st century!

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