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Overcoming disintermediation: a call for librarians to learn to use web service APIs

Richard Manly Adams Jr (Pitts Theology Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 22 January 2018

Issue publication date: 7 February 2018




The purpose of this paper is to argue that academic librarians must learn to use web service APIs and to introduce APIs to a non-technical audience.


This paper is a viewpoint that argues for the importance of APIs by identifying the shifting paradigms of libraries in the digital age. Showing that the primary function of librarians will be to share and curate digital content, the paper shows that APIs empower a librarian to do that.


The implementation of web service APIs is within the reach of librarians who are not trained as software developers. Online documentation and free courses offer sufficient training for librarians to learn these new ways of sharing and curating digital content.

Research limitations/implications

The argument of this paper depends upon an assumption of a shift in the paradigm of libraries away from collections of materials to access points of information. The need for libraries to learn APIs depends upon a new role for librarians that anecdotal evidence supports is rising.

Practical implications

By learning a few technical skills, librarians can help patrons find relevant information within a world of proliferating information sources.


The literature on APIs is highly technical and overwhelming for those without training in software development. This paper translates technical language for those who have not programmed before.



Adams Jr, R.M. (2018), "Overcoming disintermediation: a call for librarians to learn to use web service APIs", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 180-190.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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