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The New “Jack of All”: The Evolution of the Functionality and Focus of the Academic Librarian in New Spaces and New Roles

Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome

ISBN: 978-1-78756-904-1, eISBN: 978-1-78756-903-4

ISSN: 0732-0671

Publication date: 8 October 2018

Abstract

Library buildings are routinely reimagined, remodeled, or built new to meet the changing needs of their community. The move from collection-centric to user-centric service models has generated numerous writings about the library as place and space. The one concept lacking in the scholarly discourse is the changing roles of librarians to meet the needs of these new spaces and places. How do librarians fit in the new equation? When addressing the professional identity of librarians, which aspect of their work will need to evolve and which will need to be let go? A critical facet of sustaining services in new spaces is the need to develop the sustainable librarian – to remove the stigma of the librarian as “jack of all trades, master of none.” In order to realize this new mindset of mastering our domain we need to begin reimagining our work. Some ways, this can be accomplished by writing increased flexibility into position descriptions and creating organizational structures to better support librarians within the new spaces. With these new developments to our professional identities, librarians may learn to employ entrepreneurial skills in order to continuously anticipate services and develop skill sets to aid the library’s ability to fulfill its purpose. The authors provide a literature review to discuss the changing role of the academic librarian to meet the evolution of the library building and services. We will provide an example through findings and practices of Grand Valley State University and how it reimagined roles in the early 2000s and continues to reimagine roles in a new building and a renovated branch library. The change of spaces and places in academic libraries to accommodate user needs and perceptions has impacted how academic librarians work in these spaces and places. Library administrators need to rethink workflows, and organizational charts by examining flexible workloads, cross-training initiatives, professional development around new skills, and the letting go of obsolete practices.

Originality/value – in this chapter, the authors will discuss how library leaders are charged with translating the new roles of their librarians to meet the needs of their community in these new spaces and how library leaders may look beyond the literature of the profession for ways to facilitate change.

Keywords

Citation

Martin, E.A. and Sheehan, L.A. (2018), "The New “Jack of All”: The Evolution of the Functionality and Focus of the Academic Librarian in New Spaces and New Roles", Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome (Advances in Library Administration and Organization, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 67-90. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0732-067120180000039006

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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