Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome: Volume 39

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

Table of contents

(10 chapters)


Pages i-xiii
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In 2015, the UN General Assembly introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2014, in anticipation of the SDGs, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) released the Lyon Declaration, asserting that the right to access information, and the skills to use it, is essential for development. Simply put, there can be no sustainable development without access to information. So, as the world looks toward sustainable development in the information age, what role should libraries play in meeting communities’ needs? Sustainable development, whether on a local or global scale, requires that people have access to information in order to improve their abilities to make informed choices about their lives, livelihoods, and communities. Sustainable development is important for all communities, everywhere, and access to information is just one way libraries can contribute to development initiatives. Libraries, especially public libraries, provide not only traditional access to information but also engaged services and programs that are community centered. This chapter will explore the ways in which the profession at large is plugging into the SDGs, with a particular focus on the work that IFLA is doing to connect libraries to development. It will highlight a specific form of community development – Asset-Based Community Development, which focuses on using the strengths and capacities that already exist in communities of all sizes and economic statuses – as a theoretical and practical model to help librarians understand and leverage their own assets as they collaborate with their communities on building individual and community capacity. It will argue that an asset-based approach to integrating our services into the larger trend of sustainable community development can provide us with both direction for day-to-day engagement with our communities and an important way to reimagine our value.


Because of online digital resources, academic libraries no longer need to spend as much time and energy organizing their own collections as they used to. They now have an opportunity to pivot their expertise in organizing information outward. “Inside-out” library services can include support for special collections, digital scholarship, scholarly communication, and data management. A key characteristic of such services is that an academic library takes on broader information management challenges at their college or university. This chapter will examine what it takes to build successful inside-out library services by looking at their cost, how well they complement existing library expertise and culture, and their impact on teaching, research, and the wider community.


One of the library’s most enduring roles has been information provision. It remains especially important today as libraries transition from passive storehouses of books into active community living rooms that offer not just information but a variety of different user experiences. Some libraries have responded by implementing new approaches to information provision that appear to fit this new vision. One such approach is roving information service. Using portable forms of information technology for assistance, librarians now roam the library floor, meeting users where they are rather than the other way around. Its advocates laud its flexibility and user-centeredness. But do roving models support this new, user-centered vision of the library? The answer lies in a deeper understanding of the library floor as a social space and how roving models of service affect perceptions of “centeredness” within it. This report reviews the results of an exploratory, qualitative study involving three libraries: two that use a hybrid model of roving service and one library that uses a fully roving model. The study’s findings indicate that indeed roving service can help create user-centered forms of library space, but a library’s method of implementation will matter.


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.


This chapter outlines libraries’ (and librarians’) changing identities in the new world of research mandates from funders, institutions, and publishers. As libraries respond to the demands of these mandates on their users at the individual, departmental, and institutional levels, they need to revise their approaches to relationship building and user engagement, as well as maintain flexibility in the face of changing roles and skill requirements. This chapter will (1) outline the changing scholarly ecosystem; (2) summarize major terms and concepts to understand the process of producing research outputs; (3) discuss the perspectives of the major players in the research enterprise; (4) present some of the challenges that research mandates and the changing research environment have brought to libraries; and finally (5) review ways in which libraries have successfully addressed them. The focus here is on the academic research setting, although many of the strategies outlined can be equally applicable in both non-academic research and non-research funding contexts.


This chapter explores specializations within academic librarian practices, focusing on librarian research and collaboration. Academic librarian roles are transitioning from service providers to specialists, researchers, and collaborators. Roles have shifted to incorporate interdisciplinary research and collaboration; embedded librarianship; research data management expertise; information literacy instruction; and core curriculum development. In order to understand this shift in roles, a mixed methods research project undertaken with a Purdue University researcher and Purdue Libraries faculty that prompted the development of a research diagrammatic metaphor modeling the components of librarian-faculty collaboration. The model demonstrates the dynamics and roles in academic collaboration and interdisciplinary research. A generalization of the model applied to two librarian-faculty collaboration scenarios exemplifies how these components facilitate engagement and project management. Potentially the model could be operationalized to understand disciplinary differences and provide a framework of accountability for both faculty and librarians engaged in research projects.


While the important role of information literacy instruction as a central service in academic libraries is well observed in scholarly literature, there has been little examination of the impact of the rapid increase of instructional duties on practicing librarians, whose traditional instruction duties have expanded or whose positions have not traditionally required leading a classroom. The study in this chapter explores librarians’ perceptions of the impact that increased instruction tasks have had on their day-to-day and long-term goals, perceptions of the support they receive in performing their instructional duties, and what types of instruction training they have received throughout their career. The ways in which the addition of instruction duties for librarians have been perceived by the librarians themselves as they strive to increase support for instructional services without impacting the library’s ability to continue to perform traditional public and technical services functions is discussed as a marker of the future needs of the field and the necessity of recognizing professional strain.


Public librarians throughout North America now support physical activity. One sees this function in the emergence and diffusion of new programs and services, such as librarians checking out exercise equipment, as well as in librarians actually sponsoring exercise classes. This chapter focuses on understanding this type of work. The first part looks at five different frameworks – the library as place, community-led librarianship, whole person librarianship, community health, and recreation and leisure – that each in different ways enable one to understand how supporting physical activity could become part of the work of public librarians. Focus then shifts to understanding empirically how public librarians in the US and Canada enact and understand this work. Research shows that this role has become more integral and expected in youth services than in adult services. Library staff themselves are more likely to lead movement-based programs for youth than for adults. The discussion then shifts to the implications of this trend in terms of evidence-based practice and multidisciplinary discussions on how and why to increase physical activity throughout society. The conclusion suggests additional work needed to understand this and other poorly understood functions of public librarians.


Pages 207-216
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Cover of Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome
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Advances in Library Administration and Organization
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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