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The Future Looks Bright for Librarianship

by on December 15, 2017

USA Today recently published an article entitled “Careers: 8 jobs that won’t exist in 2030.” The first career listed was “librarian.” According to author Michael Hoon, “As books fall out of favor, libraries are not as popular as they once were. That means you’ll have a tough time finding a job if you decide to become a librarian.”

Empirical data paint a far different future of career prospects in librarianship. According to a recently published report on “The Future of Skills” by Pearson, a publishing and educational company, who conducted research with Nesta and Oxford University, “Librarians, curators, and archivists” will be the ninth most in demand occupation group in coming years. Librarians will be more in demand in 2030 than media and communication workers, construction trade workers, and others, according to the report.

Why, despite consistent evidence that public librarians are in demand, do we continue to see articles proclaiming our death? The profession faces the challenge of communicating its continued relevance in changing times. In response to the USA Today article, the Association for Library and Information Science Education wrote a letter to the editor that communicated the continuing value of public librarians: “Public librarians connect patrons to community resources, lead programming for children and adults, and engage in community outreach and advocacy.”

Part of communicating our value involves aligning library services with local and national goals, a fact pointed out by the Aspen Institute’s Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries initiative. The Pearson report highlights seven societal megatrends that public librarians will need to address to ensure continued relevancy. These values include “changing technology, globalization, demographic change, environmental sustainability, urbanization, rising inequality, and political uncertainty.” In response to these trends, human skills that will be needed include “teaching, social perceptiveness, service orientation, and persuasion.”

An article in Library Journal on the Pearson report notes that we need to ask ourselves “How will the people libraries serve be impacted by these megatrends, how will they need to learn, and what skills will they need to develop in order to thrive?” Part of the answer to this question involves advocacy and marketing. Public libraries already address all seven megatrends, and in particular “changing technology” and “rising inequality,” but perhaps we need to do more to communicate broadly on the impacts we are having. We can use reports like The Future of Skills to craft messages that vividly showcase our value now and into the future.

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