Project to help prepare librarians for digital age

Dr. Youngok Choi of SUNY Oswego’s computer science department is working on a yearlong project on current needs for digital librarians that may impact the future of the field.

Choi said earning a competitive $5,000 grant from the international Association for Library and Information Sciences Education will make it possible to complete the project, titled “Digital Librarians: Who Are They, What Skills Do They Need, and How Can They Be Educated?”

The increasing use of digital technology in library science prompted Choi to develop a new information science course, “Digital Libraries,” at SUNY Oswego about three years ago. While putting the class together, she discovered there were no standard ideas for the kinds of skills and knowledge required for those entering the field in the digital age.

“A couple of studies talked about how we could educate students, but they were based on assumptions,” Choi said. She wanted to develop a more concrete study, and securing the ALISE grant solidified her ability to research the problem.

The project will unfold in the coming months through a threefold approach. She plans to research the past five years of job advertisements in the field to learn what kinds of skills and educational background academic librarians seek in new employees. One of her students, Robert Bouchard, is helping collect raw data.

She will survey current practitioners in academic libraries. “I will ask them some questions about their operations, for suggestions about what they are looking for in new hires and whether their people could use some additional training,” Choi said. The national survey of more than 100 academic libraries also will examine how well current coursework prepares graduates to work in a digital environment.

Finally, Choi will compile syllabi and course descriptions for college information science courses and continuing education and training courses to ascertain trends in curriculum and skills developments among academic institutions.

Working with Edie Rasmussen of the University of British Columbia, who was her doctoral degree adviser, Choi will develop a research paper to present at the American Society for Information Science and Technology annual conference in late October. She also will share her data and observations with colleagues at other institutions interested in the same topic.

“It will be very beneficial for information science educators” since there is no current template for teaching this topic,” Choi said. “From my research, I will propose some of the framework for what kinds of subjects should be included in the course design.”

The research will be helpful to those trying to enter the field by showing trends for hiring, what options are available and what kinds of skills employers want, she added.

While this project concerns digital librarians in an academic setting, Choi said that she believes the framework can help determine what is required for information science workers in business and government positions as well.

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(Posted: Mar 23, 2005)