The many hats of the digital librarian

It's increasingly important for librarians to develop a broad range of skills and to take on a variety of roles in the workplace.

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The Renaissance woman/man is proficient in a variety of things. In a way, the modern digital librarian is a true renaissance role because we can (and do) wear many hats.  We don’t have to be good at just one thing or specialise in just one area. 

This is true for librarians working in all sorts of institutions: GLAM organisations, (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), public libraries, and corporations.  Digital librarians are tasked with managing information systems, processes and people. This might include being a marketer or a knowledge manager; a data scientist or a digital curator. Or some (or all) of these things at the same time. Let’s take a look at just some of the roles for the modern-day digital librarian – and the skillsets we need to take on these roles. 

Digital asset manager or content manager

Librarians in corporations may be tasked with managing digital content for their organisation, especially inside marketing departments. Think product shots, editorial photography, brand logos, design materials, or even corporate headshots.  Librarians help manage all this content in a variety of systems, namely digital asset management systems, but could also be involved in helping to manage digital content in CMS systems (Content Management systems) or even PIM systems (Product Information Management systems.)  

In Who Needs a DAM Librarian Deb Faslow writes: 

As newly minted librarians and archivists continue to face the reality of an oversaturated market within traditional cultural heritage organisations – despite the continuing prediction of librarian shortages – the word has gotten out. Academic Library and Information Science (LIS) departments are now increasingly promoting “alternative” careers outside of libraries, museums, and archives.

If you’re curious to see what kinds of companies and verticals are hiring for this type of role, look no further than the DAM Guru Jobs board.  Recent jobs for digital asset managers have been posted by Netflix, Chobani, and Footlocker. 

Internal communications manager

The librarian has always been keen on connecting people with information, and that includes internal communication within organisations.  This aspect of internal communications lends itself nicely to the role of digital librarian.  

Internal communications issues are a common problem across many organisations.  Some librarians use project management methodologies to help improve communications such as doing standup meetings.  The digital librarian can help with efforts to centralise content across an organisation to increase the quality of communications; they can help with sales enablement, and can even help employees decide which information resources are most important to them. 

Knowledge manager

It’s tough to stay in your bubble as a librarian.  While you may be tasked with managing a particular system or team within a company, it’s tough not to see glaring opportunities for improvements in knowledge management across your organisation, whether it’s records management, internal wikis or something else.

In many companies, KM is a formalised role, but in other companies, the digital librarian may find themselves taking on KM initiatives in an effort to streamline company communications and improve knowledge sharing to improve the company’s competitive edge.

The DKM protects a company by making certain its digital knowledge is developed and deployed in the best ways possible -- both internally and externally -- to serve the business.


Information governance and compliance officer

A librarian can also be a key member of an enterprise information governance council.  Gartner defines information governance as: “The specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behaviour in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information,” and explains that it’s “the processes, roles and policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organisation to achieve its goals.”

A librarian can be a key player in helping an organisation put in place policies that help to mitigate risks and control information resources.  In this skillset, the librarian must carefully balance information sharing initiatives with protecting security of information resources.  Issues the librarian must deal with in this type of role include copyright, licensing and privacy.


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