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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Taxonomist / metadata analyst

Think of the all the digital systems and tools you use at your – and any - organisation.  Chances are most of them use metadata and possibly a taxonomy in some capacity.  Librarians can help organisations craft and implement controlled vocabularies and normalise business nomenclature across systems, people and processes.  They can build out product taxonomies for ecommerce businesses, such as the army of digital librarians building out search and browse capabilities for the ecommerce giant Amazon.  These digital librarians may also build out metadata schemas for digital asset management systems or content management systems.  Heather Hedden suggests that digital librarians are often creating both taxonomies and metadata in tandem, especially when working with digital asset management systems.  

Competitive intelligence researcher

Competitive intelligence (CI) is the ethical gathering, analysis and presentation of information in the process of monitoring business rivals.” Librarians are expert researchers. The research experience they gained during their graduate studies can be built on to conduct competitive intelligence research for organisations. You can find competitive intelligence roles in organisations such as law firms or corporations.


Institutional memory and the preservation of important company documents is paramount to the archivist, but also extremely relevant to the librarian. Especially for librarians who have specialised in an archival track during their graduate study, nowhere is the need for the archivist more obvious that the implications of unmanaged corporate memory.

Scholar, writer, or content producer

From editing websites, wikis and writing training manuals, librarians are adept at creating relevant and up-to-date content to share knowledge and connect others with information resources. 


Librarians also need to train end users on how to use systems, document processes and share best practice on things like metadata application, company policies, or even how to approach managing company intellectual property.   This needs to be done in a way that is engaging, collaborative and exciting for people.  For example, engaging in playful learning activities can help people come away from a workshop with an understanding that is more tangible and meaningful.


The librarian has always had to advocate for their role within non-GLAM institutions. Communicating their work and keeping track of their projects is also an important factor. Despite these efforts, sometimes information professionals are faced with budgetary cuts, such as in the case of the archives department at the retailer Target. The librarian must display advocacy for the importance of their role in an organisation.

Putting all the hats on

As librarians, we are wearing all the hats, and doing so quite adeptly.  There are many other hats for us to wear. Info Space, at Syracuse University iSchool, has a whopping list of sixty-one non-traditional library and information science gigs.

In the age of digital, organisations need people who can wear a variety of hats. The full range of capabilities for the librarian in the age of digital is both diverse and stereotype-shattering.

Remember, we librarians are adaptable, and while there are many roles and skills that we could pursue, it’s the unique combination of many of these different roles and skills that can have an even greater impact on an organisation’s information and knowledge-sharing culture.

Emily Kolvitz is a DAM Consultant at Bynder, Boston MA, USA

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

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