Good afternoon. I really appreciated this in Roly Keating’s introduction today – “if you put a library somewhere, wonderful things will happen to it”.
Or to put it as one librarian put it to me, “if you put a librarian into an empty building, they will turn it into a library”.
What makes a library a library is the people who work in it. When we’re thinking about developing the sector, we have to think hard about the people that are going to constitute our future workforce.
We often talk about the library as this extraordinary common room, a sort of room of requirement. A platform which provides the knowledge and the services and content and experienced that their users need.
And as the social and civic and digital purposes of libraries expand, we need to think about the kind of people that will make up and lead our future workforce.
We have heard from Roly that this transformation is happening both in our physical and digital spaces. We have amazing opportunities to explore new forms of creativity, to help our users navigate the world of algorithms and big data and personalisation.
We know the opportunities also come with risks, to create new forms of digital inequality, information poverty, marginalisation and exclusion, and we must use our skills and our ethics to help society guard against these.
It simply isn’t possible for us to be the experts in every discipline we want to engage with. We are not clinicians or teachers or coders or entrepreneurs. Our role isn’t to take on the skills of the sectors we want to work with, but to enter into partnership working based on a few clear elements:
A strong ethical foundation – understanding what it means to deliver services which protect the rights, the privacy abd confidentiality of information users.
A laser-guided focus on adding value for our users
A willingness to learn, unlearn and relearn as the half-life of all of our skills becomes shorter and shorter as the pace of digital innovation accelerates
An openness to partnership and collaboration
A curiosity and a commitment to doing more, doing better
An active interest in learning from other sectors. CILIP works across 20 industry sectors and we actively encourage health librarians, school librarians, information professionals in all sectors to learn from and support one another.
The ability to be our own best advocate – to have readily to hand a crop of stories and statistics in case we get the opportunity to make that all-important elevator pitch.
So the line we hear most often from employers that they “hire for attitude and train for skills”. We need to work together to attract the best and brightest, to help them invest in their own professional development, to acquire the practice of talent management.
The other great challenge we face is ensuring that the face of librarianship truly reflects the breadth and diversity of the audiences we serve.
This is not simply a question of ensuring that our hiring practices are more open and inclusive, but of actively divesting ourselves of power, of empowering more people to take ownership of this sector and reshape it in a way that is more dynamic and relevant.
I want to see more bright, brilliant young black, asian and minority ethnic men and women aspiring to build a career in libraries. I want to see talent moving into and out of our sector to build a broad and cross-sectoral skills base. I want to see new professionals empowered to put their talents and insights to work in helping their organisations innovate and adapt successfully. It has been great to work with employers across the library sector who share this vision and ambition.
Which is why I am delighted that we are taking action in a number of areas. We are hoping to secure investment in a transformative leadership programme focussed on diversity, with Libraries Connected.
We are working with employers to create a sustainable system of Apprenticeships, giving library employers more opportunities to develop their workforcr using the new Level 3 Apprenticeships standard.
We are working with learning providers to develop innovative approaches to opening up professional training, for example through a library sector MOOC.
Its also why we are delighted to have been able to partner with our friends at Libraries Connected to develop the Public Library Skills Steategy, which aims to build capacity, skills and leadership certainly, but which also focuses on ensuring that we have the bright, positive energetic, future-facing workforce we will need to continue to power the extraordinary, transformative work that libraries do every day!