An introductory guide to library technologies, now in its fourth edition!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New edition forthcoming!

I mentioned this briefly in my last post, but I am happy to announce that a third edition of The Neal Schuman Library Technology Companion will be coming out this summer! I submitted a manuscript, and am working on revising it now. Aside from a chapter on technology skills which includes the survey data mentioned below, the new edition updates every area of the work that has altered over the two and one-half years since the last edition. I'll let you know more about it as the work progresses.

Technology skills in libraries survey results

In late November/early December 2008, I created a web survey on technology skills in libraries (the questions used in the survey are available here). Respondents were solicited from 14 electronic discussion groups which covered multiple library types as well as a diverse range of specialties or areas of focus in libraries. Over the three week period that the survey was available, exactly 1800 individuals responded.

The respondents are not a perfect cross-section of library staff from all types of libraries. 54% work in academic libraries, 25% in public libraries, 11% in special libraries, and 10% in school libraries. In terms of education, 80% listed an MLS degree, other masters degree, or other graduate work as their highest level of education. Those who chose a single primary area of responsibility were fairly well distributed among library departments and tasks: 16.4% in cataloging, 16.3% in library administration, 13.7% in reference, 10.2% in library IT/systems, and 8.1% in instruction. 20% of respondents chose “Other” on that question, and nearly half of that group said that they performed all or nearly all of the tasks in their libraries. 36% of respondents have worked for 10 or fewer years, 35% for 21 or more years, and 28% between 11 and 20 years.

Respondents were asked to select from a list the technologies or technology skills that they used on a regular basis in their jobs. The ten most common ones, with the percentage of respondents who selected them, were:

E-mail - 97.9
Word processing - 96.2
Web searching - 94.1
Searching library databases - 92.7
Using an integrated library system - 86.3
Web navigation - 80.7
Teaching others to use technology - 79.1
Spreadsheets - 78.3
File management/operating system navigation skills - 62.3
Troubleshooting technology - 61.9

The remaining items in the list of technologies showed a great diversity of skills on hand, including instant messaging (at 32.6%; a percentage I thought might be higher) and creating online instructional materials/products (at 43%). "Making technology purchase decisions", at 40.2%, indicated to me that these decisions are not being made widely throughout organizations, but this role appears to reach beyond the percentage of respondents indicating their primary duties as administrative.

The "Other" category on this question exposed a number of technologies that I should have included in my list, most notably wikis and social networking in general.

I asked respondents "what technology skill could you learn to help ou do your job better?" The most common answers were web design, HTML, various Web 2.0 applications, creating databases, and using Access. Nearly 200 indicated that they did not see a need for additional technology skills (some suggesting that technology skills are not the answer to all needs in their libraries). A very common response was a need for more time to learn any number of things about current and developing technologies.

I also asked them "what technology or technology skill would you most like to see added to your library?" The most common responses here involved blogging, instant messaging, podcasting, SMART boards, wireless (access, printing, etc.), new integrated library systems (ILS), and talents in web design, Web 2.0 technologies, programming, and graphic design. A sizable number of responses suggested that they and their colleagues needed to be more comfortable with the technologies they already had.

More details from the survey will be available in the new edition of my book, which should be in print this summer. I hope these results are of interest and advance our collective understanding of what skills and competencies are widely present and/or required in libraries. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have on the survey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Perceptions 2008: an International Survey of Library Automation

Perceptions 2008: an International Survey of Library Automation
The results of Marshall Breeding's most recent survey of library automation systems. It's an interesting look at libraries' satisfaction with the systems they are using and the glimpse of the market share each system enjoys.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Who The Hell Writes Wikipedia, Anyway?

Who The Hell Writes Wikipedia, Anyway? - Some interesting background on the population of contributors who create and alter Wikipedia entries. It's a big group of occasional contributors whose articles are massaged by a smaller group of "insiders." Definitely worth a read.