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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

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.


Sam Dick said...

I think it will be interesting to see the rest of the results from the survey!

At the Open University Library we ran a low key survey with staff both from the Library and the University. One of the key findings was the need to develop skills and increase comfort with new technologies.

We started tackling this by developing a self contained area in the the library called "Digilab". This is a creative 'play' area for all staff at the University to come and experiment with mobile technologies, virtual worlds, social media, gaming technology...the list is growing!

More recently our focus turned to our own profession and how we can help people prepare for the challenges that the profession faces. Staff here at the Open University Library have been involved with developing on online course called "The Evolving Information Professional".
It focuses on the challenges to the profession from a variety of different angles, exploring social and technological challenges, shifts in learning, and the importance of marketing both self and services.

Lori Reed said...

1800 responses is impressive! Congratulations and I can't wait to see the full results. Thank you for emailing me the link to this.