The nature of librarianship and the roles librarians play in
academic libraries are undergoing a dizzying amount of change with
increased levels of technology permeating librarianship. These changes
have great consequences for the management of human resources. This
article seeks to better understand some of these changes. These include
the creation of new jobs and departments, changes in wage disparities
between traditional and non-traditional jobs, differences in pay
between librarians in technical positions and their non-librarian
counterparts, changes in training, increased job stress as a result of
new technologies, and potential gender gaps in non-traditional and
technical library positions. A few solutions are also given as to how
library administration can manage some of these changes.
Emerging digital technologies, especially computers and the
Web, are changing the face of librarianship and libraries. This is true
in all libraries, including academic libraries in colleges and
universities, to which this discussion pertains. Human resources
management is one facet of academic libraries that is facing major
changes and obstacles with the introduction of new technologies into
the workplace. Positions are changing, new positions are being added,
and new types of workers are changing the makeup of the profession.
Retraining and keeping current employees up to date is also becoming
ever more critical, due to the rapidity of change new technologies have
introduced into the workplace. Understanding these changes and how to
adapt management styles to them is critical for library managers and
Understanding the problems facing human resources (HR) today
requires an understanding of who administers HR policy and what exactly that is. HR departments and managers handle
the personnel side of organizations and are responsible for areas such
as recruitment, compensation, position administration, training, and
staff development (Defa, 2008). A separate
administrative department often handles these issues in larger colleges
and universities. In these cases, all HR
functions for an entire campus go to one department that must have an
understanding of the entire college or university organization in order
to function effectively (Defa, 2008).
Because of the separate nature of the HR department on many campuses, HR professionals may have no
experience with the particular departments they are administering and,
thus, may not fully understand some of the specific problems facing a
department (Defa, 2008). This is especially true of
libraries, which are sometimes very large departments that face some
rather unique problems as a result of the continual applications of new
digital technologies to traditional library methods.
An understanding of how digital technology is being used in
the library is crucial to giving us an idea of how it affects HR functions. Computers have become
ubiquitous in library usage and many library functions, such as the
catalog, are now computerized. Many libraries now utilize so many
technologies that it is necessary to have individuals who can maintain
the technical infrastructure in order to keep electronic services
operating effectively (Tyson, 2003). These
services are crucial to libraries today in order to compete with new
commercial information services (Tyson, 2003).
Further, librarians must now address the fact that, with so
many distance education programs and electronic materials accessible
elsewhere, some patrons may never set foot inside the physical library
or, at the very least, may consider the physical library to be a last
resort. The proliferation of technology within libraries and the new
challenges and opportunities they face are going to require a
rethinking and reworking of how libraries operate and how they are
managed, and this is especially true of library HR.
One of the biggest changes occurring in many libraries as a
result of the influx of digital technology is the creation of new
positions and departments. In a case study of one medium-sized research
university, Mack Lundy (2003) wrote that existing
computer specialists on campus were not able to assist with the
maintenance of the library computer systems due to the extensive nature
of library computer and automation systems. Because of this, it was
necessary to form a new department inside the library itself, called
the systems department (Lundy, 2003). The systems
department at this university was formed to cope with the extensive
computing systems that are now required in order to handle the
technological functions the library now serves (Lundy,
The head of the systems department is the systems librarian.
Systems librarians and departments are usually responsible for
"investigate[ing] new technologies, guid[ing] the implementation of
those technologies, assist[ing] in short and long-term planning,
generally provid[ing] advice and recommend[ing] action, and bridg[ing]
the cultures of technology and library" (Lundy, 2003,
p. 334). Systems librarians' day-to-day tasks and responsibilities
are radically different from most librarians. A systems librarian may
be responsible for such items as designing websites, managing
electronic services, working on computer servers to keep them in order,
and other technical tasks (Tyson, 2003).
Not only are new positions being created, but old ones are
also being redefined. The evolving nature of positions in the systems
department is an excellent example of how these changes are occurring.
The above case study presents a great example of this, where the title
of the person to whom the systems librarian reports has changed from
"associate university librarian for bibliographic control to assistant
university librarian for automation and bibliographic control to
associate dean for academic services and automation" (Lundy,
334). This administrative manager played a very important
role in the establishment of the systems department at the university,
often providing a great deal of vision to the process.
Due to the heavy degree of technological work done in them,
the systems departments can often be radically different from other,
more traditional, library departments. Though the head of the systems
department is primarily a librarian, the staff itself mostly has a
background in computer science and computer systems, rather than
library science (Tyson, 2003). The education
levels that these staff members have attained are also quite different,
with staff members often having degrees in computer science or computer
technology and sometimes having graduate degrees in computer-related
fields (Lundy, 2003).
Besides these differences in staff, many of these departments
are being reorganized and rethought. Many systems departments are being
reorganized from hierarchical structures to team-based organizations.
There are several possible reasons for this change from hierarchies to
teams. Tyson (2003) wrote that members of the
systems team at the University of Western Sydney required extensive
depth of knowledge in many different areas (e.g. Unix server
maintenance, e-journal services, support for document delivery, etc.),
which requires a variety of employees with different skill sets working
together as a team.
Lundy (2003) wrote that systems
department employees in his case study sometimes found themselves being
supervised by managers with experience levels that were equivalent of
their own. Team-based organization helps alleviate problems such as
these by forming a cohesive unit that can function by utilizing all of
the members' talents. Reorganizing the systems department into teams
also flattens the department and minimizes the difficulty of assigning
static roles to library technicians who have more fluid jobs and
Technology and Salaries
One particular problem that HR
departments must deal with in the face of an increase in library staff
with significant technological educations is the pay discrepancy these
staff members face. Many of these individuals could find much
higher-paying employment in the private sector. The median earnings of
library technicians employed by colleges and universities was $29,950
in 2006, with the middle 50% earning between $20,220 and $34,280 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008b). On the
other hand, computer support specialists and systems administrators,
who would often have credentials and backgrounds similar to those of
the systems department
staff, earned a median income of $41,470, with the middle 50% earning
between $32,110 and $54,640 (Bureau of Labor
Given these statistics and the discrepancies in pay between
private sector computer technology employees and academic library
employees, someone with a technical background in computer science and
technology finds little economic incentive to choose a career as a
library technician rather than as a computer support specialist in the
private sector. This could make recruiting qualified individuals for
positions with a high degree of digital technology integration
incredibly difficult. This discrepancy is even more pronounced when
comparing the possible incomes of someone who possesses a computer
science degree in the academic library versus the private sector, with
computer scientists earning a median income of $93,950 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008d). Even a
professional librarian position, requiring a Master's degree, is much
less financially enticing, with the median income for college and
university librarians being $51,160 in 2006 (Bureau
The comparatively low pay of librarians is nothing new,
necessarily, but in this case, it is essential to find ways to recruit
individuals whose skills are in great demand and who can earn much more
in other industries. Many governments and organizations are realizing
this. For instance, the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized that
computer professionals needed incentives to be retained in state
government positions and in 2001 revised job classifications and pay
structures to allow for more flexibility in the pay rates of
non-faculty workers skilled in computer science and technologies (Lundy, 2003).
While being able to adequately compensate these highly skilled
workers is imperative, it can be a significant burden on the HR departments of a college or
university. It will be a huge problem to try to balance the pay of
these employees with tight or dwindling budgets.
Changes in Collection Development
The library systems department is not the only department that
is being significantly influenced by the proliferation of information
technology (IT). One department outside of the systems department that
is IT intensive is
collection development (Mutula & Makondo, 2003).
of collection development and acquisitions are now
automated and monitored through technology (Mutula
& Makondo, 2003).
In order to best utilize these functions, librarians and
library staff working in collection development require education and
training in a variety of IT
skills. These librarians are often required to have "knowledge of
multiple formats, flexibility, openness to change, and Internet skills"
(Mutula & Makondo, 2003, p. 99). These
librarians will also need very specific technical skills to select the
right materials. Collections development librarians often test any
electronic products, such as computerized databases, which are being
considered for implementation (Mutula & Makondo,
2003). This requires them to have a working knowledge of how to use
computers and computer software effectively. Further, one issue of
great importance to collections development librarians now is that they
must be knowledgeable about copyright control and the different systems
online vendors will use to ensure that copyrights are respected (Mutula & Makondo, 2003). In addition to this,
some of these librarians will even need such technical skills as web
authoring (Mutula & Makondo, 2003).
Recruitment, Training and Staff
Beyond the systems and collection development librarians
mentioned, there are other librarians who are influenced by the influx
of digital technology and library automation as well. In fact, just
about all library functions have been affected by technology (Mutula & Makondo, 2003). This means that all
librarians across the spectrum need continuous training in order to
keep up with the ever-changing technological innovations. Perhaps due
to this, one of the burgeoning responsibilities of systems librarians
is training their colleagues in using technology in their professional
tasks, so they are better equipped to handle problems with technology
and have a greater understanding of it (Tyson, 2003).
Libraries are also looking for more and more talent with
computers and IT
when seeking to fill new position openings (Mathews
& Pardue, 2009). The percentage of librarian positions
requiring technical and computer skills skyrocketed from 10.3 percent
in 1974 to 88.9 percent in 1994 and, no doubt, to an even greater
percentage now (Mathews & Pardue, 2009).
These librarians will need a variety of skills, including experience
with computerized databases and catalogs such as the Online Computer
Library Center's (OCLC) WorldCat catalog and EBSCOhost databases,
knowledge of computer software and general use, knowledge of library
automation, experience with CD-ROMs, and so on (Mathews
2009). Mathews and Pardue's (2009)
study of librarian position listings requiring a MLS degree showed that
72 percent of all positions required at least one IT skill and that 38 percent
required web-development skills.
In order to ensure that their students are competitive in the
workforce upon graduation, there is a significant burden on
universities' library and information science programs to provide
education in technology use in librarianship to their students, but
what about those already employed as librarians and library staff? For
those already working in libraries, continuing education and staff
development is critical. This is particularly true in the case of those
librarians who have been in the profession long enough to attain status
as senior managers and in the case of librarians whose educations were
prior to the widespread use of these technologies in librarianship.
Those who attended library schools after 1996 have received their
educations in the age of the Internet and World Wide Web. Consequently,
these librarians might be more skilled in Web and Internet applications
than some of their older peers (Long & Applegate,
2008). Still, even those who have been educated with more IT skills and knowledge need
continuing education to keep up with the constantly changing nature of
There are a variety of types of continuing education that
librarians can and do pursue. There are such formal options as credit
or non-credit courses, professional association conferences,
professional association workshops, and teleconferencing or
videoconferencing, as well as more informal methods such as following
e-mail discussion lists or listervs, reading professional literature,
and simply having discussions with colleagues (Long
& Applegate, 2008).
The literature seems to indicate that librarians prefer more
informal methods, such as discussion with colleagues and reading
professional journals, to more formal ones, such as courses, and are
three times as likely to pursue informal methods (Long
& Applegate, 2008). Despite this, librarians often still find
formal methods, particularly conferences and courses, incredibly
helpful (Long & Applegate, 2008). Because
librarians seem to prefer informal methods, but still find more formal
methods to be very useful, both of these methods should ideally be used
together in helping librarians remain up-to-date in their IT and computer education.
However, a new type of training has come about as a direct
result of the technological and computer 'revolution': online workplace
training. Though online training is still a new phenomenon and
librarians often prefer face-to-face training to online training, there
are still benefits to online training. In a study by Connie Haley (2008), she found that 63.1 percent of library staff
surveyed preferred online training when provided by a vendor for
training for their products. Online training is also considered to be
more efficient in many ways, saving on time, travel costs, and training
costs in general (Haley, 2008). Online training
also serves to provide more hands-on training with computer systems and
software (Haley, 2008). From these examples, it
seems that on technological topics, online training is a good and cost
saving choice to keep librarians current.
Fortunately, librarians and library staff have a great desire
to learn more about IT
and pursue further training and continuing education (CE) (Long & Applegate, 2008; Haley,
2008). Most librarians also feel supported by their institutions to
pursue further training and development (Long &
Applegate, 2008). In a study of CE by Chris Long and Rachel
Applegate (2008), 92 percent of the librarians
surveyed reported receiving some form of assistance, whether financial
aid, time off, or both, from their institutions to further their
knowledge and skills in IT.
Haley (2008) mentions, these functions
could still use more funding and shouldn't be the first item on the
chopping block when budgets are tight. A large percentage of librarians
also see continuing education and training on technical topics to be
very relevant to building successful librarians' skills (Long
Human resources managers and library managers need to take
these facts into account when training is needed to keep librarians
knowledgeable about current technology. Librarians overall are
receptive to further training and career development and management
should encourage this attitude. In addition, HR managers need to ensure there is
an adequate budget to provide the training librarians need and not
resort to cutting that part of the budget when money is tight.
However, this isn't to say that librarians have completely
embraced technology or that all employees completely understand and
relate to technology. The same breakneck speed of change and new
challenges presented can be both challenging or exhausting and
frustrating. In the 1980s Craig Brod, a psychotherapist, coined the
term for a disease he called technostress (Brod, 1984,
Ennis, 2005). According to Brod (1984), "technostress is a modern disease of
adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer
technologies in a healthy manner" (p. 16).
Brod (1984) offered a few reasons why
technostress happens, two of which are the fact that the workplace
often speeded up as a result of the increased use of computers to do
things faster and the solitary nature of using computers for tasks that
once involved personal interactions. Lisa Ennis (2005)
a few reasons, specific to librarians, as to why
technostress occurs: "[fast] pace of change, lack of training,
increased workload, lack of standardization, reliability of technology,
and the changing role of librarians" (p. 10). The
fast pace of change and lack of standards appear to be the most
stressful for librarians. The changes of what role librarians play in
the age of technology and how much technical knowledge users expect of
librarians are also vexing issues (Ennis, 2005).
However, librarians seem to have largely embraced these sorts
of changing roles. Further, the pace of change has slowed in the past
decade and librarians have become more comfortable with the changes in
technology and their IT
skills (Ennis, 2005). Again, here training is the
key. In order to keep librarians and library staff working well and
without stress, it is critical to make sure that they are sufficiently
trained in technical skills and the abilities needed to cope with
technological changes. As Mutula and Makondo (2003)
"an educated workforce tends to exploit technology, whereas an
ignorant one tends to be victimized by it" (p. 98).
any major change, care needs to be taken that the people
involved are taken into account in order for the changes to succeed.
Influence on Library Employee Demographics
The changing roles of librarians and the addition of new types
of tasks and responsibilities are also greatly changing the makeup of
librarians and library staff. One of the most profound of these changes
that may happen as a result of the intrusion of IT and computer skills in
libraries is a change in gender makeup of library staff. Librarians and
library staff in the United States have long been made up primarily of
women. Only approximately 18-20 percent of librarians were male as of
2007 (Record & Green, 2008). Historically,
this number has been even lower. For example, in the 1920s women
accounted for 90 percent of all librarians (Record
& Green, 2008). One of the drastic changes that may happen as a
result of more IT in
librarianship is a shift to more males in these positions.
Though it is hard to get a good idea of the gender breakdown
in IT positions in
libraries or among academic organizations, there is substantial data on
the broader IT
workforce. Looking at data from the broader IT workforce it is clear that
much fewer women hold IT
positions than men (Lamont, 2009). While in some
ways this seems to be a balancing act that brings more men into the
librarian profession, there is more to this potential change that makes
for a problematic situation.
Female librarians across the board make less than their male
counterparts. In 2008, starting pay for men was 7.4 percent higher:
$44,172 compared to $40,896 (Maatta, 2009). The
proliferation of higher-paid IT
jobs held primarily by men will only serve to exacerbate this problem.
An example of the economic segregation is that heads of computer
systems departments in 2008 earned $87,100 or more, more than any other
department head (Lamont, 2009). Indeed, starting
salaries for positions in such IT-heavy
systems, information technology, and web services
($48,922, $51,010, and $61,000, respectively) are much higher than
other, more traditional non-IT
positions such as cataloging, children's services, and reference
services ($39,812, $39,486, and $40,368, respectively) (Maatta, 2009).
Beyond the discrepancies between different departments or non-IT positions, there are also
differences in pay in these departments between women and men. Women in
computer departments earn less than their male counterparts, earning
only $63,000, as opposed to the average salary of $74,000 for men.
Women are also outnumbered when it comes to how many are department
heads (Lamont, 2009).
Unfortunately, many of the underlying reasons for the dearth
of women in IT are
beyond the reach of a college or university HR department. There are some steps
that can be taken to try to alleviate some of the impact on libraries.
One step that can be taken by the library administration is to try to
reevaluate the definition and scope of what IT is (Lamont,
2009). Attempts can be made to blend the concept of what IT is and what librarians do
to make IT seem more
natural to librarianship. By doing so, the somewhat arbitrary division
between IT and non-IT library positions can be
eroded and the differences between them can be minimized. HR departments must also take care
not to perpetuate the gender gap in pay between men and women. Other
positions outside of the IT
spectrum must be reevaluated and assigned more worth in order to close
the enormous gap between these and IT-based departments.
One thing that seems clear from reviewing the available
literature on the ways that emerging digital technologies are affecting
libraries is that the tasks of HR
managers are going to be very complex and difficult. HR managers are going to need to be
flexible, attentive, and innovative in the tasks of recruiting
librarians and library technicians with significant digital technology
experience, training existing staff to be comfortable with new
technology, and finding new ways to better compensate staff without
further perpetuating existing income gaps.
A few solutions have been given in this paper from the
existing literature. However, one of the overarching tactics that HR managers can use that is not
explicitly stated in the literature is to solicit advice from the
librarians and staff themselves. Library employees are on the front
lines, so to speak, of this immense revolution in how library services
are being offered. In this sense, they are possibly the best experts on
how any resources, not only human resources, should be managed. A great
example of this is the change in organization from a hierarchy to teams
in the systems departments of the university in Lundy's study (2003) and the University of Western Sydney's
libraries (Tyson, 2003). In both cases,
communication between the librarians, staff, and managers was key to
facilitating major changes that led to a more effective system. Keeping
these lines of communication open can lead to more effective and
nuanced human resources management.
Another important factor for HR
managers to pay particular attention to is adequate budgeting. This may
be the one area that is the most difficult to adequately address when
trying to manage human resources during the integration of digital
technologies into academic libraries. Managers will have to ensure that
there is sufficient budget for recruiting new employees with a variety
of skills with digital technologies, who could easily find more
economically-enticing employment elsewhere. In addition, there must be
enough money available to provide effective training and to encourage
professional development in order for current staff to maintain
proficiency and currency in emerging technologies.
One of the major questions raised by the changing roles of
libraries and librarians and the effects on library HR management is: how can a
department that is often divorced from the library itself handle all of
these myriad problems that the integration of technology presents? One
solution to this problem, which Dennis Defa (2008)
advocates, is the creation of an in-house library HR specialist. There are two ways of
doing this. One way is to appoint the HR
specialist to an academic rank of librarian with additional duties in HR management. The second is to hire
an employee whose sole purpose is library HR with an administrative
appointment rather than academic one.
There are merits and problems with either method. For
instance, librarians will have a sense of trust in an HR administrator with an academic
appointment, but there may be friction between non-librarian staff and
an HR representative who is
a faculty member (Defa, 2008). On the other hand,
with the second method, there is a possibility of many library staff
viewing the administrator as an outsider with little insight into their
problems. So, the implementation of this sort of system requires a
great deal of care and study of the organization in question to be done
The ever-changing role of technology in libraries presents
special problems in HR in
academic libraries. I have focused solely on college and university
libraries here, but many of these problems are pervasive in other types
of libraries as well. However, the solutions to these problems and the
extent these problems manifest themselves will be different across
different types of libraries. In all cases, a constant reevaluation of HR by library administration is
necessary to keep up with changing times and to keep libraries current
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John Edge is an alumnus of Appalachian State University, where
he studied art. He is also a recent graduate of North Carolina Central
University's School of Library and Information Science. His research
interests are primarily in the application of new technologies to
library services and the impact they are having on library management.
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