The essence of being a librarian in disruptive times

VLACHOS, Evgenios, FABER HANSEN, Anne and HOLCK, Jakob Povl (2019) The essence of being a librarian in disruptive times. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session 113c - IFLA Poster Session.

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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


The essence of being a librarian in disruptive times

Librarians are faced with speedy developments in robotics, artificial intelligence and similar disruptive technologies. Some libraries have already embraced the new trends and implemented robot assisted patron guidance, virtual frequently asked questions management, pick-and-place-machinery or automated material handling operations, not to mention educational initiatives for students. The transformation of libraries into technological playgrounds where patrons have a chance to interact directly with robots is a part of the new trends. One can imagine that many librarians are afraid of the new possibilities. Our purpose is to draw attention to where libraries should shift their focus to stop harboring fears about being replaced by technology – and ponder the interfaces between the librarian’s core competencies and the new technologies. Are the machines and the online features truly going to replace the human librarians eventually? What should the libraries do in these disruptive times? To address these issues, we performed a literature search in four databases: IEEE, LISTA, Scopus, and Web of Science. Studies were included if they used the components robot (the intervention) and library (the context); were published within 2016-2018; and written in English. After removing duplicates and screening on title and abstract level, 51 publications remained. Reading through the filtered corpus, we ended up with three equally important aspects, which may describe the essence of today’s librarianship: I. Librarians are democratizers of data access and providers of equal access to technology, information, actionable intelligence, and continuing education. II. Librarians are mediators between diverse communities and reliable, understanding, empathetic guides. As long as humans continue to visit libraries, these traits will always be essential in interpersonal communication. III. Even though machines offer a great variety of possibilities and superior information literacy, a human librarian will always be needed in the loop to clarify the input, ensure copyright clearance and licensing, and filter the output of the system.

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