Researcher’s Corner: What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it is only since graduating from SJSU that I started noticing and appreciating the work that goes into shaping the program. SJSU SLIS not only performs and posts a self-assessment of program performance, but each year it performs and publishes a report on informal research into career trends.  The Associate Director of SLIS, Dr. Linda Main, helps steer this project and very graciously agreed to write a guest post describing the research and findings.  (Incidentally, Dr. Main co-teaches what was one of my favorite classes in library school, the History of Books and Libraries. I highly recommend it, current students.)


A topic of conversation on the minds of many information professionals is the job market. Many practitioners are concerned about being prepared for future employment opportunities – a concern that is echoed by graduate students who hope to be tomorrow’s information professionals. 

To help practitioners, students, and future students gain a better understanding of employment trends in our field, each year, the San José State University School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) publishes Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles.

The informal report explores recent job postings for information professionals.  It’s not a comprehensive study, but instead is a snapshot of job postings during a brief point in time.

To develop the most recent report, we scanned job listings for information professionals posted during the summer of 2013.  We searched general job listings websites, as well as websites aimed specifically at recruiting information professionals.

Emerging Job Trends

After a brief analysis of the data, some trends emerged.  For example, job titles are changing. Many job listings still use titles that we categorized as “traditional” in the report, such as Reference Librarian or Collection Manager.  Yet we also found job titles that reflect some newer employment trends, such as Metadata Manager or Digital Initiatives Librarian.  The report provides many examples of what we call “traditional” and “emerging” job titles.

In addition to exploring job titles, the report also provides a snapshot of job responsibilities included in the listings, along with skills employers seek in job applicants. For example, an Informatics Specialist needs to understand metadata standards, know how to manage digital materials, and troubleshoot software.

And as you might expect in today’s evolving work environments, many job titles suggest a blend of responsibilities.  For example, consider the scope of work for someone who is both a SharePoint Librarian and Research & Outreach Assistant.  That’s one of the positions we found.  It’s a good example of how today’s employers seek job candidates who can offer a range of skills.

The report also recaps what hiring managers are looking for in applicants in terms of their education, skills, and work experience. A growing number of hiring managers are looking for applicants with strong technology skills, leadership skills, and the ability to deal with a rapidly changing work environment.  That should come as no surprise, as our profession is rapidly changing, and even “traditional” work environments are being transformed. 

Tips for Keeping Up with Employment Trends

Conducting this informal research each year helps our school stay in touch with employment trends, which helps us do a better job advising our students about the courses they might want to take, as well as the types of internships and volunteer experience that can prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

Of course, we don’t just rely on this one report to advise our students or update our curriculum.  We also rely on input from our faculty, and from advisory groups made up of leaders in our profession.  They help us spot emerging trends, allowing us to ensure that our curriculum is up to date.

And while you may not have access to a formal advisory group like we do, you can follow a similar process.  Chat with colleagues about the trends they are noticing.  Attend a professional conference and see what topics are presented, or at least visit the conference website and scan the list of presentations.  For example, at the recent Library 2.103 Worldwide Virtual Conference, topics included mobile technologies, virtual learning commons, MOOCs, information governance, data visualization, and social media strategies.  Can you picture yourself working in any of those areas?

You can make it a priority to keep your skills up to date by attending conferences, reading blogs, and viewing webinars, like the free career trend webinars offered by our school.  Or to make an even bigger investment in updating your skills, you could complete a post-master’s certificate program.  Several ALA-accredited programs offer these types of certificate programs.  At our school, professionals can complete a post-master’s certificate fully online.

Finally, there are some outstanding resources that can help you explore career options for information professionals.  Our school offers a web-based career development resource, which is freely available to anyone interested in learning more about careers for information professionals.  On the site, we provide links to other resources that can help you keep up with employment trends in our profession.

Regardless of the path you choose to keep up with changing trends in our profession, I hope you are optimistic about the future of our profession.  It’s an exciting time to be an information professional.


linda mainDr. Linda Main is the Associate Director of the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. Shereceived her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). She also holds Masters degrees from the University of Wales (Aberystwyth) and the University of Dublin, Trinity College (Ireland).

She spent many years working in the library of Trinity College Dublin rotating through many different departments including rare books and manuscripts. She was also a project Coordinator for CELDS (US Army Corps of Engineers) and a database coordinator for the Recidivism Database (US Dept. Justice).

Main has written three books and published many articles. Her research interests are in designing information products for a global audience, Web programming languages delivered online and digitization of medieval manuscripts.

Main has been involved in many consultancy projects including projects for the British Library, the Bibliotheque National, the Benito Juarez Autonomous University (Oaxaca, Mexico), the State Technical Library (Prague), Udaras na Gaeltachta and the National Library of Malta. She also works with a small Eastern European consultancy business that develops Web sites and digitizes manuscripts.

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1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

One response to “Researcher’s Corner: What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

  1. Pingback: Researchers’ Corners: A Guide for the Evidence-Based Job Hunter | Hiring Librarians

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