Author’s Corner: Hiring Systems Librarians

I’m so pleased to be able to bring back the Author’s Corner series! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about some aspect of LIS careers.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Systems Librarianship, written by Brighid Gonzales. We last heard from Brighid a little over a month ago, when she shared her research into a decade’s worth of job postings for library technologists. Among other things, it provides some insight into which languages folks are actually talking about when they tell LIS workers to “Learn to code.”

In this excerpt from Systems Librarianship, Brighid is again analyzing job postings. Read further to find out the skills and knowledge that libraries hope to find when hiring for this field. Or if you’d like to check out the whole book, the citation is:

Gonzales, B.M. (2020). Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Systems Librarianship, published in 2020 as part of Rowman & Littlefield’s Practical Guides series, takes a practical and pragmatic look at the skills, education, and experiences of systems librarianship for new and early career librarians and LIS students. It contains informative chapters about the integrated library system, current and emerging library technologies, resources for support, and over a dozen interviews with various types of professional systems librarians. The book also includes a chapter on hiring trends in systems librarianship, which contains useful information about salaries, required skills, and job searching, and which is excerpted here. Systems Librarianship is available from Rowman & Littlefield in both paperback and ebook formats.

“Looking across a variety of recent job listings certain patterns in employer expectations begin to appear which can be a useful starting point. In the examination of 55 recent systems librarian job listings from the Code4Lib jobs website, a number of specific technology skills, as well as a variety of soft skills, emerged as important to employers hiring systems librarians today. [The table below] lists each of the required or preferred skills, knowledge, and responsibilities listed throughout the job postings and the number of times each was mentioned in postings for academic libraries, public libraries, special libraries, and overall. These job listings skewed heavily toward academic libraries, with 42 of the total, 10 from special libraries, and three from public libraries. While this likely skews the results somewhat, it appears that there is not a great deal of difference in the skills needed for systems librarians across library types.

Required or Preferred Systems Skills, Knowledge, and ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
ILS/LSP/Discovery systems (Alma, Primo, SirsiDynix, EDS)35374581.8%
Programming/scripting languages (APIs, HTML, Perl, Python, XML)31494480.0%
Cataloging/Metadata standards or tools (MARC, Dublin Core, MarcEdit)29263767.3%
Communication Skills28163563.6%
Collaborative/able to work in teams27073461.8%
Authentication and/or proxy systems (LDAP, Shibboleth, Ezproxy)24232952.7%
Project management/planning skills18352647.3%
Relational database systems and tools (Access, Oracle, MySQL, SQL)15262341.8%
Digital repository (Dspace, Omeka, Digital Commons, CONTENTdm)13072036.4%
Link resolvers (OpenURL, SFX)14021629.1%
Website development11131527.3%
ILL systems (ILLiad, etc.)12011323.6%
Content management systems (Drupal, WordPress)7141221.8%
Linux/Unix/Windows server administration8211120.0%
Analytical skills6041018.2%
Linux/Unix/Windows operating systems8111018.2%
Liaison to IT700712.7%
Problem solving skills502712.7%
Supervisory skills/experience601712.7%
Archives management system502712.7%
Electronic resources management system50059.1%
Traditional Library ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
Collection Development800814.5%

From the job postings examined, the most important skills needed for modern systems librarians are a familiarity or experience with integrated library systems (ILS), library services platforms (LSP), and discovery systems, knowledge of or experience with some type of programming or scripting language, and a familiarity or experience with cataloging and metadata standards. In addition, soft skills such as communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively or with teams also ranked highly overall, along with project management skills and the ability to conduct technology training. Among the least mentioned skills were networking, experience with electronic resources management systems (ERMS), and experience with LibGuides.

In addition to the more traditional systems and technology knowledge, many employers also wanted systems librarians who could take part in the more traditional librarian duties of reference, instruction, and collection development, primarily for positions in academic libraries. For students still enrolled in graduate school, this data suggests that while taking as many technology-related courses as possible, including at least one programming or scripting language, is important, those interested in working in academic libraries will not want to disregard the more traditional librarian courses offered, including courses in reference, instruction, collection development, cataloging, and metadata.”

Brighid M. Gonzales, Assistant Director of Systems and MetadataOur Lady of the Lake University

Brighid M. Gonzales is currently the Assistant Director of Systems and Metadata at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and previously served as the Systems and Web Services Librarian for seven years. She is the author of the book Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), as well as other articles and book chapters on library technology.


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