Welcome to the next discussion topic in our peer mentoring program. For this topic we’re going to look at the challenges faced in libraries. These may be individual challenges, or challenges faced by your organisation.
One purpose of the ILN is to expand our participants’ perception of their profession across international borders. One way of doing this is to consider the things we have in common, and the differences between us. We believe that there are many common challenges faced by libraries, but also some important and interesting differences. Libraries have always been challenged by changes in technology and workplace demographics, as well as the same challenges faced by many other industries: increased customer demand, reduced financial support, competing suppliers. But some challenges are unique to particular libraries.
In our professional reading and networking, we’ve heard reports of the following challenges that are faced by libraries and librarians. How many of these are relevant to you?
- Clients that demand the most up to date technology, a wider range of resources, or more services
- Financial pressures, and a demand to do more with less funding
- Political pressures, including pressures to remove items from the collection, change public programming, or limit or extend access and support to particular segments of society
- Change resistance in staff, management or other decision-makers
- The need to provide a safe space to clients, while surrounded by political or physical conflict
- Difficulties attracting candidates with the right skills to fill vacant positions
- Competition between advocating for open access, while respecting copyright and adhering to licences
- A need to invest in your own skill development, while still performing your immediate job
- Difficulties transitioning from library school to professional positions
- Balancing competing demands from different stakeholders
- Negotiating from unequal bargaining positions with vendors, be it for content or systems
- Challenges providing basic technology, such as reliable internet access
- Attempting to preserve and value the past while welcoming the future
We feel that it’s unlikely that every library faces all of these challenges, and some of these challenges are likely to be relevant only for some kinds of libraries, in some parts of the world. We don’t mean this list to be overwhelming; rather, we feel that identifying challenges, and sharing them with your colleagues and the wider profession, is the first step in finding solutions, both individual and shared.
For this topic ask yourself what are three big challenges faced by you at work, or by your library? Try sharing these with your partner, and asking your partner what their challenges are. We hope that you’ll discover that we share many challenges across our profession and around the world. Attempting to meet those challenges as a group is one of the things that defines us as a profession.
We’d love to hear about how you deal with these challenges, and other challenges that you face. As well as sharing your thoughts with your ILN partner you can join in the wider conversation here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook using #interlibnet.
- “A review of problems and challenges of library professionals in developing countries including Pakistan”
- “Top 10 challenges for academic libraries in the 21st century”
- “Five challenges every librarian must face”
- “Challenges and problems of Library and Information Science Education in Selected African countries”
- “Challenges facing academic librarians with examples from Lebanon”
- And for a lighter approach, Librarian Problems
-Alyson Dalby, ILN Director