Discussion topic: what challenges does your library face?

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.

Air Cav infantry Soldiers compete in company challenge. Sourced from US Army, used under CC-BY

Air Cav infantry Soldiers compete in company challenge. Sourced from US Army, used under CC-BY

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.

Further reading

-Alyson Dalby, ILN Director

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016B and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. I would like to add these;

    -High demand to do more with less funding and less human resource.
    -Challenging staff and customers at work place

  2. Challenges in our library:
    1.Our Library Challenges many of them but overall libraries in present scenario use of information and communication technology in libraries and information centers has become very common. The development and access to digital information resources has raised a number of challenges for female librarians. Information is a valuable resource in all types of libraries, but the ICT infrastructure that are important to create, collect, consolidate and communicate information are not yet well established in a majority of libraries. Even where ICT infrastructures are available their adoption and use is generally inadequate due to lack of appropriate skills among female library staffs where male library staff remarkable progress.
    There are differences in the availability of IC technology and network infrastructure among libraries. The attitude and opinion of the female library professionals vary with the hierarchy position
    • Most female librarian ICT services for preparing their assignments, and frequency of use depend upon number of assignments
    • Usually female library staff do not render their help and support to students in accessing ICT services more than male
    • Major Problem faced by the female profession’ is the non‐acquisition of skills in ICT usage.

    2. Female librarian don’t opportunities baby care facilities but it is very important issue in present situation. Our authority and government should be aware and as early as possible Take action
    3. Every library staff both male and female professional salary is impotent issue but salary is very poor this is vital issue to new comer professional face this challenge .

    One of the major challenges i face in the library is lack of support for libraries by management. I work in a government institution where the library is not a priority and whenever we attend budget meetings, library funds are allocated to other activities which seems to the management more important than the library. Its so hurting to see even today that there are still people who do not understand the importance of libraries.
    it has gone to an extent that one of the viewing areas has been turned into a store for procurement and HR documents. Efforts to have those documents removed fall on Deaf ears as everyone in the management seem to support the idea that because the other store is full, the viewing room can be transformed into a store

    • Thanks Grace, that’s a tough one – how can you make the library matter at those budget meetings I wonder? What have others done in this situation? Have you ever had to prove your library’s worth to the parent body? I think this could be particularly difficult in government institutions – it’s much easier to point to benefits and outcomes in public/academic/school library situations (although that doesn’t always help convince decision makers either).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *