“We used to look at programming as a way to get people in and then get them to read. Now programming is one of our core learning experiences,” noted one of the advisory workshop participants. “Now that programming has become central to what we do, we need more training and assessment.”
Both advisory groups raised the question, “Does public programming require a standalone set of skills?” One participant responded with Ranganathan’s fifth law of library science: that the library is a growing organism, and its definition is constantly evolving. As librarians perceive the need for new forms of access to information, they respond with fresh ways to serve their populations. The growth of programming demonstrates the library’s organic nature.
An effect of that growth is that the library professional who steps into the role of programming librarian has rarely received specific training. As one participant put it, “Collections were the initial core of the library and were accompanied by great methodology. Programs came second, but are not supported by enough methodology.”
Today, in small libraries, the job may be done by a single professional. Large urban libraries may support multi-person programming staffs. In academic libraries community engagement or outreach librarian positions carry heavy collaboration and programming responsibilities.
What are the core competencies of an effective programming librarian? Are schools of library science offering specific training in this area? In addition to strong familiarity with library collections and core services, a programming librarian needs strong interpersonal skills, the ability to negotiate with potential partners, a deep relationship with the community, and the sensitivity to deal with difficult issues. In recent years, some librarians have taken courses in facilitation, a skill that is increasingly required in the programming arena.
The identification of core competencies, training needs, and best practices of programming librarians should be included in the research framework, along with guidelines for incorporating such training in schools of library science.
Did you receive training to develop programming in school, on the job, or elsewhere? How did it help you?
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