Skills needs in the library sector in Italy: preliminary findings and overview of similar surveys

As part of the first working package of the Biblio project, in the last few months the partners conducted research with different methodologies and methods in order to find out emerging skills needs of librarians during digital transformation era.

A good framework was given by the desk research, the real first step of the investigation whose goal was to analyze the job vacancies and the training courses offered during the previous three years, identifying gaps in the labour market and the training provision already available.

To explore new skills needs, Biblio project launched a survey with a structured questionnaire with some open questions to better understand librarians’ opinions. During the lockdown period, the survey was disseminated with the aim to ask library professionals which topics they were interested in.

Meanwhile, partners also carried out in-depth interviews with different kind of professionals and users in order to  add more focused thoughts about skills gap.

Thanks to the survey and in-depth interviews analysis, it has been possible to identify some topics of major interest for Italian librarians:

  • Communication and marketing that can be further enhanced by the demand for digital and graphic design content development;
  • Community assessment, as a way to better understand users’ needs to build efficient services;
  • IT skills and troubleshooting, primarily understood as the ability to master technological and IT tools to solve technical problems;
  • Information, data, and media literacy.

Other topics, emerged as required but with less statistical strength, are: knowledge of licensing, copyright, Open Access policies, netiquette and online safety, as well as measurement and evaluation of library services. Librarians also showed interest in new technological developments (e.g. augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, coding, blockchain, open data, etc.) but this was not indicated as an immediate need.

For a detailed and in-depth analysis, have a look at the full training needs report that we will be publishing in August!

Other surveys on librarians’ skills needs in Italy

In 2012, 2014, and 2018 the Training Observatory of AIB, Italian Library Association, carried out surveys to investigate members and other librarians training needs for the quality improvement of the training offer at national level. The questionnaire proposed a list of thematic areas that a librarian or an aspirant (in many cases, a member of the association) had to select to communicate their main areas of interest for the training offered by the association.

Both in 2012 and 2014 editions, a clear interest in the knowledge of Intellectual Property Rights emerged, and also a widespread training need about digitization and electronic resources management. Comparing data for 2012 and 2014 shows a growing interest in these issues, and in 2014 more attention was requested in communication skills, research strategy, and media literacy. 2018 results are not yet available online.

In 2019, another survey was carried out by the ISOB Observatory (Innovation and Organisational Development for Libraries public, University of Milano-Bicocca). It focused on self-assessment of prior knowledge and training needs, on methods and tools preferred to acquire new skills and librarians level of motivation regarding their job.

Data was collected through seven focus groups and a structured questionnaire directed to the staff of public libraries in 11 Italian Library Systems. Also in this case, new skills were requested to address the challenges of change:

  • Knowing how to deal with change and support colleagues and users;
  • Interpersonal skills to communicate efficiently with users, non-users, colleagues and stakeholders in an increasingly multicultural environment;
  • Project design skills, as change is perceived as inevitable and ongoing;
  • Pedagogical skills, as librarians are becoming more often educators and facilitators;
  • Marketing and communication skills;
  • Ability to measure and evaluate library services.

Regarding the ways to acquire new skills, in addition to classroom training, there is also an interest in work-based training, such as visits to foreign libraries and participation in workshops for the exchange of skills.

As in the Italian results of the Biblio survey, ISOB research underlines the importance of transversal and interdisciplinary needs for librarians in this changing world.



Featured image by Guillaume Henrotte on Unsplash

Image in the text by macrovector / Freepik