Via Cataloging Futures, a post from Allan Cho about the how and when of learning new skills for digital librarianship:

I’m finding it increasingly my own initiative to get caught up in the literature and the technologies. Who really has time to learn OAI-PMH metadata standards, XML, EAD, and TEI? Many librarians keep abreast of their field — but on top of their current duties. But the problem remains that LIS schools do not to train technicians even though that is what they’re doing - their mandate is to nurture scholars. […] That has remained the intense tension in the field of LIS since its inception.

LIS is not alone in this - most professions are constantly changing and their members are required to keep up. But while there’s a plethora of short courses, online webinars, conferences, and so on there’s not so many formal certification programs which give structure and recognition to ongoing professional development. It can sometimes be hard for librarians who are moving into, or already in, digital librarianship to work out which skills are in highest demand now and what skills are needed in the future. Add to this fragmentation and specialisation within digital librarianship (repositories, metadata, web development etc) and it becomes very complex.

When it comes to the semantic web RDF, OWL and more are core but it continues to evolve. Taking a look at the Semantic Library wiki, there’s a range of technologies, skills and tools that may be important for libraries but it’s far from definite at this stage.

As for when, it is difficult to find time to learn new things, particularly if you have no way to apply them in your current role. I learn best when I have a project I can apply my learning to, so for example, I started to use wikis in my work with library associations long before I used them in my job. Making time though, is hard, and I’ve posted elsewhere about how and when I keep up -

Lately there’s been a lot of articles advocating library 2.0 in 15 minutes a day, 23 things, and other keep-up hacks, but for me keeping up to date is something that happens through the day, every day. Most things I read come through my aggregator - blogs, links to articles, newsletters; sometimes Twitter, although I do still subscribe to a few email lists. I read them in chunks at lunch, at home and on weekends. I don’t put a time limit on it, but I probably spend a few hours every week.

It will always be a challenge, especially for those that Allan mentions who want to keep up with what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen in the future. Another concern is ensuring that you don’t hitch your wagon to the wrong technology - no one wants to feel that they’ve wasted their time learning about something which they’ll never use. Professional development can be as much about trusting that you’re on the right path as it is about learning!

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog