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Occasional Papers

Occasional Paper 20: Educational Background of Systems Librarians

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Prepared by Jean M. Dorrian

Although the impact that library automation has had on library staff as a whole has attracted a great deal of attention during the past two decades, the emergence of a new specialization within the profession—systems librarianship—has remained relatively unexamined. The results of previous surveys on this topic have generally been limited by type of library, geographic area, or kind of system. In December 1996, a survey of systems librarians in ARL libraries was conducted to provide more information about the manner in which these positions have developed; the educational qualifications and training required for these positions; their place within the organizational structure of the library; and the long-term prospects of systems librarians. The results of this survey support a characterization of the position as one that, although common to most libraries, has been uniquely shaped by the specific needs of the employing institution. The results indicate that library personnel practices match the general agreement voiced in the library press that the systems function should be managed by a librarian. There as yet appears to be little agreement beyond this level as to the role and responsibilities of the systems librarian and, consequently, as to the qualifications and training required for these positions. A great deal of variety continues to distinguish the position of systems librarian and those attracted to systems work in ARL libraries. What does seem to carry across institutional lines is a twofold strategy for attracting and keeping qualified systems personnel: hiring talented but inexperienced people, and training in-house "technophiles." As a consequence, libraries have managed to minimize turnover and retain qualified staff in a highly competitive market.

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Occasional Paper 20: Educational Background of Systems Librarians
Jean M. Dorrian; Laura A. Rounds, Ed.
April 1998 • ISBN 0-918006-32-5 • 49 pp.
$25 ($18 for ARL members)
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