"Re-Skilling" Resolutions for the New Year

By Christa Williford posted
As we enter the season of self-improvement, I've been reminded of a stimulating discussion from this fall's THATCamp Digital Humanities and Libraries, held just before the DLF Forum. Moderated by Michelle Dalmau of Indiana University, this session was called "Re-Skilling Librarians for Digital Humanities." Notes from the discussion are here.

Inspired by Mary Auckland's excellent report for Research Libraries UK from one year ago, "Re-Skilling for Research," the discussion focused on the possibility of creating a curriculum suitable for librarians providing research support services in the humanities. I distinctly remember leaving that day impressed both by the current significance of the subject and its vast breadth.

According to my own notes, participants mentioned all of the following topics as important skill areas for librarians engaged in research support:
  • Programming
  • Project management
  • Teaching and training
  • Consulting
  • Intellectual property
  • Information architecture
  • Data curation and management
  • Metadata standards
  • Digital publishing
  • Peer review and appraisal
  • Graphic design
  • Text mining
  • Information visualization
  • Image analytics
  • Usability testing
  • Digital preservation
  • Search engine optimization
  • Grant seeking
  • Marketing
Despite its wide range, this list is hardly comprehensive.

Taken individually, keeping current in any of these areas is a daunting challenge. Taken together, the task of "re-skilling" can seem impossible.

Much like those of us who vaguely resolve to break bad habits, get organized, or transform from couch potatoes into marathon runners, when we make our resolutions to "re-skill" we set ourselves up to fail unless we can find a realistic, sustainable way to incorporate professional development into our daily working lives.

How, then, can we "re-skill" realistically? While degree programs, courses, workshops, and other more formal, face-to-face ways of learning continue to have their place, it is equally important that as librarians we also take advantage of less formal ways of keeping up with our profession--ways to learn exactly what we need to know, when we need to know it.

We at CLIR would like to hear about your "re-skilling" strategies. What tools or resources have you found most useful? What learning modes or online media do you find most effective? Are there important skill areas for which you wish there were better professional development opportunities?