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The hybrid librarian

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By Margaret Adolphus

Introduction

An increasing number of librarians work at the boundaries of their own profession, overlapping into other professional territory. For example:

  • academic librarians may teach information literacy alongside faculty colleagues;
  • law librarians work closely with lawyers;
  • community development librarians adopt roles similar to those of community workers;
  • digital librarians work on information architecture.

All these roles are known as hybrid roles, and can offer the librarian not only satisfying "one-off" jobs, but genuine career progression.

We are used to hearing about how the Internet threatens the role of the librarian, not intrinsically, but because there is a perception that information is easy to obtain. However, the Internet has also exponentially increased the amount of information available, giving rise to the term "knowledge economy" leading to a renewed emphasis on the management of knowledge and a recognition of its relationship with business productivity and organizational efficiency.

In 2002, the UK's professional librarianship body, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), noted that the knowledge economy created opportunities not only for librarians, but also for others who wanted to enter the same professional area. It urged librarians to end the "silo approach to information" (which was based on a concept that "information" only extended to published sources), and instead look at information in the wider context (CILIP Executive Advisory Group, 2002).

The hybrid librarian, then, operates at the borders of his or her profession, breaks down conventional silos, and tries to reach non-conventional library users.