:: Digital Libraries Columns


Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant

Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date. :: Digital Libraries Columns

The Most Important Management Decision: Hiring Staff for the New Millennium


The field of digital libraries is in a constant state of change. What we do today may not be what we will do tomorrow. In such a state of flux, what tends to remain the same? The staff you hire. Technologies may change, some people may come and go, but when you make a hiring decision, its consequences likely will last for decades. This column aims to help you make these consequences good ones.

What should one seek for in a digital librarian? What skills, experience, and qualifications will best help you build a library for the new millennium? There are two main ways to approach this issue, depending upon your perspective.

Skills or traits?

Some managers may prefer to identify the specific skills they require and hire staff with those skills. For example, if Java programming experience were deemed to be important, only candidates who know Java would be considered. However, if you use this strategy you must not only determine which skills are important today, you also must predict those that will remain important in the future.

Instead, it may be more productive to choose staff who can evolve as the needs of the organization change. Change, after all, is the only constant. That Java programmer you just hired may soon be programming in a new language--or an old one. The funny thing about change is that the outcome is rarely obvious before it becomes a reality.

So what personality traits should you seek in staff? Below is my laundry list, but of course no single individual will -- or should -- have all of these qualities. Rather, any candidate for a digital library position should clearly have several of these qualities.

No specifics needed

By now you may have noticed that this column doesn't mention experience with a particular technology. Believe me, that is the least of your worries. Anyone who exhibits the traits outlined above will be able to pick up whatever skill or experience is deemed necessary.

Also, they will be able to work cooperatively with others under little supervision. They will learn constantly and well. They will hold every technology up to the harsh light of public service and throw out those that don't measure up. People like that will do well by you no matter what the new millennium holds for libraries -- digital or otherwise.