Skills You Need for the Digital Age: Ithaka S+R Report on Library Leadership

Megan Hartline —  March 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

A colleague sent me the recent Ithaka S+R report on Library Leadership in the Digital Age by Deanna Marcum, commenting that it was a wake up call for what we’ll have to do as leaders in the near future.

I was delighted to find that the report is filled with concrete, actionable suggestions. Sometimes reports with “21st Century” or “Digital Leadership” in the title can be aspirational yet vague. In this case, Marcum’s recommendations are all grounded in reality. She calls for skill building across the library (both in leaders, and the skills they need to foster in their staff) and for a focus on user needs.

For instance, the report calls for leaders to pay attention to business fundamentals. This recommendation hit home for me. I’ve long felt at sea when it comes to large budget management. After hearing the results of Douglas Crane’s interviews with library directors, I realized that I need to focus my professional development this year on business principles – so much so that I’m considering MBA classes.

Marcum says that digital leaders need the clarity of vision to help employees with traditional skill sets navigate a landscape that still values those skills, and also demands new abilities:

Digital leaders will help the more experienced staff move into the digital world with confidence and enthusiasm.

Confidence and enthusiasm! What a goal. I’m now considering how I might build my team’s skill set so that we can react to changes with positivity rather than fear – and seeing that we need data analysis skills, stat (even if we start with pivot tables).

Check out the full report on the Ithaka S+R site. Do the recommendations resonate with you? What skills do you think digital leaders need?

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

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