The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the global library community to begin a period of reckoning with its past. Specifically, our approaches to budgeting, strategic planning, talent management, and service design have all been put under the microscope as difficult decisions are being made each month. The through line among each of these areas is library personnel, and whether the people employed in our organizations have the necessary resources, expertise, and support to ensure libraries navigate the next decade. This global focus on personnel is unprecedented in the history of the library profession, and is taking place amidst a societal dialog on the treatment of underrepresented people groups across society.
In 2018 a group of 15 academic libraries and training providers began research and development to determine whether linked data and artificial intelligence could identify the supply and demand of global library expertise. The project, named Skilltype, focused on the theory of change that rethinking the way libraries and information professionals analyzed, developed, and shared expertise could create new infrastructure for evolving the library workforce in preparation for 2030. The original scope of the project was to help libraries find the right talent at the right time by using artificial intelligence to match qualified candidates with relevant projects. But the pandemic triggered a series of austerity measures across libraries around the world, namely hiring freezes and travel bans, which removed two key tools in the library toolkit: job searches and in-person conferences.
What seemed like a problem turned out to be a silver lining. These new constraints required the Skilltype community to identify viable alternatives for libraries to acquire the right expertise on-demand, leading us to focus on automated skills analysis and virtual professional development. By analyzing the skills a library needs, and cross-referencing against the skills they already had, we were able to identify skill gaps that could be closed by on-demand virtual training. The final product was a user experience centered on an employee’s skills and interests as opposed to credentials and status, which determined one’s ability to travel. By leveling the playing field for all workers, the platform could equally distribute the right resources and opportunities to the right person at the right time. The end result was a higher degree of access and participation across organizations, along with a higher utilization rate of training resources and opportunities. This ultimately helped to improve the diversity of pipelines for advancement, and the overall equity of the organization.
The paper will begin with an outline of factors contributing to talent crisis libraries are facing around the world today. Next, it will survey various methods deployed by libraries, professional associations, and training providers that influenced Skilltype’s thinking. This will be followed by documenting the two-year research and development process undertaken by the Skilltype community in response to the talent crisis. The paper will conclude with a look at the future of the Skilltype roadmap, and what this means for libraries, training providers, and information professionals around the world.