Previous recipients of the Library Technician Research Award

Library Technician Research Award recipients

2015 Debra Gilmore ALIATec

Is there a need for increased ICT training in Library Technician courses in Australia?

Survey of Library Technicians  Survey of employers  Survey of students

2009 Janette Telford AFALIATec (CP)

Is there a career path for Library Technicians?

Dunn & Wilson Scholarship recipients

2007 Rebecca Evans ADipSocSC(Lib&InfStudies) ALIATec

Preserving our past to educate our future 

2005 Sharon Uthmann ADipAppSc(LTST) ALIATec

Multi-Skill Us: Library Technician National Secondment Opportunities

2003 Lothar Retzlaff AssDipAppSc(LT) ALIATec

To examine the potential of e-commerce as a framework for the marketing of libraries and their services

2001 Kerrie Blyth AssDipAppSc(LT) DipLibInfSt CP ALIATec

A comparison of education and training opportunities for library technicians in the UK, USA, NZ and Australia

1999 Meredith Martinelli BSc(LT) ALIATec

Changing roles, changing goals: transferring library technician skills beyond the library

1997 Lorraine Denny LibT ALIATec

Job descriptions: improving their currency, accuracy and usefulness

1995 Jean Bailey LibTechCert

Case study of higher-level library technicians

1993 Helen Martyn AssDipAppSc(LT) ALIATec (no paper available)

1991 Maryellen Leonard LibTechCert ALIATec (no paper available)

E-commerce for library promotion and sustainability: how library technicians can market themselves and their library’s services online

Lothar von Retzlaff

As players in the delivery of services and online information, libraries are in the best position to use staff expertise and the technology they have developed to foster community awareness of social, professional and commercial interactions on the internet. Historically, libraries have been progressive institutions, undertaking constant reassessment to stay relevant. As clients become used to the nuances of virtual transactions and the technology for participation on the internet becomes widely available, the provision of value-added services, such as virtual reference, e-reserves and WiFi networking further contribute to transactions and services traditionally provided by institutions such as libraries. These services and transactions use business models to justify funding and ongoing support. It can be argued that libraries must keep abreast of new models of e-commerce to provide relevant services and develop input where necessary, to predict changes and suitably adapt their way of interacting online or doing business, whether it is free, fee-for-service or cost-recovery. Such is the competitive nature of the World Wide Web that libraries are being challenged to justify their existence and budgets against this context. By using e-commerce models, for example, the buying and selling of information, products and services via the internet, and developing new models, libraries are well placed to promote their own successful futures.


As we come to understand the increasingly complex business of surviving inan era of decreasing budgets and large-scale advances in technology, it is evident that we can no longer rely on traditional approaches to library management. With the prospect of competition, real or perceived, from developments in search engine technology and the widespread access to the internet by library users, we need to advance our thinking on how to market and promote libraries in the online environment: we need to utilise and develop principles that have proved successful in other contexts, when and where appropriate. This paper will explore e-commerce to determine how developments in technology, promotion and marketing in the commercial arena may be adapted for libraries, so they can utilise services and create infrastructure to ensure the use of the internet benefits libraries in maintaining future funding, relevance and existence.

Libraries as social capital

The World Bank defines social capital as ‘the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions… Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions that underpin a society, it is the glue that holds them together’ (World Bank 1999).

With the reduction in community meeting places, the internet has developed as a neutral ground where possible divisions such as class, ethnicity and associations are irrelevant, replacing churches, pubs and other inexpensive meeting places. This facilitates the exchange of information and communication, and is the reason the E-commerce for library promotion and sustainability internet was developed in the beginning. It allows society to use the technology available to communicate and to mediate that communication. Traditional forms of communication, such as the written and spoken word, act as reference points for communication in cyberspace. When communicating in cyberspace, we use the processes we have learned throughout our lives. Articulating and communicating our thoughts is taught through schooling and interaction with each other in society. In libraries, we need to address concerns about the erosion of civic life and social capital by regaining community support and positioning libraries as essential community-based institutions. This will require new strategies to improve the value of the library as one element in the stock of social capital.

 Libraries made their online catalogues available on the internet in the late 1980s, one of the first instances of online marketing of an organisation’s products (Smith 2002). As a player in the delivery of services and information online the library can use the expertise of its staff and technology to make the community aware that its interactions and transactions on the internet, both socially and commercially, have real and estimable value. This is an intrinsic part of a progressive history that needs continuous reassessment to stay relevant. In September 2004, a comprehensive study carried out by library researchers, Griffiths, King, and Lynch, assessed the return-on-investment in Florida’s public libraries:

The total revenue investment in Florida’s public libraries is $449 million… The total economic return attributed to the existence of the public libraries is $2.9 billion – based on the analysis of what would happen if the public libraries ceased to exist... The cost to use alternative sources to the public libraries include the cost of user time, as well as monetary costs related to purchasing or renting items, or travelling to another location, etc. For those uses for which a known alternative would be used, the cost to access/acquire the alternatives would be 108 million hours or $1.8 billion, plus $2.3 billion in other expenses. This results in a total cost of $4.1 billion to use alternatives to public libraries.

The study states that all taxpayers in Florida benefit from public libraries through their contribution to ‘education, the economy, tourism, retirement, quality of life, and so on.’ It includes many key findings that detail the impact of libraries on a community, validating their commercial value. A similar study, which was carried out by the St Louis Public Library in 1998 concluded that ‘each $1 of annual tax support for the library produces, on average, direct benefits to users of more than $4’ (Holt,Elliot and Moore 1998). Another study – of Southeast Asian nations – indicates that they use libraries to promote national development, literacy programs and to disseminate government information (Lim 1997).

Libraries doing business

Since the World Wide Web became part of everyday life for much of Western society, the ways both businesses and libraries operate and offer services to the public have changed. Libraries have had to develop strategies to ‘chart a course from past missions to an uncertain future’ (Young 1995). In the online business environment, radical new ways of interacting with and servicing customers have emerged. Harvard economist Peter Schumpeter refers to this as ‘creative destruction’. He states that only by discarding old ways of doing business can new ways be created (Schumpeter 1996). New technologies not only make this possible, but for libraries they have evidently enhanced their way of providing services. For example, the card catalogue was replaced by a computerised version, which was then adapted for use on the internet, making access much easier and less restricted. Old tools, like the card catalogue, had to be discarded. Library staff learned new ways of organising information. Making such services available for library users extended the business of library service to an online environment whilst retaining a physical presence in the parent community. That process continues today. Libraries may be lending fewer books (Kerslake and Kinnell 1998), making this justification for their existence less relevant and changing a long-standing rationale. If we chose not to invest in technology, and continued to require library users to come into the actual building to use the library, we would be retrograde in our thinking. If we cannot see that technologies such as those used by search engines (for example, Google’s page ranking) and online book ordering businesses (for example have real ramifications for libraries, then we are derelict in our thinking and missing an opportunity to assure their future. ‘The extent of benefits will vary with the extent of e-commerce take up but generally Australian firms using e-business are saving between one and five per cent of ongoing costs, while 10 per cent of these companies are saving 15 per cent and more’ (Allen Consulting Group 2001). In 1999 Amazon ‘reportedly spent an average of $113 dollars to get each new customer’ (Blackwell and Stephen 2001), despite a growing deficit. They did this to ensure their continued domination in online sales of books.

In the current economic climate, libraries are engaged in competition. They compete directly with internet cafes by providing public access to the internet via computer workstations. There are many other ways in which libraries compete directly with commercial businesses and services, like the dissemination and storage (archival or online) of government information. Libraries also train their clients to use the internet effectively as part of their service to the public. This, in effect, enhances library users’ skills, which then promotes the use of libraries. Without such use, libraries cannot justify their budgets. In such a paradigm, users are not merely patrons, but customers who must return if libraries are to remain viable.

In Australia the internet is being used to sell goods and services online. This is commerce at its most fundamental level: the exchange of goods and services, usually for money. Commerce relies on buyers, sellers and producers. Those enterprises that combine their ‘bricks and mortar’ presence with online internet technology are involved in e-commerce. Libraries engage their users in this environment and supply resources and services from their ‘bricks and mortar’ presence. How far removed they are from actual e-commerce transactions is worth examining.

E-commerce, in its broadest sense, can encompass any form of business interaction, which makes use of information and communications technology. E-commerce can be defined as the buying and selling of information, products and services via computer networks, today and in the future, using any one of the myriad networks that make up the internet (Kalakota and Whinston 1996).

E-business is the wider concept of managing organisations electronically. Whilst e-commerce is the term widely used in the literature, we need to be aware of the broader implications of e-business (Smith 2002). Many of these transactions apply in an e-commerce framework; however businesses are learning that the internet is a new area with new rules and trial-and-error speculation. What passes for conventional e-commerce wisdom today mutates tomorrow.

In the current literature, there appears to be no clear definition of how e-commerce relates to libraries. It seems that library e-commerce could be defined as the interaction involved in providing and supplying library resources, products and services to users or customers through the use of computer networks via the internet. In other words, it is a function similar to a commercial activity that is supported by electronic technology, but in a library environment. There is thus a clear need to examine the implications for libraries in a marketing and business framework if only because the internet has offered alternative sources of information and therefore is in competition with libraries. ‘Despite their elevated status as public institutions, libraries are in truth surrounded by competition. Libraries are constantly competing for market share against other information services’ (Guscott 2001). One example of competition is the internet search engine. There are many available, and recently Google Scholar has attempted to compete against structured databases. Whilst these search engine technologies cannot replace the standard of service and authority that libraries supply, they do offer a perceived alternative to information seekers at the level of general public convenience. Libraries and their staff need to recognise that they are in a market place where transactions, marketing and the provision of services are comparable with the e-commerce of the e-business environment. The strength of e-business is that it enables organisations to utilise information about current trends and implement them quickly and effectively in their business processes. Rosenbaum (2000) identified three imperatives for electronic commerce.

  • Information generated by e-commerce activities must flow rapidly and effectively through the organisation.
  • Organisations have a responsibility to carefully manage their e-commerce transactions.
  • Organisations must work to build trust into their relations with customers and business partners.

With the widespread acceptance of hypertext mark-up language (HTML) as a standard, from its beginnings in the 1980s as Standard Generalised Mark-up Language (SGML), e-business began to come to life. HTML is the coded format language used for creating hypertext documents on the World Wide Web and controls how Web pages appear. It allows developers of web pages to define hyperlinks to other pages. Technological developments in more sophisticated standards such as Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) have allowed the e-business process to develop further. XML is a flexible, pared-down version of Standard Generalised Mark-Up Language that facilitates the creation of standard information formats and the sharing of both the format and the data on the World Wide Web. It was designed especially for Web documents and allows the creation of customised tags, enabling the definition, transmission, validation, and interpretation of data between applications and between organisations. E-business and e-commerce have become borderless and instantaneous, without the constraints of the set opening hours of bricks and mortar businesses. For instance, e-businesses can be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This offers the potential for ‘one-stop shopping’, as portal sites integrate and offer a number of e-business transactions seamlessly. Libraries have developed their own ‘one stop shops’, but use terms such as ‘information toolbox’ or ‘information portal’. The internet for libraries has become a high speed, worldwide, instantaneous response-orientated economy that directly affects the way we do things, plan our futures and supply our customers’ requirements.

The value of e-business for libraries

To continue offering services and remain relevant in the information industry, libraries are consolidating to offer complete packages online, inclusive of such concepts as e-reserve, database access to full text journals, e-texts; online interlibrary loan ordering and delivery. We service our customers by developing best practice based on commercial standards. For instance, e-mail is used more and more, and the availability of journal articles is facilitated through the use of the PDF format because logically and commercially it is faster, more efficient and convenient for our users. Users of computers have become familiar with convenience and universal formats that operate on different types of computers. Library staff, however, especially library technicians, assistants, officers, and support staff in general, have ‘never trained to act as if we were doing business in the private sector, battling for market share through innovation or aggressive service models’ (Guscott 2001).

The way the internet is used and developed for business has been one of adaptation and innovation. One example of this is the adult entertainment industry. Whilst in libraries it is part of our skills to understand the use of meta tags, ‘adult website’ webmasters (not librarians) pioneered and remain the most aggressive manipulators of search engines (Glidewell 2000). This manipulation has increased with the exponential growth of the World Wide Web and page ranking. Good quality metadata would help return good quality results and improve relevance. However, the use of incorrect and manipulative metadata leads to misuse as websites try to increase their exposure by appearing at the top of search engine hit lists. ‘Most popular is the usage of pornographic vocabulary’ (Mair 2002) which is an example of the intense use of metadata in an online presence. With librarians and library technicians trained and skilled in the use of trustworthy and correct metadata and in light of the growing commercialism of the internet, ‘libraries may well be able to trade their information about knowledge in ways that assist their financial viability’ (Allen and Retzlaff 1998) and to present legitimate information.

Another area where Glidewell (2000) discusses adaptation and innovation is the example of CaveCreek Wholesale Internet Exchange, a business that specialises in developing its servers cheaply to deliver large bandwidth-hogging data to adult site customers at acceptable speed. This type of performance from their computer system gives them better control and is seen as an essential part of their customer service, since these types of sites depend on delivering large amounts of data in the form of video streams at any time from an unpredictable amount of subscribers. They claim that their servers can not only cope with exceedingly large amounts of data transmission but, at the time, they also exceed the Yahoo search engine in total traffic. The reason that this is important may be seen in the example of when, in January 1999, Victoria’s Secret aired its first-ever Super Bowl commercial, announcing the live webcast of its Spring fashion show. The site was flooded with millions of hits within a few minutes after the thirty-second spot ran. Just a few days later, the live webcast drew a record-breaking worldwide 1.5 million visitors. This incredible drawing power posed technical problems in the form of slow and unstable downloading capacity for and many customers were turned away due to the website’s inability to support the traffic bursts.

The number of e-services available for delivering information over the internet is continuously increasing. A wide range of groups such as credit card firms, utilities such as gas and electric suppliers, the online bookshop and so on, use e-commerce in the market place. As internet technology has developed, the cost of an online presence has fallen, allowing more opportunities to participate in a timely and efficient manner. Extensive content, new and challenging environments, variety and diversity of opinions, ease of access and falling costs are among the many characteristics that make the internet an effective vehicle for libraries. One of these developments for the internet is the ‘Chasing the Sun’ project, a collaboration of Australian and United Kingdom health libraries using Questionpoint software. Questionpoint is virtual reference software that enables chat and interactive web searching to answer questions 24/7 around the globe through the use of the World Wide Web. The Chasing the Sun project provides an after business hours, on-line, reference service for urgent clinical questions relating to patient care. The project takes advantage of global time differences between countries to offer out-of-hours librarian support for clinicians seeking urgently needed information. Members of the service comprise members of the South Australian Health Services Libraries Consortium, health libraries from Victoria, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia, and members of the South West Region of the United Kingdom National Health Service. Another similar service is AskNow!, a pilot initiative of the Council of Australian State Libraries. As users get used to the nuances of virtual transactions, and the technology for participation becomes widely available, virtual reference services, like AskNow! and Chasing the Sun, add to the value of services and transactions traditionally provided by libraries.

Some functions, such as selection of library materials, acquisitions, supplies, material management and processing are obvious tasks that benefit from an e-commerce framework. This involves ordering and payment online, now a well-established procedure. However, libraries need to re-examine the potentials of e-commerce operational processes for other areas, such as circulation. Functions such as self-checkout, check-in and renewal, as well as self-registration, can utilise the frameworks that exist for e-commerce models for business to consumer. These are e-services that can be developed to be included in library websites, offering as many services online as possible, adding to existing online library services available through the internet or e-mail. Libraries already offer online tutorials. This can be expanded to include other learning information such as interactive workshops for the public in internet searching or database use, similar to that already offered by university libraries. It would seem appropriate for local public libraries to offer such services as portals to local government services and forms. Libraries have the records management skills to organise resources for their parent body. Library users could, with current technology, utilise e-commerce software to create individual profiles to alert them to areas of interest that the library can offer. For children, the opportunity to access virtual storytime that the library offers in real time would be added value and a promotion of current services.

Most services follow the rationale of a business model to justify funding and ongoing support. It can therefore be argued that libraries must keep abreast of new models of e-commerce to provide relevant services and develop input where necessary to predict changes and suitably adapt their way of interacting online or doing business, whether it is free, fee for service or based on cost recovery. These actions are invariably e-commerce transactions. Such is the competitive nature of business that has come to the World Wide Web.

The literature

The study of e-commerce is a relatively new field: a large part of the reported research examining the impact of e-commerce is predictive or prescriptive – the ‘how to succeed’ type of publication. Much of the readily accessible literature comes from commercial interests, such as consultants, hardware and software sales agents.

Most of the discussion about business models occurs in the business and management literature. A large amount of the business literature is concerned with the emergence, planning and operational challenges of e-commerce for managers, rather than on systematic analysis of the business model as such (Cummings and Doh 2000). In regard to e-commerce applied to libraries, a large proportion of the literature centres on economic transactions such as bill paying, money transfer and ordering. The most prominent articles deal with theory and latest developments (but such articles are relatively rare) with three to four articles discussing the benefits for libraries (see Smith 2002; Holba Puacz 2002; and Fogelberg et al. 2003). Online research agencies such as Pew Research and Forrester discuss latest research and analysis in the e-commerce area but not specifically in relation to libraries.

Modern approaches to e-commerce take into account the dotcom crash of the 1990s and the way in which that phenomenon emphasised a need to include the bricks and mortar presence of a business for credibility, even though business takes place online. ‘Any business-to-consumer internet company that doesn’t have a foot planted firmly in the real world – with experienced management teams, a physical presence, efficient distribution system, and ability to make a profit – is doomed to fail’ (Blackwell and Stephen 2001:1). From this follows the idea of a business process as a logical sequence of interconnected activities that use organisational resources to create products and services to meet customer needs (Childe, Maull and Bennett 1994).

Jutla, Bodorik and Wang (1999) divide e-commerce business models into three broad categories: cybermediaries, manufacturers and auctions. That the existing spectrum of e-commerce activity should be limited to these categories seems far from clear. Two, cybermediaries and manufacturers, describe how revenue is produced in relation to particular products and services, whereas auction models describe a transaction process. Furthermore Jutla et al. disregard the two most common e-commerce models, pornography and spam. The manipulation of metadata and the use of sophisticated e-mail list collection technology to market products is well known and, whether we like it or not, a successful example of e-commerce in the online internet environment.

E-commerce, libraries and the internet

To understand more the significance of e-commercial development on the internet for libraries, we can examine more closely its historical development. There is no doubt that communication technologies represent a further change for society similar to that experienced by the invention of the printing press and the written word in the fourteenth century. Jones (1998) says ‘It can be argued, in fact, that the internet is the latest expression of print capitalism. Much as newspapers and pamphlets spread the word of the New World to Europe, the internet spreads word of electronic environments.’ New forms of technology present new and extended ways of performing traditional tasks including business, interacting and communicating within society. This encompasses all aspects of social, political, cultural and economic life.

Culture and society adapt constantly and take advantage of learning experiences. These experiences evolve and develop in a process that is repeated throughout history. Advances in technology are an integral component in society and culture adapting and the ways in which we interact. These technological developments are constantly changing the cultural landscape. For example, internet relay chat (IRC) software is a multi-user synchronous communication facility that is available all over the world to people with access to the internet network of computer systems. ‘IRC was not specifically designed for a business environment’ (Reid 1991). It was designed originally for academics to communicate with each other, but its ability to allow real time discussion, anywhere in the world, makes it an economic way of conducting business and social communication. IRC is also used by used by libraries in virtual reference services.

Other uses of technology for new or alternate purposes include the widespread use of ‘spam e-mail’ for advertising and the proliferation of pornography where the internet is used for distribution of its products and services. Therefore it is feasible to say that technology and the uses to which it is put are shaped by prevailing social values and consumers’ lifestyle choices, as much as by the original intentions of the artefact’s designer (Kling 1996). Whilst this process is ongoing, the basic historic principles and experiences of commerce and economics form the basis of commerce on the internet. This is evident by the rise in commercial activity, not just as simulations of past experiences that evolution has taught, but also as extensions to our intellectual and physical ability to adapt.

The exponential growth of the internet shows that it is the fastest growing technology in our history. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the income generated by businesses selling on the internet increased from an estimated $9.4 billion in the years 2000/01 to $11.3 billion in 2001/03 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003)[i]. The number of internet workstations available in public libraries in Australia grew from 827 in June 1997 to 3005 in June 2000[ii].

The Australian Bureau of Statistics[iii] states that ‘the percentage of Australian households with access to the internet at home has increased strongly, rising from 16 per cent in 1998 to 46 per cent in 2002. In the USA, where the internet began, 75 per cent or 204.3 million Americans have access to the internet from home (Nielson//NetRatings 2004). In Britain, the first Oxford Internet Survey (2003) sampled 2030 people aged 14 and upwards and found that the average person has access to the internet in at least two of four places: home, work, school or at a public library. The survey states that ‘among Britons age 14 and over, 59 per cent currently use the internet.’

It is more than apparent that a marketplace exists online. The library has an online presence where that marketplace exists. In its capacity as an information provider, the library of today exists where market forces can, to an extent, dictate the type of presence it has online. Whether that influence is on the style and presentation of websites, the usefulness of portals or the efficiency of software used to pay for journal subscriptions, the chances are that commercial influences are present. While the modus operandi of the library is to provide information freely, and when appropriate, on a fee-for-service basis, it is useful to frame services on a business model and to examine the value of labour and services of libraries and their staff in an e-ommerce, online environment. Services such as interlibrary loans (ILL) have been costed in

the past. In some cases, such as public libraries, this service is free to users, however the effectiveness of the service is an essential component in providing evidence of the value of library services and determining their funding. Such valuations may become a useful tool. For instance, in 1992, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) carried out a study that determined the cost of an interlibrary loan. That cost was $25 per transaction, inclusive of postage, labour, materials etc. This was a useful benchmark because if an actual item costs $20 to purchase then it is obviously more cost efficient, and perhaps time efficient, to consider purchasing the item as part of library stock instead of requesting it from another library. Free services still need to be business-modelled for this reason.

The goal of research on business models for e-commerce in libraries is to integrate knowledge about historical practice, experience with emerging practice, and anticipations of future practice to produce up-to-date marketing models. As alluded to previously, it is widely anticipated that internet-based e-commerce will alter the overall commercial environment significantly in the future. One positive effect is that e-commerce will enable entirely new kinds of business ventures to generate substantial new opportunities for economic growth, changing the various structures and processes of online transactions. For instance, the business of adult pornography through websites has seen the pioneering of aggressive manipulation of search engines, as discussed earlier. It also reinforced the demand for the transference of large amounts of information across the internet, a technological development that e-business and libraries have benefited from in the past and will benefit in future.

Data mining

Libraries have always had a large database of users, stocks and usage statistics. The objective of collecting library statistics is ‘to assess the quality and effectiveness of services [and resources] provided by the library’ (Poll 2001). Whilst we examine these statistics for such purposes, libraries seldom examine the profiles of their users for marketing. Occasionally, they send out surveys to evaluate the data in the context of their unique setting to enable sound decision-making (Bland and Howard 2003). A continuing trend toward data-driven decision making and accountability requires institutions to store more data in a data warehouse. Data warehousing is simply storing information about customers, clients or users that keeps the records as indexed files, in an ordered usable management system which has been around for many years. In the competitive business environment, this data is increasingly being used in sophisticated ways through use of new technologies in data mining. Data mining is the ability to extract and interpret specific data held within the data warehouse. Telecommunication companies, banks, insurance companies, utilities and retailers compile data about customers by using this new technology. The data gives insights into their customers’ future behaviour and product needs. This newer technology is  more sophisticated than previous data collection and analysis software that gathered for analysis and application simpler data such as customers’ ages, gender, income and geographical location.

Data mining, customer analytics and predictive modelling software often allow the user to select subgroups of customers, track cohort groups, create queries, and build visual representations of data patterns or trends to make changes in products and make long range plans for new directions. Hence data-driven decisions can be made. This actual concept is not so new (Chen, Han and Yu 1995). In the past, staff of the local library could recommend and purchase new stock for customers by developing a personal interest and knowledge of individuals who used its services. Data mining attempts to do this on a larger and more consistent scale and it seeks, through statistical analysis, to reveal that often-elusive relationship between a business and its loyal customers. Libraries have always kept statistics on usage. Customer analytics are a way of making statistics more useful by applying algorithms in a way that makes them easy to use. This yields valuable information for target marketing such library patron profiles. In theory, the more information you can gather about your customers, the better you can anticipate and cater to their needs. By using advanced profiling technology, libraries would be in the position of predicting library users’ satisfaction rates rather than establishing current satisfaction. This involves changing strategies to meet new realities in user demands. It is a perfect vehicle for soliciting unbiased information on current trends and anticipating future challenges. It also facilitates clarification of current needs through the administration of random surveys of pre-existent data that can be mined without the necessity to impose on clients by ad hoc or sustained interrogation.

The ability to develop effective marketing and promotion strategies is another key benefit of utilising the customer profile. Target marketing is available as a means of profiling the library user. For example, even basic statistics can be used to ascertain the nature of information retrieval habits of library users. Staff can identify usage by such things as type of resource, time and how up-to-date the resource is. A sophisticated yield of user profiling would also establish that items were checked out by particular demographic groups, then by cross referencing to a database of information about users, such things as age groups and reading levels would be revealed for examination. As a result we could query the user profile provided by a database and disseminate information to staff of the library who would benefit from the query results, such as appropriate times to run courses. If this profiling is further examined, it might provide results not only for students in universities, but also for community users of public libraries and so on. For example, public library users who have very young children could be profiled differently to those with secondary school-age children to provide a service for homework resources. A database query might also indicate that there is not a sufficient population within the profiled group to offer any program. If that is the case, an alternative approach to programming might be considered. An important benefit of having the ability to understand the critical mass available for a particular in-house training program results in more cost-effective and co-operative programming. Fiscal and human resources may be more efficiently deployed through the use of this type of mined data from databases that already exist.

Increasingly, we have been asked to provide evidence that the money provided to libraries is an investment with discernible and quantifiable returns. As noted above, instruments such as the customer profile are important tools that enable us to develop a strong rationale for our existence. Library administrators can report to funding sources that they are making wise and cost-effective decisions based upon data that is mined through the latest technological advances. Enlightened decisions made in the areas of planning and development, marketing, stakeholder reporting, and developing measures of accountability, can benefit libraries well into the future.

Google and e-commerce

A survey undertaken in 2001 found that 71 per cent of internet users expressed frustration when searching the internet and, at that time, it took about 12 minutes, on average, for users to experience ‘search rage’ (Sullivan 2001). Danny Sullivan (2001), editor of SearchEngineWatch, suggests we ‘consider some more “traditional” alternatives. For example, consult an informational professional, such as a librarian.’ In this statement, Sullivan sums up the quandary of the internet as threat and opportunity.

Libraries are threatened because, in social terms, the internet might seem to render them less relevant. At the same time, the technologies of information brought to life in the internet make libraries so much more extensive that their relevance has never seemed more obvious (Allen and Retzlaff 1998:92).

What if libraries and their staff applied commercial methods for marketing their library expertise in finding information on the internet and through the services they provide on a daily basis? It is feasible to examine how library staff can market their skills in saving time searching for information on the internet. This is a valuable service, as is demonstrated by Google and its question answering service, Google Answers.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. In just five years, it became the most popular search engine on the internet to the extent that rivals became Google customers, including Yahoo and AOL, which license the technology and route search queries through Google. In August 2003, Google represented 75 per cent of all searches (Jefferson 2003). This represents widespread implications for libraries in that it is evident that we have competition for the provision of information services. There is much to note in the way that Google has become so popular.

From the great Library of Alexandria in the 3rd century BC, libraries have had a long period of time to market and promote themselves in ever-changing environments and societies. Crawford and Gorman (1995:4) state that:

…the tasks of the library can be simply stated and understood. They are as true for a modern branch of a public library as they are for cathedral libraries of the Middle Ages or the great research collections of universities. Libraries exist to acquire, give access to and safeguard carriers of knowledge and information in all forms and to provide instruction and assistance in the use of the collections to which their users have access. In short, libraries exist to give meaning to the continuing human attempt to transcend space and time in the advancement of knowledge and the preservation of culture.

 It is apparent that search engines do not go that far. Even though search engines like Google can be regarded as competitors in the provision of information, this does not mean that the actual quality of information an internet searcher gets from a search engine compares to the service offered by skilled library professionals. 

Whilst libraries have trained staff and licenses to full-text databases, and offer virtual reference services and a collection of hard print material, users have increasingly chosen the convenient alternative of search engines such as Google. Google may be convenient, but libraries have an edge: Google searches using ranking technology to rate the most popular at the top of the hit list often produce far too many hits to be useful. Google For example, when Google was searched in March 2005 for information about arthritis and over 11.4 million hits were retrieved: for cancer, there were over 52.5 million hits and for probiotics, substances that promote the health of the gastrointestinal tract, there were over 461 000 hits. Probiotics is a good example of unmediated searching. The results of a Google search on probiotics contain mainly commercial results that offer sales instead of scientific facts. But, by using mediated searching techniques and limiting the search on probiotics by sites that have in the URL ‘.gov’, there are 3170 hits. The function to limit searches is available on Google and perhaps it will take less than 12 minutes, thus avoiding ‘search rage’. Serious information seeking should involve structured searching of more specialised databases than are offered through Google search engines. Libraries provide a better product, by using research information that is not necessarily free on the internet but is often available freely through libraries as well as mediated searching.

New forms of technology present new and extended ways of performing traditional tasks, including interacting and communicating within society. This encompasses all aspects of social, political, cultural and economic life. The culture of the internet is one that easily empowers the user. The results are instant and quite often, as stated, there is a lot of information offered in the results gained by typing keywords into a search engine. Using the analogy of fast food, driving down the road and stopping at a fast food store for convenience food does the job of satisfying hunger. However, the continued consumption of poor quality food may lead to health problems (Prentice and Jebb 2003).

It is the quality that counts, not instant satisfaction, especially if serious research is being undertaken. If it is a ‘fast fix’ that is required, the interfaces of search engines, like Google, are practical and easy to use. Seemingly, the culture of the internet says that ‘Google is easy to use...therefore it must be’ (Bell 2004). Everyone is doing it. Again, instant results are provided, and they can seem to offer large amounts of information. However, it is important to note that the value of all information is relative and its limitations need to be considered (Eldredge 2000). Certainly library professionals know this, and it is implicit in our training. Search engine searches are unstructured and interrogate a large body of essentially unstructured data, the only structure being provided by the query itself.

When Google doesn’t work, most people don’t have a plan B…Librarians have lots of plan Bs. We know when to go to a book, when to call someone, even when to go to Google (Selingo 2004).

So why then are libraries losing ground (comparatively) as the first port of call for information? What was it that gave Google its popularity and what can libraries learn from the commercial online environment and its use of e-commerce?

Google was in the right place at the right time. When the Google search engine is loaded there is less time spent waiting for the downloading of pages encumbered by advertising. Google was clear and simply laid out. Interestingly, this remains the same today as the white background page of Google loads quickly. Ogbuji (2004) states.

It uses plenty of white space, the Google home page contains exactly 37 words and search results are largely undecorated and ads are discreet text boxes. Even as Google has added features, from Usenet and image searching in e-commerce terms, the emphasis on the simple interface remains and is one of Google’s most admired features (see also Bell 2004).

If you have the internet, you don’t have to log on to Google as well as load the page. You can start typing your query immediately. Google’s simple-to-use image was promoted from the beginning. It marketed itself as ‘the people’s’ search engine and its popularity spread by word of mouth. Ogbuji (2004) also states that ‘The name “Google” became a generic verb, the surest sign of zeitgeist possession, and has become a top brand with very little traditional marketing.’ Libraries need to examine this model of populist marketing in the e-commerce environment and to understand the benefits of internet culture for their own advantage, as Google did (Price 2003). These days, libraries are discussing the use of simplified search screens similar to the Google example. (Bell 2004). A new interface to Kinetica[iv], the Australian national database available through the National Library of Australia, has a white background with a minimum of colour and graphics, similar to the Google interface. However, the idea that Google is merely a search tool and not necessarily a solution has not been made clear. Google will give results but the correct, appropriate or most relevant answer is not guaranteed, nor is the search necessarily a mediated one unless the user has some skill in searching.

Most libraries offer databases with content not accessible via Google. These are often fully accessible outside the library building and available all hours of the day and night. The current range of databases has become easier to search through the design of better interfaces. Companies that supply and market databases, like ProQuest (Bell 2004:3), offer different interfaces depending on the user’s need and skill level. However, unlike Google, the databases offered by libraries come with people available to help use them. It is incumbent on libraries to look at these positive aspects of library service and determine how they can exploit the techniques that Google has successfully employed (such as word-of-mouth, e-commerce marketing and the constant media focus) and utilise some of these technique for marketing their own services. The databases that are available and the quality of the search training that is offered can be used as a marketing device just as Google markets its services online. It’s very inexpensive (Price 2003) and produces results. Libraries have experience and quality on their side, which means they possess huge marketing opportunities.

Google Scholar and Google Print

Google Scholar, a test version of a search engine aimed specifically at academic material, searches only research publications such as journal articles, books, preprints and technical reports. It puts the most pertinent articles and citations at the top of its searches by means of algorithms similar to those used by Google’s conventional web search. These analyse the number and importance of links pointing to sites (Butler 2000). In Google Scholar, papers with many citations are generally ranked highest. Google says almost all ‘major publishers’ have allowed the full text of their papers to be searched, although it does not reveal those involved: however Google Scholar has problems such as ranking older articles at the top of the hit list, thus effectively putting dated material ahead of more recent articles. It is noteworthy that while the attention that Google Scholar received in the mainstream media and in discussion within research circles was very significant, the excitement about Google Scholar was concentrated in those circles. The Google Print projects, however, received widespread public attention. Google plans to digitise millions of books from the collections of the Universities of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford and the New York Public Library and to make them accessible through the Google search screen. The New York Times ran this as the lead news item for 14 December 2004 (Markoff and Wyatt 2004), thus delivering publicity that may effectively draw library users towards using Google.

Litwin (2004) argues that the e-commerce foundations of Google Print are the opposite to the principles of librarianship. Until now library resources have been of ‘inestimable value in a society’ and have served as a free service to the community. Now they will become vehicles for selling Google and its sponsors. In addition, many of the hits direct the searcher to pay-per-view databases supplied by commercial publishing houses, thereby tending to diminish the ‘free’ nature of library resources and bypassing the library’s expert services. There are also issues of commercial bias and equity of access that libraries need to understand in the evolving e-commerce environment. These are threatening the very role of the libraries on the internet. Litwin (2004) calls this ‘the distorting influence of e-commerce’ whose influence and commercial models the library itself could control and utilise in a managed context to maximise its own survival and ensure that the long-held principles of the unbiased professional continue to be available for selection.

As a comparison for the purpose of e-commerce evaluation, a structured database of articles and citations offered by Elsevier, essentially a commercial search engine known as Scopus, has a range of annual institutional subscriptions from $25 000 to several hundred thousand dollars (Butler 2000). ‘The company argues that research institutions are willing to pay for high-quality search and information services such as Scopus and Web of Science, which is marketed by Thomson ISI of Philadelphia.’ Google Scholar and Google Print market the perception that Google offers this type of service simply by using their search engine.

Google Answers

Google has challenged a fundamental role of libraries in the post-modern era, that of the virtual reference service. The Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC) defines virtual reference as ‘using computer and communications technology to provide reference service to patrons anytime and anywhere’ (OCLC 2005). As discussed earlier it uses computer software such as Questionpoint to answer reference questions online, using real time chat and the ability to send web pages to the client’s computer. Google Answers, introduced in April 2002, is a fee-based service where someone with an information need can ask a question and have a Google ‘expert’ get back to them with an answer, using asynchronous e-mail chat. The client sets the price she wants to pay, anywhere between $2 and $200. If not satisfied with the answer the client can get his or her money back, minus a 50 cent listing fee. Google Answers claims that ‘More than 500 carefully screened Researchers are ready to answer your question for as little as $2.50 – usually within 24 hours.’ It is a competitive process where the ‘carefully’ screened researchers lock up a question so that they have exclusive rights to answer it.

Edelmann’s study showed that more than 78 per cent of answers provided by Google Answers have a value of $20 or less (Edelman 2004). Google receives 25 per cent commission on all money earned from providing answers. The study found that the characteristics clients valued in answers were:

  • answer length in characters
  • number of URL references in the answer
  • time in minutes between asking a question and receiving an answer

This study was an economic analysis of the virtual reference model so answer quality was not examined. Jessamyn West describes the experience of working as a researcher for Google Answers:

The difference between the Google Answers model and the public/academic library model appears mainly that when a librarian gives a patron a response to their reference query, the patron tends not to argue with her. If she tells the patron the question has no definitive answer, that response is more likely taken as fact rather than a personal failing on the librarian’s part. The fact that all library patrons share the time of the librarians tends to encourage a polite acceptance that each patron’s specific question is one of many needing to be answered. In the Google Answers arena, I have seen researchers insulted, sworn at, and otherwise degraded by people not happy with the responses they received, when you might think that just not paying for the answer would be reprobation enough (West 2002).

Intermediaries, such as library staff, provide quality control and product evaluation for the material needed. While Google Answers states that its researchers are carefully screened, it is important to note that time constraints on earnings may mean providing quality is not a primary consideration, but rather that a fast and sufficient answer is what is wanted. Thus the quality of the goods expected at the library counter, on the library shelves, and through online services may be significantly different because time constraints do not necessarily apply in the same manner and obviously the library staff need not rely on the amount of money the question is worth.

Added value services are provided by specialised intermediaries such as library staff for services such as literature searches and technical instruction on database usage. However, library intermediaries design the type of the search and evaluation services that will be offered to users by choosing the product mix and focus based on the clients needs. How then does this equate to a commercial world? In the online commercial arena of the retail industry, the quality of the goods expected at a second-hand market, a discount store, and a specialty clothing boutique is significantly different. The boutique has chosen the product mix and charges prices accordingly for their specialty service. In the library, the staff select methods of access to information in order to provide easy access. This happens in a boutique manner where the users have choice of access through the physical library or from their desktop anywhere in the world.

Value of websites

We need to look hard at who we want to talk to through our website: a library website offers many advantages such as twenty-four hour access and online catalogues and databases. Online catalogues are examples of systems that have replaced costly manual processes. Others are ATMs and electronic banking. A university’s e-reserve and access to online databases increases traditional business through website access when the customer can access information for courses 24/7/365, in much the same way that commercial products on a website like or Barnes and Noble are always available. Not so long ago, libraries were accessible only during opening hours.

Prospective users in their online communities may differ from the traditional library user and therefore we need to ask new questions about potential, new and established users of library services. Does a library website have the ability to target new segments of the online community? In this online environment we can find ways to offer more extensive opportunities for updating service provision through technology than we traditionally have. Like, the ideal e-commerce site needs four things to succeed: extensive inventory, competitive prices, easy-to-use interface and fast-loading web pages. It also helps if, like Amazon, it offers inventive extras such as a ‘customers who bought this book also bought ...’ feature. Libraries have the requisite inventory free, and thereby general access to their users largely uninhibited by price or cost considerations. The interfaces libraries use vary in complexity but, if there is a lesson to be learnt from the commercial online world, it is that an easy-to-use interface helps to retain business.

Supplying e-resources

By using a business outlook and e-business methods we have the potential to refocus and re-engineer library operations, not only within the institution, but also the way in which libraries relate to each other on a B2B basis. These operations are similar to the principle of supply chain linkages for commercial business and have transformed the way the institutions work together. Supply chain linkages have been defined as ‘life cycle processes supporting physical, information, financial and knowledge flows for moving products and services from suppliers to end users’ (Ayers 2000). Supply chain linkages manage the flow of materials to the customer and other libraries. Close examination of the way we supply and receive information and resources can improve the design, planning, and control of the network of facilities and tasks that comprise the many stages of the supply chain (Davis 1993).

With an unprecedented number and variety of databases, document delivery options and online knowledge resources available to users, the dynamics of internet technology have both benefited the library’s ability to provide services and set new expectation standards for libraries to meet user requirements. Meeting the ‘customer’s’ desire for high quality and quick service has added pressures not historically present. This means the development of new systems and procedures inclusive of such developments as mobile phone access to libraries and the ability to download information from an organised internet interface or website, involves new understanding and new procedures. Many of these procedures are in existence already but the intentional use of e-commerce business principles such as inculcating an understanding of supply chain linkages can only enhance the competitive development of library services and the training of library staff.

Some academic libraries provide services such as document delivery outside their usual client base for a fee: a private law firm wanting journal articles may pay the law library of a university to supply a document or a service such as a literature search. This can extend to other areas as well: a private law firm may want a literature search from an information professional in a medical library in order to support a case for negligence. If these transactions occur online they can be regarded as e-business, involved in e-commerce, and it is already an issue for organisations whose purpose is not sales and profit, but not-for-profit services to defined communities, like patient support groups. Their traditional strengths have focussed on networking, expertise and lobbying: as such their e-commerce strategies will need to feature high levels of interaction, and this has a technology and bandwidth overhead which needs to be managed (Field 2000).

This transformation can continue to evolve through partnerships and B2B cooperation. Some libraries form sponsored partnerships, which are becoming more common. Some methods of sponsorship are government grants; endowment funds; donations from individuals, corporations and foundations; foundations/trusts specially established for public library projects; Friends of the Library groups; and special events and positive merchandising (Potts and Roper 1995). In an online environment, would this change? If change is not the correct term, then perhaps we may call it an adaptation to the new online commercial environment. For example, as discussed earlier, Google has plans to digitise the books of five major libraries, the collections of the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford as well as the New York Public Library. The University of Michigan claims this is worth ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars to the university (Carlson and Young 2004). It would seem, therefore that the relation of libraries to commercial online partnerships will continue to evolve. Libraries need to be aware of this evolution and formulate a critical perspective on where things may lead before they are overtaken.


It is not reasonable for libraries to assume that individual users always possess the knowledge needed to access and assess the information they need. That many do not make any such assumption is apparent in the provision of user education built into most libraries’ services. It follows that they can help users by providing instruction and even explicit expert assistance about how to find the information needed and about the usefulness of the search engine or database and matching service to needs so as to provide highly evolved assistance worthy of valuing as a specific library service. By providing users with the option to interact with library staff, through online interaction such as Ask Now!, intermediaries reduce the users’ exposure to the risk associated with search error. If the user has the option of expert instruction, the intermediary further reduces the user’s exposure to the risk associated with failure to assess his or her needs accurately and match them to the characteristics of the information required. By choosing an intermediary that provides these services, library users, as ratepayers or subscribers, are implicitly purchasing expertise from the intermediary. Libraries match the users’ needs with service. But is not ‘free’ in that it comes at an indirect or direct cost by funding from rates, taxes or fees.


A literature search of e-commerce in libraries and on the web was undertaken across ten databases. Bibliographies contained in articles found from these sources were examined for further relevant information. Library catalogues were also searched for e-commerce publications, as was the World Wide Web. Searches for information were divided into three categories, libraries, e-commerce and the internet: in addition interviews with librarians and library technicians on e-reserve and the AskNow! service were carried out in three Australian states.

  • Databases searched
  • ABI Inform (Trade and Industry) – searches Business, Economics: trade and industry periodicals and newsletters
  • Academic Research Library
  • ProQuest Computing (searches web commerce)
  • Proquest education journals
  • Proquest social science journals
  • Factiva (formerly Reuters)
  • Wiley Interscience
  • OVID
  • Australian Library and Information Science Abstracts (ALISA)
  • Web of Science

Case studies from the commercial sector

Airlines were obvious entrants into the e-business arena. When airlines made bookings available via the internet in the 1990s (Gasson 2003 p238) it was an example of organisations marketing their products and services through an online presence. This is not the only example of bold new forays onto the internet. When airlines progressed to online sales it was thought this would seriously challenge the bricks and mortar outlets. The dotcom crash of the late 1990s showed that a physical presence was still very important to business and that doing business online was to prove to be more complex than many had anticipated (Gasson 2003). Businesses and entrepreneurs discovered that new strategies for doing business needed to be developed for the e-commerce environment. For example, travel agents faced being sidelined through consumers’ ability to directly access airline bookings via the internet. However the complexity of booking holidays and renting cars as part of a complete holiday package was still something that needed direct consultation between consumer and travel agents. The convenience of a travel agent with local knowledge proved to be an asset, one that at the time airlines didn’t possess and which enabled travel agents to adapt their services to stay in business (Gasson 2003). Those travel agencies whose businesses survived on the internet were those that could combine tried and tested commerce strategies with innovative ones.

In the 1980s, academic and public libraries were early entrants into the e-business environment (Smith 2002). This came when libraries made their online catalogues available via the internet. Now libraries provide many of their services electronically on the internet. In fact, libraries augmented their bricks and mortar presence with an online presence. For airlines, their entrance to the online world of e-commerce took an alternative strategy compared to that of libraries. While they have different types of customers, libraries connected their customers back to elements of their bricks and mortar presence, while airlines attempted to persuade their customers to do all their business with them online. This was a strategy devised to cut costs by reducing their overheads and what they saw as a bricks and mortar encumbrance in the shape of flesh and blood travel agents. Interestingly, however, in 2005, travel agents were able to pledge that they would match any airlines’ online booking price thus vindicating the assertion of Glasson (2003 p243): ‘…exploiting market structures opportunistically through IT innovations leads to high rewards’ and travel agents have survived because they have found a gap in the business of online booking. That is they reduce search time and effort of booking online by providing a personalised service or local expertise, through a bricks and mortar presence and a branding of their profession as intermediaries of information. In libraries we have not let the horizon-free call of the internet dissuade us from our primary function and our roots as a physical presence in the community, nor did we ignore the chance for the opportunistic exploitation of the internet by providing information in a timely and efficient manner. Libraries have fully become gateways of information, offering online resources as well as traditional resources and services.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, founded in 1768 in Edinburgh, Scotland, developed a reputation for authoritative content; it was continually revised and features were added such as an atlas and a yearbook. Initially the main customers were libraries, but selling was expanded through direct door-to-door sales to middle income families. At its peak in 1989, Britannica’s world wide sales force numbered 7500. By 1990, sales had reached a peak of $650 million (Corman 1996).

In the mid-1990s, its main competitors, Funk and Wagnall’s and Grolier, stopped printing hard copy versions and went on to CD-ROM. Later Funk and Wagnall’s was bought by Microsoft and renamed Encarta. Both Encarta and Grolier’s were distributed free with new home computers which combined were roughly the same price as bound versions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, about $2000 (Corman 1996). Britannica developed its own CD-ROM in 1995, but it was expensive and contained text only, as the vast amount of content in the original was too large to fit onto a single CD. Consumers opted for the cheaper and more interactive multi-media products offered by Encarta and Grolier. Britannica, the business, was sold in 1996, its lack of technological capability proving to be a liability. The new owner redefined the way that Britannica was presented by eliminating the sales force and broadened its value. The core of its value at present lies in the website,, which offers a wide range of products and services, including news, book and encyclopedia sales, filtered search capabilities and online subscriptions. The internet made it possible for Britannica to deliver its vast amount of content efficiently, demonstrating that evolution of the technology can make rivals out of previously unrelated businesses such as was the case with Britannica and Microsoft computers. When Britannica was a print-based and successful business its only competitors were other encyclopedias. By selling information-related retail products it competes directly with search engines like Google and Yahoo and businesses such as By systematically defining a business’s competitors with a broad view, whole new competitive arenas are revealed.

From the perspective of online multimedia content, there have been two strategies. One is to license the database to third parties who decide what to offer online in terms of content and searchability; the other is for the content producers themselves to offer the online version of the multimedia encyclopedia. Grolier and Compton’sbelonged to the former school, while Encarta, World Book, and Encyclopaedia Britannica belonged to the second. A third alternative is to make the database available online in both ways. Whilst selling library services with any of these models is not currently happening, an understanding of such evolution and successes in the business area may assist libraries to deal with market features with which they are increasingly being associated. opened for business in July 1995. At that time it set out to prove that a retailer selling exclusively via the internet could succeed against established competitors with physical stores. has grown from selling a single type of product, books, from a US web site, to selling a wide variety of wares, including CDs, DVDs, jewellery, home and garden supplies and electronic devices, from various international web sites including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Japan. In 1997, the year the company went public, net sales were $147.8 million and the net loss was $27.6 million. In 2004, had net revenue of $6.92 billion, up 31 per cent from 2003 (Stires 2004). In December 2000, was servicing 67 million customers worldwide. Barnes and Noble, its nearest online competitor, was servicing 11 million customers. In an expansionary move entered into co-branding agreements with Toys ‘R’ Us, Circuit City and Target. In the agreement, Toys ‘R’ Us contracted to pay $50 million a year for ten years for the exclusivity provision, as well as a percentage of its sales on the site (Hendershot 2001). Features of are that:

  • customers can place orders;
  • easily find books;
  • find books that are the most read;
  • identify books recommended and reviewed by experts;
  • find award-winning books;
  • examine ratings and reviews by peers;
  • rate and review books for other readers;
  • select and pay for books directly on the internet;
  • have details of new books (selected by on the basis of previous choices) pushed onto their computers.

Digitised library resources

Libraries are expensive and the costs can be attributed to three main areas (Arms 2000): facilities (including buildings), library staff and library materials. Library materials that were previously available only in hard copy at considerable expense are increasingly offered in digital form, sometimes free. Digital resources require computers and networks, but are relatively inexpensive once purchased or assembled, with many cost-reducing advantages such as elimination of the need to purchase duplicate copies. They cannot easily get damaged or lost: digital resources such as texts, articles and slide presentations may be tracked for usage statistics and are not as labour-intensive to maintain as their hard copy counterparts. For instance there is no need for re-shelving or repairs and these materials can be accessed at any time by multiple users. Several economic models can be used to describe the provision of digitised resources. They may be provided free and costs of provision

recouped through advertising throughout the access process or through banners alongside the text. Costs may be covered by external support from an institution like a university or foundation that supports the access. In a subscription model, the user pays a periodic fee and some of the costs are returned to the creator. In fee-per-use, the user pays only for the period or amount of use required.

For libraries, online digital resources represent a cost saving. With online access to digital text, the overheads for libraries are reduced and a distillation of value occurs through fully utilising network access to the library. Lynch (2003) suggests that the digital revolution allows ‘…exploring more transformative new uses of the digital medium’. A manifestation of this is the creation of e-reserves in university libraries: Monash University in Victoria ‘has students on six Australian and two overseas campuses, and distance education students who access digitised material in over 120 countries…Some indication of the success of the digitisation of readings and reserve material is the fact that there are approximately 30 000 accesses per week to the library’s image server’ (Harboe-Ree, Sabto and Treloar 2003).

Interlibrary loans

Libraries have developed document request forms on the Web allowing faster and more efficient handling of interlibrary loan (ILL) requests. In university libraries, this allows remote users quicker access and more equity in accessing library materials. Remote access to libraries has come to be expected by many students who do not necessarily want to visit the physical library, thereby affecting funding through student choice of enrolments in modern universities. These libraries are capable of delivering ILLs electronically, either by fax, e-mail or in a digitised format such as full text or as a PDF document and ‘when electronic versions are offered alongside a limited amount of interlibrary loans, a reduction in library costs was observed’ (Roussel, Darmoni and Thirion 2001).

Library catalogues are free on the internet and most services are provided without charge. OCLC FirstSearch and Nexis, however, charge for database access. The provision of ILLs by libraries has a comparable commercial service example. Companies such as Infotrieve, Subito and CISTI provide a fee-based document delivery service. CISTI has a collection of over 50 000 journals in most languages, worldwide conference proceedings and papers, monographs, and over one million technical reports and translations. Both these businesses and libraries actually offer the same end results except that the businesses are making profits. Libraries are, in fact, ceding a traditional service to a commercial company that has modernised the concept into an e-commerce model for profit. There are a variety of relevant e-commerce models.

Infomediary: offers mediated links to other related information, either personally or as a part of an online service. An example of this is AskNow!, the online collaborative reference service.

Information community: the library creates a community by becoming the primary reputable source of knowledge, and the users return because they are satisfied with library services. Virtual public libraries provide a facility that allows communities of interest to form online through their servers.

Subscription: access to databases and toolboxes as well as forwarding traffic to another site in return for a small per-consumer fee. In Australia provides consortia membership advantages in dealing with publishers and databases. (

Advertising: promotes libraries through the available e-mail lists and library websites and uses internal banner advertisements.

Brokerage: promotes fee-for-service through web sites: this model differs significantly from the traditional library service approach. ‘Information Edge’, a commercial online information broker ( is an example.

Email push: involves gathering information such as job vacancies or community announcements and posting to subscribers by e-mail. For example, the ‘EmployLT’ job posting service on the Australian Library and Information Association library technician e-mail list

Portal (aka ‘toolbox’): offers a variety of services/links from one location. Examples are Libraries Australia, AARLIN. AARLIN (Australian Academic Research Libraries Information Network) allows searching of multiple databases. (

How can libraries develop additional e-commerce strategies?

Libraries can do this by:

  • focussing on quality services and resources that can be differentiated from the general information provided by the internet and maintaining credibility as a source of trustworthy products and services in the online environment.
  • re–examining traditional service models for adaptation to online services.
  • providing services ‘24 x7 x 365’.
  • organising easy, sustainable access to resources and services by developing reliable software and bandwidth connections.
  • providing both direct and indirect communication with library staff and reinventing customer service for an e-commerce framework.
  • using promotion models where appropriate, to offer further value-added services that users may require.
  • developing new e-commerce transactions through innovation and keeping up-to-date with current trends and technology.
  • identifying the competition and examining their successes.
  • identifying significantly cheaper ways of using the internet to provide services.
  • developing key products and services and the mechanisms that allow easy access.
  • establishing the relationships of library products and services to users of library services and profiling them for marketing, including to the executive body of the library’s parent organisation.
  • creating a social place as one of value that is commonly known as a source of user requirements.
  • demonstrating that a link to a possible answer on a search engine may still be no answer and that libraries do supply answers.

While there are different models of e-commerce there are two fundamental patterns to frame e-commerce models: libraries may use the internet and internet technologies to enable services and resources to be presented in a framework that facilitates the use of services and support in an online framework. The second pattern is the provision of library resources to its users. That is, that these library resources are provided on a time and point of need basis that is immediate and increasingly becoming the norm. A library may include both these models to provide specific resources, collect feedback and provide additional services such as training or develop new services or products online. The use of e-commerce models provides a concurrent development of the services of libraries, possibly leading to assured relevance in society as valued social capital. E-commerce facilitates the extraction of value of the library to its users, or in the economic sense to its customers. For instance online texts or digital books reduce overheads. They cannot readily be stolen or wear out and they are available to users all the time because they are not loaned in the traditional sense.

The popularity of mobile phones shows that the community is more than wiling to adopt new technology in a way that makes it hard to imagine that libraries’ use of technology will slow down. Libraries are enabled through their staff to run with this acceptance of technology and to develop methods of providing services unique to their own market. New technology will no doubt continue to simplify user interfaces making services accessible to all in their communities. Digital texts, e-reserve and databases extract and export the intrinsically valuable content of libraries to their users. The people who use libraries have come to be comfortable with complex online transactions in the true e-commerce sense: such devices as automatic teller machines and online banking have an established role in society. With Moore’s Law in mind libraries can adapt to and exploit these e-commerce strategies. (The rate of progress in computing power is described by Moore’s Law, the observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors on a semiconductor doubles every eighteen months. This is roughly equivalent to saying that computing power increases 100-fold in 10 years or 10 000-fold in 20 years).


Gold is valuable, but this value cannot be fully realised until it is dug out of the ground, refined and shaped. Until then its value is merely potential. Similarly a book has only potential value until it has been read and understood; further, intangible assets hold no value outside the context in and for which they were designed. A library’s intangible assets, like staff knowledge and skills, information technology and service innovations may be unique and in the future libraries will benefit only to the extent that they can exploit these intangible assets. To exploit the potential of e-commerce, libraries will need to identify and refocus on such assets, and indeed, if we examine the functions of libraries in today’s online environment, it can be argued that many of their online roles are based on an e-commerce principle already existing, or have the potential to be restructured on e-commerce lines consistent with current successful business principles.

Improvements in intangible assets affect financial outcomes through chains of cause-and-effect relationships involving two or three intermediate stages. Kaplan and Korton (2001).

While libraries do not (so far) need to return dividends to shareholders, they do need to justify their worth in order to sustain funding and a continued existence. Just as the business world evolves in search of commercial success, libraries need to be innovative and adaptive where appropriate, the processes that have been successful in business. Of these, e-commerce can provide sound models for successful libraries as it does in business generally. If they learn to value their customers, provide the services they need, and give a level of service comparable to the best offered in the commercial online examples, libraries have a greater chance of success: in the commercial online environment, services are being measured against e-commerce models such as and Google. This is what the user expects and this is what they are increasingly becoming comfortable in using. ‘[The value] arises from creating the entire set of assets along with a strategy that links them together’ (Kaplan and Norton 2001:67). The online auction EBay has set the standard for buying items through the auction model and uses PayPal, an account-based system that allows anyone with an e-mail address to send and receive online payments. It also uses the ‘shopping basket’ feature. Both are features that other businesses emulate because they are familiar. For libraries, and as a consequence of their long histories of service, models adopted should retain that familiarity factor for our users, especially in the online environment.


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The author acknowledges the assistance of Tania Barry in obtaining journal articles for research for this paper.

[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2003) Proportion of businesses placing or receiving orders via the internet or

web, by broad industry group, available at


[ii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Public Libraries, Australia, 1999-2000 (cat Nº 8561.0) Internet workstations available for public use, available at!OpenDocument.

[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Proportion of households with access to the internet by type of household, state or territory and broad region, available at!OpenDocument.

[iv] Kinetica web page, available at

A comparison of education and training opportunities for library technicians in the UK, USA, NZ and Australia

Kerrie Blyth

Funded by the 2001 Dunn & Wilson Scholarship, with sponsorship from LJ Cullen Bookbinders NSW, and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders Victoria.


Education and training opportunities; library technicians; UK; USA; NZ; Australia.

Progress Report

January 2003

After my travels last year I have returned home with a new understanding and appreciation of how lucky we are to live and work where we do. My time overseas gave me an insight into how the para-professional staff working in libraries in the UK are trained and now I have moved on to researching the same field in Australia, New Zealand and USA. Through the use of e-lists and contacts I have made previously, I have found many people willingly offering their assistance which is making my task a most enjoyable one. I am focusing on distributing a questionnaire as widely as possible to gather data from library technicians and seeking assistance from course co-ordinators in a number of training institutions in these countries.

I have posted the questionnaire on Libtec and I would ask if you have a few spare minutes to complete and return it to me.

My time during the next few months will be spent compiling the information in readiness for September. I am looking forward to meeting you all in Brisbane.

Kerrie Blyth

5 April 2002

As the 2001 winner of the Dunn & Wilson Scholarship I am currently working on the two objectives that were outlined in my project proposal.

  1. investigating the courses of study on offer to para-professional library staff in UK, USA and NZ and then comparing these with the current education and training opportunities in Australia.
  2. Establishing and promoting solid international networks for library technicians around the world to expedite the sharing of ideas, opportunities, skills, education and training.

For the next few months I will be preparing my itinerary for touring the UK in September/October where I will be on a mission to find out as much as I can regarding how their para-professional staff are educated and trained. At this stage I have eight organizations to visit ranging from Universities to private providers of training and I expect to add some more to this list. I intend to interview staff and students and cover topics such as qualifications, training (flexible, on-line, workplace and class-based), resources and technology available and how the students view their employment prospects. Unfortunately I will not be able to visit the USA or NZ and will need to rely upon e-mail to continue my investigations of their courses. I can't see that this will present any problems for my project though.

To assist with my second objective I hope to be attending a meeting of the Library Associations "Affiliated Members" (they are the equivalent of our LibTec section) where I will have the opportunity to tell them about the many advantages of being an ALIATec and the opportunities open to us. This meeting will also give me a chance to discuss and launch my proposal for establishing a web page for para-professional staff. I would organize and administer this website and am asking interested participants to put forward their name, city of residence, state/county and country. Participation is for the purpose of having contacts around the world to assist anyone traveling or seeking information in another area or country. The level of assistance you offer is entirely up to the individual - it may be to simply offer advice on travel options within your own city or an offer to guide someone through your own workplace should they be visiting. Communication will be only between yourself and the person who has made contact via your email link. I think that simply to make a commitment to provide whatever assistance you wish, is all that will be required to make this network successful. I look forward to answering any questions or receiving suggestions as to the content of the site.

11 September 2002

After three weeks of travelling I feel a bit like I have been on the move for ages and home seems a distant but happy memory, but as each day passes I learn more little lessons in life.

My time so far has been spent in Scotland and Northern England where I have had five interviews and visited many village, town and city libraries. Everywhere I have been people have gone out of their way to help me which has made the trip so far, a fantastic experience.

I was delighted to meet my sponsors, the managing director and his staff at Riley Dunn & Wilson in Falkirk, Scotland. Jeff and Ian made sure I had a full tour of the organisation and then over lunch we discussed among other things, the roles and responsibilities of library technicians.

Jeff has a great deal of respect for our profession in Australia and it is wonderful that we have such support from him and from John Westwood (Apollo-Moon) and Malcolm Mear (LJ Cullen) in Australia. As I move closer to London I shall continue to send some 'Postcards from...' to the Libtec list. Thanks for your e-mails and although I don't have a lot of internet time to reply, I do appreciate your messages.

Kerrie Blyth

Changing roles, changing goals: transferring library technician skills beyond the library

Meredith Martinelli

Funded by the 1999 Dunn and Wilson Scholarship, with sponsorship from LJ Cullen Bookbinders NSW, and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders Victoria.


Career change; library technicians; skills analysis or assessment; employment; careers; technology; libraries; workplace change; transfer; skills transfer


The author would like to take the opportunity to give heartfelt thanks to the following people and organisations.

  • To the sponsors John Westwood (Apollo-Moon Bookbinding) and Malcolm Mears (LJ Cullen) representing Dunn and Wilson in Australia. Their continued support for library technicians in Australia provides a valuable development opportunity for us all. Further information about the Dunn and Wilson Scholarship is available at
  • To ALIA for the management and coordination of the Dunn and Wilson Scholarship
  • To Neil McLean (university librarian, Macquarie University Library), Ian Duncan (manager, Information Technology, Macquarie University Library) and Judy Clayden (course coordinator, Edith Cowan University) who as my sponsors, trusted in my ability to undertake this responsibility.
  • To all who participated in the study. Many thanks for all your valuable input and suggestions.
  • To Robin Walsh, my editor and friend who with advice, and red pen, helped to produce a report that will hopefully contribute to the ongoing development of all library technicians.
  • To my family for their ongoing love and support. Without it undertaking such a project would be extremely difficult.

About the author

Meredith Martinelli is currently an information and technology trainer at Macquarie University, Sydney. With over 23 years of library experience, Meredith has worked in Public, Academic and Law libraries all of which have contributed to a broad knowledge of the diversity of library operations. Prior to her current position, Meredith worked as a Personnel Consultant for Zenith Management Services, a specialist Library and Information recruitment agency. With an interest in the broader market for library and information skills, Meredith's qualifications include a B Sc (Library Technology) and the Certificate IV Workplace Assessment and Training.


What we are trained to do and what we do are often very different choices. They reflect the range of opportunities available to us at various times throughout our careers and our changing expectations towards job satisfaction. The skills gained through formal and informal education can be applied in many different settings. The challenge is to perceive them in alternative ways. What opportunities are there for library technicians to utilise the library specific and general skills gained through formal training and on-the-job experiences? How do you identify the career opportunities that offer an alternative to the traditional library environment?

This study, supported by the Dunn and Wilson Scholarship and ALIA, aimed to:

  • Examine the impact of technology on the workplace employment of library technicians.
  • Assess and clarify the range of skills of library technicians.
  • Identify alternate opportunities for employment to be used as a framework for individual assessment.

To meet these aims the study consisted of four elements:

  1. Literature review
  2. Skills analysis to identify broad categories of skills and knowledge
  3. Survey of job advertisements from key national newspapers to identify possible roles
  4. Survey of library technicians who had experienced a role change

Based on the study a framework for skills analysis, adaptable to a broader market was developed. Job advertisements and library technician survey responses are used to provide evidence of the alternative career paths.


This study was made possible through the Dunn and Wilson Scholarship and supported by ALIA, the Australian Library and Information Association. The proposal offered to develop a framework for skills assessment and an identification of alternate career pathways where library technicians could utilise the skills, knowledge and expertise developed through formal training and on the job experiences.

The intention of the study was to produce a reference tool for library technicians to aid them in the identification of skills and knowledge, and the range of roles that could be considered. The research does not offer a quantitative analysis of the number of job positions advertised in major papers throughout Australia.

Personal success in achieving these roles depends entirely on the individual skills and knowledge, the individual attitude, and the approach to the job process. There are many avenues available to obtain information on effective resumes, interview skills and job identification.

In the twelve months following the receipt of this scholarship in September 1999, I was provided with two unique work opportunities that aligned closely to the subject of the proposal. Initially I was working as a personnel consultant for a specialist library and information recruitment firm. I am currently working as an information and technology trainer at Macquarie University Library. These two positions have allowed me to gain personal as well as professional insights into the subject of this project.


Literature search

A search of available literature related to two distinct areas:

  1. The Impact of technology on the library.
  2. Skills analysis, transfer and library technicians.


Career change; library technicians; skills analysis or assessment; employment; careers; technology and libraries; workplace change


Subject area

Expanded Academic Index (Infotrac)




ALISA - Australian Library and Information Science Abstracts

Library/Information Science

Lisa - Library and Information Science Abstracts

Library/Information Science


Business and Management


( a World Wide Web search engine was used for a comprehensive search for available web-based information sources.


The scope of the literature search was to retrieve articles related to the above areas of interest dated within the last five years: 1995-2000. Sources relating to library technicians in this time frame were limited and there was a need to identify and use older source material.

Whilst the main focus was to locate Australian material, I have included global perspectives where appropriate. That technology is impacting on our working environments is obvious, however it is important to realise that the library work environment is not unique. Globally, industries are being subject to diverse influences that cumulatively are creating the working environments that we currently find ourselves in. In light of these considerations, I have included a brief look at global influences and offer an overall snapshot of key elements to consider when pondering career options.

Global work environments

'In Australia, we work in a global environment that has been transfigured by the introduction of telecommunications, broadcasting and computing technologies which impact on both our working and personal lives. This is causing social and economic readjustments, which sees declining workforce numbers in mining, manufacturing, and farming, and dramatic reorganisation in government departments at national, state and local levels'. (Reid 1997 p152)

The changes we are experiencing are still relatively new, with the pace over the last forty years being equivalent to complete eras. In the 1980s, when the global marketplace arrived in Australia in the form of competition and economic rationalism, organisations were faced with the need to rethink the way they did business. As a result 'between 1993 and 1995, 56 percent of larger Australian organisations downsized, and in 1997-98, more than sixty-two per cent of all-sized organisations took this path.' Johnston (2000)

Ultimately what these streamlined businesses now demand is a workforce that is flexible enough to respond to increasingly shifting patterns of employment. The concept of the secure, full-time job is under threat from part-time, contract and temporary workforces who are asked to adapt to, and provide the range of skills that the industry is seeking. Pressure is placed on the employee to offer employers continual skills development and an ability to adapt to required needs, which may, or may not be, related to their core training.

An OECD report: Technology, Productivity and Job Creation (OECD 1996) highlights the shift in organisational models with the emphasis being on core groups of employees with high skill levels who take central roles in managing the organization and draw on expertise as required for particular projects in the form of contract workers, consultants, temporary staff and outworkers.

As an indication of changing work practices the following chart provides a historical breakdown of key characteristics of the Industrial and Information ages:

Industrial period

Information Period

Economic Characteristics

Centralised workplace

Distributed workplaces

Economies of scale

Flexibility of scale and place

Organisational characteristics

Labour contract

Temporary agreements

Rationalised division of labour

Partial reintegrated labour

Close supervision

Individual/group responsibility

Hierarchy (later bureaucracy)

Flatter structure

Vertical integration

Horizontal integration

Technical Characteristics

Mechanisation (later automation)


Product based

Information based

Sequential flow


From Greenbaum, Joan: The Times they are A'Changing: Computer Systems in (Thompson and Warhurst 1998 p131)

Bridgland (1998 p12) reflects on shifting career opportunities:

'Career paths are changing. Lifetime linear progression with one employer is becoming a rarity amongst men (it has never been a pattern amongst women). People's careers will more likely be characterised by several organisation changes, moving away from original training, partly to meet the need for broad experience and partly because of the elimination of layers of management. The percentage of the workforce who are contractors or consultants, casuals or part-timers is likely to continue to rise.' In addition the demand as identified by Bridgland, is for staff who have an ability to acquire new skills quickly and who adapt rapidly to changing conditions in the workplace.

In this environment, successful career development will often be dependent on individual competencies, performance, skills and knowledge rather than the traditional hierarchy of seniority or formal skills.

Impact of technology on the library

The impact of technology on libraries is not limited to Australia and although the literature search concentrated on Australian material, information that reflects the situation elsewhere has been incorporated.

At the 10th National Library Technician's Conference in 1999 the opinion was (Grant 1999) that libraries today are facing change at a pace that is unprecedented in history. The reasons for change at such a pace? Grant claims that it is technology that is the 'driving force'. Consider some of the ways that technology has been introduced into libraries to 'support' the delivery of services and resources to ever increasing and diversified client bases:

  • Digitisation;
  • E-journals and e-books;
  • E-reserve;
  • Computer-based learning platforms;
  • The web;
  • E-commerce;
  • Metadata;
  • Synchronous communication tools - offering real-time reference support via computer and modem;
  • Community networks.

With many of these initiatives there has been a need to collaborate with a wider range of information professionals, particularly those with IT knowledge. Is it possible that this could lead to a decreasing need for library-trained staff and an increased need for hybrid workers? It is interesting to note that selected graduate library and information courses are shifting the focus of their courses from specific library based skills to structure that represents the teaching of information management in all its aspects. Whether or not this is a correct approach is not under consideration here, but is used simply to reflect the changing view of 'information supply and management'.

'Technology remains one of the primary drivers of change in the ways that people work, seek information, communication, and entertain themselves. For the library, there is a stronger emphasis on content, context, customer service, training, and collaboration with information technology staff. ' (Drake 2000)

As Saurine (2000) observes 'there is no question that new technologies and the Internet are the factor that have challenged traditional library services and practices.

In fact it has been stated that computers have made the most impact on libraries in areas that require 'the rapid and accurate storage and processing of structured data, the ability to operate for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and world wide connectivity and communication.' (Dunsire 2001) The impact this has on staffing is of particular relevance to paraprofessionals, with Dunsire claiming that the application of this technology reduces the need for many of the specialist clerical type skills that have traditionally been performed by library technicians .....'and it is not difficult to imagine an effective library service without paraprofessional staff. Many American libraries use volunteer lay persons for this type of work'

Supporting this, Evans (2000) identifies key areas of 'recording stock (cataloguing) and its movement (circulation)' as those most affected by technological change. Continuing the discussion, Evans states that the next step is that of 'seamless interlending of material, utilising the strengths of developing standards and faster and more efficient technologies'. One indication of this is LIDDAS, an international consortia development, of which Macquarie University Library is a member. LIDDAS aims at creating user-controlled access to the interlending and document delivery process. Combine this with online journal access and it is not unreasonable to perceive reduced requirements for paraprofessionals within these previously key areas.

What does this all mean for library technicians in the future? Martyn (1997 p225) asks 'how many library workers, in the last decade, have experienced one or more of the following organisational change processes: down-sizing, restructuring, outsourcing, reengineering, centralisation, decentralisation, amalgamation, computerisation, or, personally been upgraded, downgraded, re-trained, retrenched or reclassified?' In her study Martyn identified technology, along with budget constraints, outsourcing and commercialisation of services as major factor in the shifting workplace environment.

This is further highlighted in Debowski's (1999) consideration of key influences:

  1. Significant advances in technology and increasing costs of journals and other print resources - massive growth in electronic services
  2. Budgetary manoeuvres - staffing pared down to essential levels so that infrastructure services may be developed
  3. Decreasing numbers of library visitors. Reduced coverage of service points, sustaining basic services whilst offering extended electronic access
  4. Outsourcing - argument for a more cost effective system

The risk to libraries may lie in not recognising fully the impact of the global market and the role of libraries within this marketplace. The way is being left open for 'new players' to undertake the role of information provision. It is possible to see this type of change in the increasing use of information brokers, news services and the public use of the Internet as an information source. (Hobohm 1996)

Whilst these views may be seen as alarming and/or challenging, they should also be seen as an opportunity, for there is a corresponding availability of diverse roles that have evolved from and in response to new technologies (see O'Leary 2000). These roles incorporate those such as - Internet search expert; Webmaster; Web site designer and intranet developer. Whilst not specifically administrative or technical they require a flexible mindset with an emphasis on attitudes, aptitudes and approaches.. in short an ability to transfer previous learning to new responsibilities and environments offering key results and outcomes for employers. Interestingly and relevant to this point, Sciacca (1993) noted that it was often library technicians who are first to be confronted with, adapt to and quickly acquire new skills in relation to new technology within the library.

The alternate viewpoints about the future of libraries and the career potential for library staff are not the focus here. The evidence that technology has had a major impact on libraries is obvious, particularly in relation to staffing levels and key responsibilities. Hyde, (1997) suggests that in the future, staff will work, not in a physical library, but elsewhere with all electronic access to collections. Where there is a need for a physical location for those resources, print and otherwise that are not available or required in an electronic form, he predicts possible management options includes the increased outsourcing of major functions. This would prove to be particularly relevant to the cataloguing and current awareness service areas where there are currently large numbers of library technicians involved.

In response to these demands library technicians need to be able to adapt quickly, develop the new skills that are required and be flexible in their career expectations. This outlook will support the change process whilst also creating personal and professional opportunities to reshape and redefine their future.

Skills transfer for library technicians

Whilst there has been limited writing in relation to the skills transfer opportunities for library technicians in the last 5 years, it is interesting to note the increasing focus that this area is receiving.

At the 2000 ALIA Fringe Conference sessions focused on this issue, with presentations from librarians and library technicians who had redirected their careers. Unfortunately, obtaining copies of the papers proved difficult although I was able to gain access to Carolyn Cherrett's unpublished paper. Cherrett also presented an original paper at the 6th National Library Technician Conference (Cherrett 1991) titled Library Technician Skills Transfer.

In 1991 she stated, 'That the concepts of skills held by those who work in libraries was stereotypical with no real perception of the type of work undertaken, nor of the skills developed through training and on- the-job exposure. The main emphasis was on the need for library technicians to communicate their skills in a way that could be understood by any interested external employer.

The paper also incorporated reports of a workshop held at the 1988 3rd Annual NSAIG Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with key speakers highlighting the following ideas in relation to skills transfer:

Eleanor Cook emphasised the need to define skills using 'action verbs' rather than prescriptive library-termed functions and Helen Wiltse claimed that skills acquired in library work, particularly in Serials-based roles transferred very well into administrative sectors positions. Cherrett's own experience transferring from library technician roles to that of Office Manager for the Co-op Library Services provided her with insight to the key skills and knowledge that supported her successful transfer. These were:

  1. Reader education;
  2. Reference/research skills;
  3. Budget monitoring;
  4. Supplier liaison;
  5. Marketing and client relations;
  6. Problem Solving;

In 2000 Cherrett (2000) revisited the concept of 'spring-boarding' into corporate or 'beyond library' positions using the skills gained through library education and work experience.

'Firstly don't let yourself be told that because you hold a certain qualification, have experience in only one area that you can't do a job or take a challenge that seems both exciting and daunting and succeed, If I had believed that I would still be a SLT in a special library in Sydney. You see, my base qualification (and my only library qualification) is as a library technician. I was actively discouraged from taking my first leap out of libraries ten years ago, for me it was the best thing I could have done.'

The 2000 paper concurred with the 1993 findings, with reference and research skills still providing underlying support for the transfer process. The ability to find out what people require from you, and your role, is a valuable skill. Others included:

  1. Listening and observing - identify needs, key players and the organisation structure;
  2. Financial Information - budget and funding;
  3. Writing - for reports and presentations, communicate concepts effectively;
  4. Talking and presentation skills.

In a survey of former library technicians who had qualified as librarians or moved into non-library positions, Evans (1993) aimed to identify the skills that supported the library technicians in the transfer process. In summary these were identified and grouped as follows:

Technical skills

  1. Organisational skills including data management
  2. Familiarity with computers, filing and keyboards skills
  3. Information retrieval - knowing how and where to find required information
  4. Information organisation and management - acquisitions, budgeting and serials control

Personal skills

  1. Client service skills including dealing with difficult people and conflict management

In a move by library staff into strategic roles within a 'Learning Centre', Aylott (1999) claims the following skills proved essential:

Working with Clients

  1. Communication with stakeholders
  2. Communication with students
  3. Promotion/marketing

Working with others

  1. Team work/team building
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Working with Information
  4. Information management/Information technology
  5. Training/one-on-one instruction

Denny (1993) Staff Training Coordinator for Wollongong University Library lists key positions within her university environment that have been filled by library staff, including technicians: Faculty officer - Education; Research assistant; Personnel officer; and Training officer for Information Technology Services.

Library and generic skills that provide support included:

  1. Knowledge of information retrieval systems.
  2. Clear verbal and written communication.
  3. Development and implementation of policies.
  4. Meeting deadlines and commitments.
  5. Experience in automated systems and with information technology.
  6. Customer/client relations.
  7. Problem solving.
  8. An ability to effectively teach concepts.

Library technicians were also encouraged to 'make their skills and abilities known by applying for positions in the knowledge management system and intranet design, development, and maintenance. These positions may be advertised under titles as diverse as information analyst, administrative officer, business process consultant, and media technician (Klobas 1997 p139).

From the literature discussing the transfer of librarian skills comes the following insights of relevance to library technicians:

Dolan and Schumacher (1997) claim that the internet and cutting-edge information technology have opened up many new paths for librarians and that there is a re-definement or a creation of new roles within the existing library environment that highlights expanding skills requirements: webmaster, systems librarian.

O'Brien (2000) credits a successful transfer into the competitive environment of bookselling being due to skills gained from libraries. In particular an ability to carry out a 'reference' interview, well developed marketing skills and high-level customer focused service skills proving to be the key elements.

Koenig (1991) breaks the 'salient transferable skills' into the following categories:

  1. Knowledge of information sources.
  2. Information and data organisation - organising data and information to make it accessible, print and electronically.
  3. Interpersonal skills and need elicitation - customer service, value-added services, training, systems analysis.

In a report on barriers to career development within libraries Dalton (2000) reported on interviews held with library and information science graduates. Whilst Dalton had a focus on career development within the Library and Information sector there were some key points of relevance to this report. Skills cited as being instrumental in any transfer situation included:

  1. Communication and interpersonal skills.
  2. Information and communications technology skills.
  3. Self-management skills.
  4. Information seeking and information handling skills.
  5. Communication and interpersonal skills.
  6. Writing and oral skills.
  7. Ability to deal with colleagues at all levels.
  8. Teamwork skills.
  9. Aptitude to relate to customers or users.
  10. Self-management skills including planning, organisation and prioritisation.
  11. Resource management.
  12. Leadership.
  13. Training and marketing skills.

What's in a Name

The difficulty in marketing our skills to the wider community lies in the perception of skills and knowledge that is indicated by the title Library Technician. This implies a knowledge restricted to the physical library, rather than a diverse array of complex skills including information management, client services, information architecture, networking and IT support, web page creation and maintenance, information analysis.

As an example if we were to translate the above functional components back into library terminology it would equate to - cataloguing, lending and information services, organisation and management of library systems, Library website development, reference and research! Simply a matter of seeing the standard in new ways.

For library technicians the challenge will lie in convincing non-library employers that they have the ability, the skills, the knowledge and the attitude to successfully undertake a career shift. Moving beyond the known is a challenge. Peter Murdoch best represents a positive approach to the shift in his paper at the ALIA 'Pathways to Knowledge' conference (1998 p469)

'...I consider my change in career, as I said at the beginning, has not really been a change but a process of transition through phases of learning, application and development in the course of daily experience.'

ALIA - an Association viewpoint

Part of an association's role is to track changes in workplace environments and to offer advice on future career projections. The ALIA website disseminates this information and outlook to industry members, discussing key workplace issues affecting our future and providing statements on job opportunities and future developments.

'As technological and labour market change expands, library and information workers will take on a wide variety of workplace roles. Many of these will have new titles, possibly identifying specialist skills or targeting the needs of particular client groups: information manager, network administrator, information systems analyst, resource co-coordinator, community relations officer, and so on. To fill such positions effectively, formal education and training in industry-focused skills and enterprise specific competencies will be crucial.

Career paths will thus be more complex and are likely to include many divergent stages. Barriers between job categories are breaking down. Workers who qualified as librarians or library technicians will take their skills into new areas, whether traditional information based occupations such as records, museums, and resource collections, or into the newly developing electronic business domain. More and more, the quest for employment opportunities involves 'looking beyond the L for librarian''.

ALIA identifies the need for skills diversification through ongoing training and professional development. This is especially important as the barriers between 'occupations' become blurred and is expected to be a continuing characteristic of work in the future. With less defined career directions and flattened management structures, there is a greater need for the opportunity to develop new skills through lateral transfer.

Skills analysis of library technicians


The proposal was to undertake a study of the skills of library technician. The analysis of a broadly defined skills base proved to be a challenge as skills analysis is traditionally undertaken to offer one of the following:

  1. To establish/identify skills and knowledge requirements for a specific position (workplace design; recruitment);
  2. Assessment of an individual to determine current skills levels and to identify training needs.

To achieve the overview required for this study it was necessary to rely on currently available information sources. The resources utilised were

  1. ALIA Work Level Guidelines
  2. National TAFE Course unit components
  3. National Competency standards


It was proposed to examine the current TAFE course units and their elements, the Library Industry Competencies and to consider ALIA Library Technician workplace guidelines to extract broad functional skills and knowledge.

  1. Contact was made with course coordinators of all Library Technician courses throughout Australia, with a request (Appendix 6) for available information about the course structure, specifically the skills/knowledge and attitudes that are developed throughout the course. The responses received ranging from handouts supplied to prospective students to email attachments containing full course and element descriptions.
  2. ALIA Workplace Guidelines are readily available both in print and through the Association's website (Australian Library and Information Association)
  3. The 1996 Arts Training Australia Library Industry Competency Standards (Arts Training Australia, Australia. Department of Employment Education and Training et al. 1995) and the 1999 Museum and Library/Information Services Industry Training Package (Australian National Training Authority and CREATE Australia (Culture Recreation Education and Training Enterprise Australia) 1999) were examined.

ALIA Work Level Guidelines

The ALIA Work Level Guidelines establish a core representation of workplace performance standards expected of individuals after qualification and through on-going professional development. It is expected that not everyone will fit these guidelines exactly and indeed there would be many library technicians who work beyond the scope of the stated responsibilities. The guidelines were utilised as method of identifying the skills and knowledge that would be expected as a result of undertaking the formal courses. The Guidelines also recognise the associated 'general skills' that underpin the formal education process. Generic skills development is further discussed later in this report.

In principle I have set the research at a core level for the majority of library technicians, however I am including a consideration of the skills and knowledge of Level 1 librarians in recognition of the many library technicians who have these responsibilities as a part of their role.

In table 1 is listed the associated general skills and attributes of each level as defined by ALIA. These are considered essential skills in career development planning.

Table 1 - general skills


Technician, practitioner stage 1

  • Interpersonal skills, accuracy and data interpretation
  • Communication skills, written and oral
  • Use of information technology, including word-processing, spreadsheets, desktop publishing
  • Use of multimedia and audio-visual equipment, e-mail operations
  • Document imaging and management
  • File transfer and file management
  • Ability to perform complex tasks under pressure
  • Commitment to quality management processes
  • Quality customer-service principles
  • Ability to contribute to the team
  • Time management

Technician, experienced practitioner

  • IT maintenance (eg: internet connections, PC networks, printers, CD-ROMs)
  • IT, multimedia and audio-visual skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability in the work environment
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Excellent verbal and communication skills
  • Time-management skills
  • Excellent organisational and supervisory skills
  • Leadership in the workplace

Professional Practitioner, Level 1

  • Communication skills (oral and written)
  • High-level skills in information technology
  • Team work
  • Ability to work independently
  • High self-achievement standards
  • Creativity and ability to develop new ideas
  • Staff management and leadership skills
  • Capacity to cope with change
  • Decision-making skills

ALIA defined library specific skills and knowledge are listed in Table 2. These skills represent the fundamental core of the library technician course and are recognised by ALIA.

Table 2: Australian library and information association work level guidelines



ALIA Level

Technician, practitioner stage 1

Technician, experienced practitioner

Professional practitioner, level 1


Recently qualified LT requiring on-the-job training

LT with consolidated experience

Newly graduated Librarian



  • Basic cataloguing procedures
  • Collecting, recording and preparing information for in-house reference files and indexes
  • Ordering and accessioning resources
  • Processing inter-library loans
  • Materials repair
  • Operating circulation systems
  • Bibliographic checking
  • Answering simple reference queries
  • Operation of information services and systems
  • Supervision of staff requiring initiative and judgement and the application of established practices, procedures and standards.
  • Knowledge of information resources
  • Use of a wide range of information tools, equipment and technology
  • Assisting in the planning, reviewing and reshaping of operating systems
  • Management and supervision
  • Training and education
  • Design and implementation of policies and procedures
  • Marketing and promotions
  • Resource evaluation and selection
  • Client services
  • Reference services, including on-line information retrieval
  • Training and education
  • Information access - bibliographies, indexes and in-house data and cataloguing
  • Assisting with collection management
  • Providing services to specialist areas, such as children's services or local history
  • Assisting with promotion and publicity activities
  • Delivering information literacy training programs

Competency Standards

Competency standards are statements that set out the knowledge, skills and the application required for effective performance in employment. Competencies are industry specific or generic and for library technicians it is important to consider both for effective and successful career development and/or transfer.

The purpose here is not to provide a history of the development of library competency standards (see Williamson and White 1996), but to use them to assist in the development of a skills, knowledge and attitudinal breakdown.

Library Industry Competency Standards

The Library competency standards were first 'endorsed' in 1995 to formally identify primary competencies with the key aim being

  1. Introduction of flexible training pathways to meet individual and industry needs
  2. Improved transferability and portability of skills within/across industries, enhancing career path options
  3. Establishment of national qualifications and course accreditation procedures
  4. Development of articulation and pathways between courses and institutions

Competency Standards recognise that performance at work is underpinned not only by skills and knowledge, but by prior learning, either through on the job or life experience. The standards are therefore inclusive of all these elements and are not simply a statement of tasks and duties. Individuals can use the standards to better understand what they do and/or what they need to know to succeed in their careers and to identify other areas of employability.

Arts Training Australia (Now CREATE Australia) developed Australia's first Library Industry Competency Standards and published them in June 1995. In 2001 a new Training Package, developed by Create Australia in consultation with the Library Industry has been implemented by National Training Authorities, including TAFE.

What became evident whilst undertaking this study was the necessity of identifying the skills and knowledge in a 'generic' format that could be easily constructed into terminology acceptable to a broader audience. It would not, I think, be incorrect to assume that the majority of library technicians recall their formal training with reference to the specific Units of study eg: Bibliographic Control or Basic Reference Skills. Relying on this to identify skills leaves the individual at risk of reduced career opportunities. Career paths would be limited to choosing roles that use explicitly stated library terminology.

Offering mapped links between the course units and the Library Industry competency standards was one way of facilitating this broader view. Both the 1996 and 1999 competency standards have been utilised in an attempt to provide a broader vision.

The 1996 Library Competency Standards were divided into three streams each of which were further divided into key functional areas. These are broad generically focused divisions that offer an overall picture of the scope of library work.

Table 3: 1996 Library Competency Streams


Working with clients

Working with information

Working with others

Provide services directly to clients

Develop and maintain information for client access

Work in a service environment

Maintain client awareness and education

Organise information for client access

Maintain work effectiveness in a changing service environment


Develop and maintain infrastructure


Appendix 1 maps the key competencies of both the Arts Training Competency Standards and the Library and Information Industry Competency standards to Units of study used in the National TAFE curriculum. The current standards offer clearer mapping of the knowledge development to the competencies. The benefit of mapping lies in identifying competencies achieved through the study of specific units.

Examining both competencies extracts the following broad functional skills and knowledge of library technicians (Table 4). Library specific terminology has been amended to reflect broader concepts. The knowledge level and expertise of an individual in relation to these would, of course, be dependant on original training strengths and subsequent experience.

Table 4: Library Technician Knowledge and Skills extracted from Industry Competencies (non-library specific)

•        Use the internet

•        Acquire and process information and resources for access

•        Analyse and describe material

•        Provide client services

•        Assist with programs, activities and promotion

•        Manage and maintain service areas, resources and equipment

•        Collect, analyse and evaluate information for research

•        Contribute to effective working relationships

•        Contribute to promotional programs and activities for clients

•        Contribute to structuring information systems

•        Contribute to the organisation and coordination of the work of others

•        Contribute to the planning and acquisition of computer systems

•        Coordinate selection and acquisition of information

•        Deliver programs for clients

•        Deliver training

•        Develop and improve systems and processes

•        Consult with client groups

•        Establish and manage effective workplace relationships

•        Maintain information access

•        Lead a team

•        Maintain and modify technological applications

•        Manage own work, development and learning

•        Migrate to new technology

•        Knowledge of OH and S policies and procedures

•        Operate computer hardware

•        Operate computing packages

•        Manage, organise and/or coordinate the work of others

•        Manage, organise and/or coordinate work activities

•        Organise information for client access

•        Participate in a work team

•        Plan, promote and assess training

•        Prepare, process and store resources

•        Provide client education

•        Provide research assistance

•        Provide training

•        Use multimedia equipment

•        Use networked services

•        Work with others

Generic Competencies

Generic competencies have a key impact in the working environment, and can be seen as being essential in the development of a workforce that is adaptable and flexible. It means a workforce that can apply skills and knowledge in response to the varied requirements of the individual requirements of an organisation. Generic skills are also known as 'transferable', 'core', 'cross-curricular', 'foundation', 'transition' and 'basic skills'.

The importance of generic competencies first came into prominence with the 1984 Karmel Committee report that considered the development of strategies to raise the standards achieved by primary and secondary students in communication, literacy and numeracy. It was in this report that the concept of 'generic competencies' was discussed.

In 1991 the Finn Committee Report (Australian Education Council. Review Committee. and Finn 1991) listed 6 employment-related 'Key Areas of Competence' that contribute to lifelong learning and development.

Communication - Speaking, listening, reading, writing, accessing and using information

Mathematics - Computation, measurement, understanding mathematical symbols

Scientific and technological Understanding - Understanding scientific and technological concepts, skills and their cultural and social impact

Cultural Understanding - Australian context, global issues and the world of work

Problem Solving - Analysis, critical thinking, decision-making, creative thinking, skills transfer to new contexts

Personal and Interpersonal Characteristics - Personal management, negotiating, team skills, initiative, leadership, adaptability to change, self-esteem, ethics

Mayer Competencies

The Mayer Committee was established, in 1992, (Australian Education Council. Mayer Committee, Mayer et al. 1992) to explore and develop the generic competencies framework further. The brief was to translate the key areas, as discussed in the Finn Report, into an established list of generic or common competencies. In his report Mayer made particular reference to the complexity of modern workplaces, with the move away from specialised jobs to flattened structures and broadly defined roles. In response to this report key competencies are now embedded in and developed as part of the curriculum of many courses, including the Diploma in Library and Information Studies.

'The Key Competencies are not new. In fact they are what trainers and employers have always valued - they are the abilities that make individuals 'stand out' because they are effective and productive, because they are doing a great job.' (Senyk 1997)

Table 5: Mayer's Key Competencies


Key competency



Collecting, analyzing and organising information

The capacity to locate information, sift it and sort information in order to select what is required and present it in a useful way, and evaluate both the information itself and the sources and methods used to obtain it.

Establish the purpose for collecting information

Identify possible sources of information

Locate, sift and sort information in order to select what is required

Organize and, if necessary present information in a useful way

Evaluate the information, its source, and methods used to obtain it

Communicating ideas and information

The capacity to communicate effectively with others using the range of spoken, written, graphic and other non-verbal means of expression.

Communicate effectively with others in a two way process

Identify purpose, audience and the context

Use communication which is clear, concise and coherent

Planning and organising activities

The ability to plan and organize one's own work activities, including making god use of time and resources, arranging priorities and monitoring your performance.

Identify, develop and clarify goals

Plan and prioritise activities

Make good use of time and resources

Review progress and work quality

Solving problems

The capacity to apply problem-solving strategies in purposeful ways, both in situations where the problem and the desired solution are clearly evident and in situations requiring critical thinking and a creative approach to achieve and outcome.

Clarify and define a problem

Explore possible strategies and solutions

Apply strategies to achieve the desired outcome

Evaluate the outcomes and the process

Using Technology

The capacity to apply technology, combining the physical and sensory skills needed to operate equipment with the understanding of scientific and technological principles needed to explore and adapt systems.

Understand the nature, purpose and use of technology to achieve a given outcome

Select and use technology

Evaluate technology

Working with others and in Teams

The capacity to interact effectively with other people both on a one to one basis and in groups, including understanding and responding to the needs of a client and working effectively as a member of a team to achieve a shared goal.

Clarify what can be achieved by working with others

Take other perspectives and needs into account

Identify and agree on roles and responsibilities

Contribute and interact effectively to meet team and organisational goals

Using Mathematical ideas and techniques

The capacity to use mathematical ideas, such as number and space, and techniques, such as estimation and approximation, for practical purposes.

Establish the purpose for any mathematical technique so that the best one can be chosen and applied

Apply mathematical ideas and techniques

Check the outcome to ensure that it makes sense and evaluate the process

Defining the skills

Analysis of the workplace guidelines, library and generic competencies was undertaken to facilitate the extraction of the skills and knowledge into a 'generic' format that could be used when considering alternative career pathways. This is essential to better inform non-library employers of the value of the skills available. Combining the library skills with the general skills offers a solid framework for the identification of transferable skills

Note: the term 'management' includes all functional elements (such as processes and procedures) that contribute to the activity.

Table 6: Defining the skills

Library and Information Skills

General skills

  1. Collect, record and organise information
  2. Database management
  3. Organise, maintain and manage materials and resources
  4. Customer services
  5. Client services
  6. Staff supervision and management
  7. Operational management (including budgeting)
  8. Policy and procedures management
  9. Services management
  10. Project management
  11. Technology (including systems, hardware and software use)
  12. Training and education
  13. Marketing and promotions (including presentations)
  14. Research
  15. Multimedia and audio-visual equipment management and use
  1. Interpersonal skills
  2. Communication skills, written and oral
  3. Information technology, (including use of packages such as email, word-processing, spreadsheets, and desktop publishing)
  4. IT maintenance
  5. File transfer and file management
  6. Perform complex tasks under pressure
  7. Team work
  8. Staff management and leadership skills
  9. Decision-making
  10. Time management
  11. Organisational skills
  12. Work independently
  13. Capacity to cope with change

Newspaper job analysis


The third stage of the study was aimed at providing an identification of how the broad skills and knowledge listings could be applied in the process of job location. To achieve this a two-month survey of job advertisements in key national newspapers was carried out between July-September 2000.


Five national newspapers were chosen based on the following selection criteria:

  1. Population based >1 000 000
  2. High possibility of broad diversity in positions within available timeframe
  3. Saturday editions selected for strength in employment advertising

The five papers selected were:

  1. Sydney Morning Herald
  2. The Melbourne Age
  3. The Courier Mail (Brisbane)
  4. The Adelaide Advertiser
  5. The West Australian

All employment listings in each of the Saturday editions of these papers were assessed with criteria for ad selection based on a seventy-five per cent minimum match to:

  1. Skills and knowledge criteria directly linked to library skills and knowledge.
  2. Skills and knowledge indirectly linked to library skills and knowledge (broad competencies).

Positions assessed were not traditional library roles, although positions within libraries were included if they offered non-traditional responsibilities. Limitations with this component of the study were the inability to follow an ad through to a successful outcome, including application, interview, and appointment. The result of this is that any indication of suitability in regards to these roles is purely hypothetical. What is available should be used as a data source of potential possibilities for consideration.

An approach was made to employers to discuss the positions advertised, and the potential for library technicians to be considered as suitable applicants. There was negligible response to this and the feedback was insufficient to develop verifiable data. Future research into this area could perhaps focus principally on this area in order to gain valued insight into employers' perceptions.

Collected ads were collated into broad occupational categories:

  • Information
  • Bookshops/Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Research
  • Technology (Internet/Web/Systems)
  • Database
  • Records
  • Administration
  • Training
  • Miscellaneous

As this was a qualitative analysis of available job ads, where there was duplication of ad types, and this was particularly so within the administrative and customer service areas, key ads were selected to indicate type of roles available.

Appendix 4 provides a full listing of all selected ads identifying key responsibilities, and skills and knowledge requirements. Where available pay rates are also supplied.

Further sources

In addition to the job ad analysis, alternative role titles have also been sourced from the literature search and from recruitment agencies. In the case of the latter this included information gained from 9 months personal experience as a Consultant with a specialist Library and Information recruitment firm (Zenith Management Services) in 1999 - 2000. These sources do not identify key responsibilities or knowledge and skills requirements but are simply offered as a further resource of job titles.

In May 2000 at a tri-state Library Technician workshop in Mildura, NSW, I presented a session on the job market for library technicians. This session offered a list of alternate roles that Zenith Management Services had been involved with in the previous twelve months: April 1999 - April 2000

  • Audiovisual and Learning Resources Assistant
  • Research and Policy Project Officer
  • Community Development Worker - Information Services
  • Loose Sheet Filing Clerk
  • Data Coordinator
  • Data Manager
  • Document Analysts
  • Database Coordinator
  • Information and Resources Officer
  • Web-Site Coordinator
  • Information Architect
  • Marketing and Research Coordinator
  • Information Coordinator
  • Knowledge Assistant
  • Information Researcher
  • Picture Researcher
  • Information Technology Coordinator
  • Copy Processing Officer (required cataloguing skills)
  • Intranet/Internet Administrator
  • Community Liaison and Information Officer
  • Legal Research Officer
  • Publications Officer
  • Medical Information Associate
  • Trade Mark Searchers
  • Research Assistant
  • Systems Facilitator
  • Research/Administration Officer
  • Analyst (Internet)
  • Project Officer
  • Subscription Department Manager
  • Document Controller

Similarly, at a 'Successful Job Interviews' workshop, held in October 1999 by the ALIA NSW Library Technician group, Library Locums (a specialist Library recruitment agency) indicated the following non-library roles that had been handled by the agency.

  • Bibliographic Editor
  • Customer Liaison/Support Officer
  • Desktop Publisher
  • Encoder
  • Help Desk Assistant
  • Information Coordinator
  • Internet Assistant
  • Internet Consultant
  • Internet Coordinator
  • Internet Researcher
  • Internet Trainer
  • Patent Searcher
  • Research Officer
  • Software Trainer
  • Survey Consultant (conducts information assessment surveys)
  • Web Page Designer
  • Web Publishing Officer

The relevance and importance of this lies in the fact that employers used these specialist library and information agencies to locate suitable candidates for the diverse positions. Library technicians are qualified and capable of filling any of these positions but often do not consider applying, perhaps because the position does not have an identifiable title that enables them to link their library specific skills and knowledge to the requirements of the position.

In 'Extending the Librarians Domain', (Horton 1994) Horton reflects on this in relation to professional librarians

'The positions themselves are not formally and explicitly titled 'librarian' or even 'information professional' but rather are described and characterized in broader, functional terms not tied to classic librarianship positions, or even to modern information professional positions. Nor are the positions located in traditional library settings such as public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries or special libraries whether in the public or private sector. '

Horton continues to identify potential barriers, including the writing style, language, and keywords used which do not reflect traditional library terms, higher salaries and the fact that the ads are run in channels that lie outside those traditionally sourced by librarians looking for employment. Fear of failure, intimidation and the perception that they are not worthy of the role and/or the salary are all also contributory factors to job limitations.

A report titled 'Information professionals in Australia: Expanding Horizons' by J Michael Brittain (1996) also offers a review of available literature, skills listings and a quantitative analysis of job advertisements. In his report Brittain also utilised job categories that were originally established in a British report (Moore 1987). The aim was to identify the range of employment skills markets as this offers a method for thinking broadly across the information market rather than within the traditional 'library' sector.

Information work: jobs which require the traditional skills of an information worker and are usually based within an information unit or service

Research and Information: jobs which, in addition to information work, require, a fairly substantial element of research work including, for example, a collection of data from non-documentary sources

Information technology: jobs which primarily concern the use and application of information technology (where technology, rather than information is the focus)

Information and Abstracting: jobs which require traditional indexing and abstracting skills, including those jobs with an element of technical writing

Servicing the information industry: jobs in organisations which service and support the overall information industry, such as bookselling and publishing aimed at the library and information market, bibliographic database suppliers, and library automation services.

Advice work: these jobs include a whole range of advisory jobs, from general consumer and citizen's advice to specialist careers and legal advisory centers

Public Relations: includes those jobs which advertise for an information officer, and which involve the sorts of skills of an information worker, although this link is often tenuous

Management of Information: jobs which primarily concern the provision of information about the internal operations of an organisation used as the basis for decision making (knowledge management)

Records Management: jobs which primarily involve the organisation, storage and retrieval of files and other documentary records related to the work of an organisation

Matching skills to positions

The aim of the study was always to establish a method of identification and matching of skills and knowledge to the broader employment market. It is fair to say that success or otherwise will still be dependant on the individual's ability to market themselves in this broader market. One of the main difficulties, however, lies in recognising and matching skills held to the essential requirements of a position. I do not intend to discuss resume preparation or effective interview techniques. Numerous resources are already available to assist with this component of career planning.

In the following table key functional skills and knowledge as identified in the skills analysis are listed along with possible Actions that can be applied to these areas. This reflects the suggestion in the literature search that library technicians need to use 'action verbs' to better understand and describe what they do. There are many more 'action verbs' that could be applied. These have been selected on the basis of dominant use in skills analysis and job advertisements.

Table 7


Functional Skills and Knowledge

Action Verbs

  • Collect, record and organise information
  • Database management
  • Organise, maintain and manage materials and resources
  • Customer services
  • Client services
  • Staff supervision and management
  • Operational management (including budgeting)
  • Policy and procedures management
  • Services management
  • Project management
  • Technology (including systems, hardware and software use)
  • Training and education
  • Marketing and promotions (including presentations)
  • Research
  • Multimedia and audio-visual equipment management and use




















The combination of these elements offers a matching of the requirements of a non-library position to the skills held by an individual.

For example the following requirements have been extracted from the job survey. These advertisements were for non-library roles.

  • Interpret client requests
  • Develop and conduct training
  • Maintain and develop the records management tools
  • Manage flow of information and enquiries received
  • Provide information and advice to students
  • Develop, design, produce and disseminate quality aged specific information
  • Conduct research on a clients' behalf
  • Handle a busy information desk
  • Maintain database
  • Provide high-level research
  • Customer service to internal and external customers
  • Responsible for the day-to-day supervision of a team of Advisory officers
  • Provide customer service within a team environment
  • Improve database accuracy
  • Apply subject heading to news stories for storage in electronic databases
  • Maintain filing systems and databases
  • Coordinate and maintain intranet web site
  • Ability to resolve operational issues quickly and work effectively under pressure
  • Knowledge of principles and practice of information management and dissemination

As we have discussed, generic skills support the individual in the workplace and they will generally be a stated requirement of any position. Doubt about position suitability often arises through a lack of awareness that these are skills held by the majority of individuals, developed through formal training and life experience. In job advertisements they will be listed similar to the following examples which have been selected from the job advertisements:

  • Team worker
  • Time management skills
  • Excellent communication
  • Organised person
  • Ability to show initiative
  • Demonstrated analytical problem solving
  • Excellent interpersonal/communication skills
  • Ability to plan and operate independently
  • Willingness to learn
  • Initiative

Transferring the skills

There are alternate opinions on the ability to transfer skills and knowledge to different environments. It can be acknowledged, however, that the success of transfer will be linked to the proficiency level attained at the time of the initial development of the skills, knowledge or attitudes (Misko 1995 p15). For educators this emphasises a need to ensure that the opportunity exists, throughout a course, for continuing skills and knowledge consolidation and practice.

'Transfer cannot happen without teachers or trainers providing some signposts along the way. That is, drawing student's attention to how new information connects to existing knowledge and giving some guidelines as to how skills learnt in the classroom or training room can be transferred to problem solving in the work place.' (Misko 1995 p 26)

In addition Misko's study also identifies a range of other factors that contribute to successful skills transfer:

  1. Motivation
  2. Confidence
  3. Task similarity and familiarity
  4. Intellectual ability
  5. Opportunity for practice

Whether an individual can undertake new roles will depend on a combination of all of these. There are no guarantees that can be applied across a broad spectrum and for the individual this reflects back to a responsibility to maintain and develop skills and knowledge continuously for ongoing and successful career opportunity.

Crossing the line: A survey of Library Technicians in alternate roles


In early 2000 an email was posted to the ALIA Libtec listserv requesting contact from individuals who were currently in, had been in or knew of people working in positions that were not traditional library roles (such as circulation, reference, serials, acquisitions or cataloguing). Network connections were also used to identify individuals who were then approached directly. Originally, I had hoped to include trips to the capital cities to interview these people in person, however, due to personal job opportunities late in 1999 and throughout 2000, I was unable to undertake this trip. To counteract this a questionnaire was developed aimed at gaining insight into:

  1. Reasons for a career shift
  2. Roles and responsibilities
  3. Personal advice and suggestions to library technicians

Eleven library technicians responded to the questionnaire with titles ranging from Intelligence Officer to Publications and Information Officer. Of interest was that there was no obvious correlation between the amount of library experience held by the respondents and the decision to take on new roles. New graduates as well as experienced library technicians responded who had explored 'crossing the line'. There was also general agreement on the skills that supported the transfer and the opportunities that the move provided.

Analysis of the survey was done after the broad skills and knowledge listings had been established. The aim of this was to consider the similarity between the skills and knowledge identified by the respondents to the skills identified in the broad analysis. The survey also offered insight into the library specific skills that respondents found had supported their transfer.

The following represents a summary of the key responses. Appendix 3 records the responses of individuals to all questions.

Table 8: Library Technician Survey - key responses


Reason for move

  • Need for challenge/change
  • Available opportunity
  • Promotion and/or skills development
  • Financial; salary benefits
  • Climate

Library Specific Skills

  • Customer Service
  • Serials Management
  • Research/Reference/analytical skills
  • Information organisation (including cataloguing and classification, database development)
  • Knowledge and use of databases
  • Staff supervision
  • Indexing
  • Web Searching
  • Project Management
  • Training
  • Knowledge of Copyright
  • Records Management
  • Displays and Promotions
  • Library Technology

Generic Skills

  • Customer Relations/Client Service
  • Communication - oral and written
  • Computer /Information Technology
  • Web skills - HTML, design
  • Working in a Team
  • Leadership
  • Analytical skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Telephone techniques
  • Administration
  • Negotiation
  • Time Management
  • Meeting skills
  • Business Planning
  • Assertiveness
  • Conflict Resolution

Personal Benefits

  • Career development - expanded opportunities
  • Skills development
  • Financial
  • Job satisfaction - diversity of work
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Flexible work conditions
  • Opportunity to identify personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Greater challenge
  • Opportunity to express creativity
  • Maintaining a link to libraries
  • Increased recognition of contribution to the organisation

Professional Benefits

  • Expanded knowledge of the broader information industry
  • Increased skills development
  • Opportunity for further study
  • Increased autonomy and responsibility
  • Professional recognition and reputation for ability to achieve work outcomes
  • Enhanced communication skills
  • Opportunity to develop project management skills
  • Development of technical writing skills
  • Ongoing involvement with the rapid change in technology
  • Opportunity to promote Library Technician's to a wider market
  • Increased opportunity for professional networking

The above represents a breakdown summary only. Reading of the individual responses is recommended for a more concise representation of the reasons for change, the benefits and elements to consider. All respondents reflected positively on the experience, whilst also recognising the need to consider all the pros and cons of a move. There is no sense that it has been a negative experience or that it prevents a move back into libraries. In fact for some it has been an 'opportunity' to experience and develop new skills that may prove useful in future traditional library positions.

Overall changing roles offered these library technicians increased self-confidence and faith in their ability to take on new challenges and meet expectations. In their words...Go for it!


Change is never an easy process. This is even more so now when we are being asked to deal with it in so many different forms. Changing direction and roles requires a shift in perception and a willingness to consider the known in new, different and at times, unique ways.

Success is not something that can be guaranteed, particularly in the context of a study such as this. It will be dependant on the individual and their ability to assess and market their skills to a broader audience.

The career opportunities are there, originating from a diverse range of sections. Whilst this study concentrates on the print media, it is important for career development to consider all possible resources including your own personal networks, the Internet (including web, email and newsgroups) and recruitment agencies.

For the individual:

  • Analyse formal education, positions held and experience gained
  • Identify skills, knowledge and attitudes
  • Determine areas that may require new skills development and initiate a personal development plan
  • Market your abilities in generic terms to the employer you see as being the next step in your 'career path'.
  • Take risks

'Employability is having the right mix of general skills and knowledge, together with one or more specialist skills for which there is a market need.' (Johnston 2000 p60)

In the survey of library technicians the following statement highlights the intention held at the time of the original proposal submission:

Flap your wings, put your toe in the water, you may end up soaring with the eagles, and by that I mean you will extend yourself and gain so many new skills that you will end up doing things you may have previously considered out of reach, and/or beyond your capabilities. Do not be swayed by others who consider you may not be able to do the job, listen to those who do encourage and support.

Appendix 1

Library Industry Competency Standards

Mapped to TAFE Course Units (Arts Training Australia, 1996)


Competency Units

Module Name

Assist clients to access library's services and facilities.

The Information Industry

Information as A Product

Multimedia Equipment Usage

Intro to Instruction in Library Use

Literature and Library User

Community Information and Networking

Client Groups and Information Needs

Australian Political Process and Info

Dealing with Customers and Clients

Respond to requests from other information providers for material

Lending Services 1

Database Searching and Retrieval

Contribute to promotion and programs and activities for clients

Library Promotion and Display 2

Deliver training

The Information Industry

Contribute to the acquisition of information

Library Ordering Procedures

Accession and process information

Bibliographic Control

Materials Receipt

Database Searching and Retrieval

Coordinate activities of a small area of small work group

OH and S for the Library Industry

Managing Effective Working Relationships

Work Team Communication

Obtain material from remote sources for clients.

Basic Reference Skills

Lending Services 2

Contribute to client access to information

Basic Reference Skills

Lending Services 2

Provide promotion and programs and activities for clients

Promoting An Information Agency

Acquire and process information for access

Library Acquisitions

Assist with circulation services

Lending Services 1

Undertake cataloguing activities

Bibliographic Description and Access

Library Classification

Subject Access

Maintain accessibility of information

Basic Reference Skills

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Maintain service area environment, resources and equipment

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Preservation of Materials

OH and S Management in the Library Industry

Client Interaction

Contribute to effective working relationships

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Managing Self

Maintain own work, work performance and learning

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Managing Self

Managing Operations - Change

Organise and coordinate work activities

Research Sources and Strategies

Managing An Information Agency Environment

OH and S Management in the Library Industry

Organise and coordinate the work of others

Managing An Information Agency Environment

OH and S Management in the Library Industry

Provide research assistance

Research Project

Provide clients with access to required information

Research Sources and Strategies

Client Education and Training

Research Project

Specialist Info. Resource Dev. and Access

Client Interaction

Provide training

Client Education and Training

Client Interaction

Assist with programs, activities and promotion

Library Promotion and Display 1

Establish and maintain consultation with client groups

Information Access for Client Groups

Research Project

Client Interaction

Promote the library and library services

Promoting An Information Agency

Provide client education

Client Education and Training

Client Interaction

Coordinate selection and acquisition of information

Collection Development

Contribute to collection development

Collection Development

Organise information for client access

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Research Project

Specialist Info. Resource Dev. and Access

Catalogue and classify material

Library Classification

Subject Access

Cataloguing Procedures

Value Added Information Services

Analyse and describe material

Indexing and Abstracting

Improve accessibility of information

Research Sources and Strategies

Research Project

Value Added Information Services

Manage maintenance of library environment

Managing An Information Agency Environment

User Needs Analysis

Assist in making information accessible for clients

The Information Industry

Information Literacy

Intro to Instruction in Library Use

Database Searching and Retrieval

Literature and Library User

Community Information and Networking

Client Groups and Information Needs

Australian Political Process and Info

Maintain and modify technological applications in the library

Client Education and Training

Value Added Information Services

Contribute to the planning and acquisition of computer systems

Managing An Information Agency Environment

User Needs Analysis

Manage own work, development and learning

OH and S Management in the Library Industry

Value Added Information Services

Managing Self

Managing Operations - Change

Collect, analyse and evaluate information for research

Research Project

Process and prepare information for access

Collection Maintenance

Assist with the maintenance of service area

Collection Maintenance

Library Promotion and Display 1

Multimedia Equipment Usage


Dealing with Customers and Clients

Dealing with Conflict

Assist in the provision of a safe library environment

Multimedia Equipment Usage

OH and S for the Library Industry

Dealing with Customers and Clients

Work with others

Managing Effective Working Relationships

Dealing with Conflict

Work Team Communication

Contribute to own work performance and learning

The Information Industry

Multimedia Equipment Usage

Working in the Information Industry

OH and S for the Library Industry

Spreadsheets 1

Dealing with Customers and Clients

Word Processing-Introduction

Managing Effective Working Relationships

Appendix 2

Museum and Library/Information Services - Industry Training Package CUL99

Mapped to TAFE Course Units 2001

Competency Units

Follow OH and S policies and procedures in the workplace to ensure own safety and that of others

Occupational Health and Safety

Manage personal work priorities and professional development

Personal Work Priorities

Establish and manage effective workplace relationships

Effective Workplace Relationships

Plan assessment

Plan Assessment

Conduct assessment

Conduct Assessment

Review assessment

Review Assessment

Train small groups

Train Small Groups

Assist clients to use an information service effectively

Assist Clients to Use An Information Service

Assist with the maintenance of service area

Assist with Maintenance of Service Area

Develop own information literacy skills

Information Literacy

Manage own work performance and learning

Manage Own Work Performance and Learning

Prepare, process and store resources

Collection Maintenance

Assist with circulation services

Lending Services 1

Assist with programs, activities and promotion

Library Promotion and Display 1

Participate in a work team

Work Team Communication

Use bibliographic methods

Use Bibliographic Methods

Accession and process resources

Materials Receipt

Contribute to promotional programs and activities for clients

Library Promotion and Display 2

Process orders

Library Ordering Procedures

Respond to requests from other information providers for material

Lending Services 2

Use multimedia equipment

Multimedia Equipment Usage

Contribute to client access to information

Basic Reference Skills

Contribute to effective working relationships

Effective Workplace Relationships

Develop and apply own information literacy skills in working with clients

Basic Reference Skills

Contribute to structuring bibliographic and other information systems

Contribute to Structuring Bibliographic

Contribute to structuring bibliographic and other information systems

Organise Information for Client Access

Manage own work, development and learning

Personal Work Priorities

Organise and coordinate work activities

Managing An Information Agency Environment

Use networked services effectively to provide access to information

Use Networked Services Effectively to PR

Use networked services effectively to provide access to information

Information Access - Systems Improvement

Acquire and process resources for access

Library Acquisitions

Maintain service area environment, resources and equipment

Maintain Service Area Environment Resources

Obtain information resources from remote sources for clients

Lending Services 2

Provide promotion and programs and activities for clients

Promoting An Information Agency

Undertake cataloguing activities

Undertake Cataloguing Activities

Contribute to the organisation and coordination of the work of others

Contribute to the Coordination of Work

Deliver information literacy programs for clients

Client Education and Training

Organise information for client access

Organise Information for Client Access

Provide clients with access to required information

Research Sources and Strategies

Analyse and describe material

Indexing and Abstracting

Catalogue and classify material

Bibliographic Description and Access

Library Classification

Subject Access

Cataloguing Procedures

Contribute to collection development

Collection Development

Develop and improve systems and processes to increase access to information

Information Access - Systems Improvement

Coordinate selection and acquisition of information

Collection Development

Establish and maintain consultation with, and promotion to, client groups

Client Groups-Consultation and Promotion

Lead a team

Lead or Facilitate Work Teams

Maintain and modify technological applications in the library

Library Technology Apps-Maintain and Modify

Manage maintenance of physical resources and environment

Physical Res and Environ-Maintain and Manage

Provide assistance for research and projects

Research Project

Communicate in the workplace

Writing Workplace Documents

Operate computer hardware

Computer Essentials

Operate computing packages

Computer Essentials

Spreadsheet Essentials

Database Essentials

Migrate to new technology

Migrate to New Use of Technology

Access the Internet

Exploring the Internet

Understanding the Internet

Improve customer relations

Dealing with Customers and Clients


Appendix 3

Library Technician Questionnaire - Roles beyond the Library



When did you complete your Library Technician qualifications?

  • 1997
  • 1997
  • 1990
  • 1996
  • 1998
  • 1993
  • 1986/ upgrade 1990
  • 1985
  • 1982
  • 1985
  • 1990

Have you worked in a traditional library environment? If yes for how long in total?

  • Approx 5 years
  • 5 years
  • 11 years
  • 3 years
  • 10 months
  • 13 years
  • 10 years
  • 15 years
  • 8 years
  • 13 years
  • 11 years

What is/was the title of your alternate position?

  • Account Services Manager
  • Intelligence officer
  • a) OHSandW Consultant; 
    b) OHSandW Consultant/Rehabilitation Coordinator; 
    c) Injury prevention and training Consultant (now Risk Management Development Consultant)
  • Project Supervisor --kReady (Subscriptions Supplier)
  • a) Records Manager (Local Council) 
    b) Software Support
  • Project Officer - AEShareNet (Copyright project)
  • Contractor (non-specific title)
  • Records Policy and Training Coordinator
  • Special Projects Officer; Client Services Manager; Academic Consultant and Marketing Manager
  • Personal Assistant/Office Manager
  • Publications and Information Officer, University

How long have/did you hold this position?

  • 6 months
  • 12 months (acting)
  • a) 2.5yrs; b) 1 yr c) 3 yrs
  • 2 years
  • a) 1 year b) 7 months
  • 4 months
  • 5 year period (self-employed)
  • 2 years (records positions for 4 years)
  • 5 years - total
  • 1 year
  • 5 years

What are/were the responsibilities of this position?

  • Customer Liaison
  • Provide confidential info from Govt/Non-govt agencies to investigators; ensure privacy and confidentiality provisions are adhered to; Identify new info resources; preliminary analysis of data; provide timely and efficient service
  • Management of OHSandW/Rehabilitation; ensure all State health units achieve required accreditation; Develop/deliver state wide training program in OHSandW; undertake internal audits, develop strategic business plans, provide advice/support
  • Create contents database; develop new projects/services; facilitate project starts; client and publisher liaison
  • a) Records mgmt and Team Leader; daily operations; indexing and registration of inwards and outwards correspondence; implementation/training of staff part with digital imaging of documents; coordination of rescue/repackaging of paper documentation
    b) Technical writer of support notes, online info and training documents for RM system; Software trainer; provide support and help desk assistance to clients
  • Project management, database testing, database creation and data entry; materials collection; copyright clarification; marketing; electronic records management
  • Creating retention/disposal schedules; allocating file titles/numbering systems; records disposal; RM training; participation in information sessions
  • Development/implementation of sector wide records mgmt practices (govt); government thesaurus development and management; promotion/training and provision of advice
  • Academic consultant; training; sales; marketing
  • Records management; research; book-keeping; word processing; client liaison
  • Design/layout of Faculty print and online publications; arrange printing and distribution; maintain Faculty website; coordinate Faculty Open Days; contribute to marketing strategies; support staff with publications advice and assistance

What was the reason for your decision to move into an alternative role?

  • Opp to expand customer related skills; better Salary
  • chance for greater autonomy in the workplace
  • promotion opp; identified need to do something new
  • previous org did not support personal growth; lack of promotion opp; personal interest in OHSandW
  • Climate based- awareness of position through networks - applied remotely
  • Totally financial - inability to secure permanent library work and frustration with application interview processes; despite no previous records Management experience was successful in gaining RM position (Employment National)
  • Workplace change, job dissatisfaction, need for challenge
  • Network contact initially - a 'help-out' role which grew as client base developed
  • Opportunity arose (approached re position); better pay; flexible working hours; confirmation that RM was seen as being important
  • Advancement and opportunity to develop new skills
  • Opportunity - job available at the time of 'early retirement'
  • To focus on publication design and layout - test opportunity for future career directions; prompted by a lack of recognition or acknowledgement of the value of contribution to previous organisation's objectives

Can you identify the specific skills/knowledge gained from your Library Technician qualification and any subsequent library practice that were transferable to the alternative role.

  • Customer contact experience; Serials mgmt; ILS experience; client appreciation of library knowledge
  • Research/analytical skills; computer skills are essential; ability to organise information in a useful and retrievable format; knowledge and understanding of legislation (part Privacy, Corp and ASIC Acts)
  • Customer service; research; computing, database knowledge and use; ILL; reference, displays, student orientation (training); special projects; bibliography; cataloguing
  • Reference; web searching
  • 5.Technical knowledge of databases; indexing; classification structures, components of systems analysis; problem solving; implementing change; research skills; internet skills; archiving practices
  • Client services; communication; cataloguing/classification/abstracting skills; knowledge and experience with copyright requirements; project and marketing skills; technology skills
  • Cataloguing; subject heading allocation; indexing skills; research skills; questioning/interview skills;
  • Client service; search and retrieval skills, research; analytical skills; classification skills; information technology and database skills; knowledge of the information management environment
  • Research skills; communication skills, training of others; culture of previous library roles encouraged and supported new skills, regardless of formal qualification which laid a solid foundation of valuing skills and ability
  • ALL skills and knowledge accrued during library practice have contributed to effectiveness in current role; practical areas are records management; research; word processing
  • Computing skills; attention to detail; qualities of well designed, accessible, information resources; online user interface design; knowledge of copyright principles; awareness of the breadth and scope of collected knowledge

Can you identify which generic skills (ie communication) were applicable/transferable to this position?

  • 1.Customer relations; telephone manner;
  • Communication/interpersonal essential to liaison role with investigators and external agencies; negotiation skills, ability to work and communicate as part of a team; training
  • Communication, interpersonal skills, aggression mgmt; meetings; minute taking; team work; analytical skills; telephone skills understanding people; consultation
  • Communication, HTML. Computer skills; supervision; assertiveness training; telephone techniques
  • Communication and interpersonal skills for team leading; reference interview; technical writing and reports; training, presentation and seminar skills; listening skills; problem solving
  • Written and oral communication, administration skills; client service, people skills; team skills; leadership skills; time management, personal computing
  • Word processing; database management; oral and written communications
  • Client service; written and oral communication skills; basic information technology and database skills; business planning and analysis skills
  • Communication; training (formal and one-on-one)
  • Communication; assertiveness; conflict resolution are applicable to all positions
  • Communication; positive customer service attitude; observation and situation analysis skils; patience and tolerance

Would you consider or have you made a move back into a traditional library position?

  • Yes, but dependant on autonomy and salary level. Must match and this is not seen as likely!
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
  • n/a
  • Yes
  • Unlikely
  • Yes
  • Cannot be discounted!
  • Yes and No....

If yes, Why?

  • No particular reason but currently enjoying position
  • Misses aspects of library work; important to keep skills up-to-date
  • Offered permanent position - suited requirements at that time
  • If position offered with suitable seniority, provided a challenge and the opportunity for further advancement
  • Financial, but only if alternative positions were not available; (disenchanted by erosion of LT role in library services)
  • Library staff are fired by the passion to ignite people's imagination and to help them find answers to their questions

If no, Why?

  • Moved beyond library work in skills and knowledge; lack of currency in library skills
  • Salary levels; shift work requirements; autonomy; challenge and excitement of working with new technologies; travel opportunities
  • Role is based within specialist service 'Infospec' which is closely linked to the library
  • Current position seniority would require shift/extended hours of work; non-flexible work schedules; consider that RM is a more dynamic area of Info Mgmt than libraries at present.
  • lack of scope for development of broad desktop publishing skills. Poor remuneration commensurate with talent/capabilities.

What have been the benefits to you personallyfrom moving into this/these position/s?

  • Mostly financial (and less time on public transport)
  • Greater understanding of organisation structures; broader view of working in the information industry (don't need to just work in libraries)
  • Expanded career development; constant skills development; more responsibility; passionate about the work; job satisfaction
  • Increased self-confidence from adapting to change in personal and professional surroundings; younger outlook based on staff age demographics of previous and current position
  • Recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses and preferred role types; development of career path incorporating required skills training; awareness pf EEO principles; increased self-confidence; recognition of ability to map career paths; presentation and training skills; being part of emerging technologies in information management
  • Greater challenge; skills development opportunity; further development of project mgmt skills; networking; marketing; being part of a national project; autonomy (sole operator for the project in state); being able to get on with the job
  • Flexible working hours; financial benefits of contract work; taxation benefits; opportunity to learn other useful skills
  • Flexible working conditions; high pay, increased promotional opportunities; diversity of work; high level of personal input into design and goals of the job; opportunity to work with people from all government areas
  • Provision of challenges not available in libraries; business planning skills development; maintaining links to libraries; funding for skills and knowledge development; travel (at times!)
  • Opportunity express creativity; increased recognition of contribution to organisation; Dollar value!
  • Better financial rewards; more suitable working hours

What have been the benefits professionally from moving into this/these position/s?

  • Knowledge of another aspect of the industry; Enhanced skills base; Professional networking opp;
  • Skills in range of databases; new avenue for further study; network opportunity with other Intelligence officers and gov't agencies. Expanded knowledge of key legislation
  • Professional recognition and reputation for ability to achieve work outcomes; recognised workplace training and assessment qualification
  • Increased communication skills; knowledge of supplier useful if return to library work eventuates
  • Scope for new skills and knowledge development; project managements skills; technical writing skills development; client liaison responsibility; change management skills and knowledge; continued library and info mgmt networking opportunities through conferences, seminars
  • Acknowledgement of LT ability/competence to hold positions equivalent to Librarian; acknowledgement from management that positions can be 'skills' based not qualification based
  • Opportunity to promote LT skills to wider market; networking opportunity - useful contacts; career planning opp. - recognise jobs that didn't suit; more employable through the wider range of skills available to potential employers
  • Expansion of processional skills in info mgmt; opportunity to participate in rapidly evolving area of professional work, particularly with electronic records
  • Overlap with personal benefits; Training
  • Having decided to move from the professional mainstream (retirement) unable to identify appropriate benefits
  • Desktop publishing/computer skills development; broader knowledge of design applications; opportunities for developing 'online' layout and design skills

Do you have any advice for library technicians considering a move?

  • Do it! Gain is worth the risk, even for contract work and the benefits can provide valuable contacts
  • Try other positions to identify individual niche that suits the individual
  • Plan the move; take leave of absence to explore possibilities; never forget the skills learnt as they can assist in transition;
  • Continue education and professional development; remain current with skills required for the workplace now; If the move doesn't work you can always change back
  • If unhappy or there is no scope for career development, skills enhancement or performance rewards then Go For It!
  • If you have reasonable chance of measuring up for the job (75%) then Go for it - everything to gain and nothing to lose
  • Go for it! Even if only for a short time. The benefits outweigh the negatives
  • Opportunity to work in a variety of areas offers new challenges, and extends skills, knowledge and confidence; gaining experience within different facets of info mgmt provides a useful perspective and may lead to a holistic career in this area
  • Try it, don't be afraid; can always return to library work if it doesn't work out; return however with a greater understanding of the would outside libraries; need to be prepared to work non-standard hours at times
  • Go for it! This experience further support the concept of 'Change generating Change'; move has opened up greater opportunities
  • Leaving the politics of work aside, enjoy doing what you do well. Believe in yourself!

Appendix 4

Survey of Job Advertisements. July-September 2000

Job Title

Type of Organisation

Key Responsibilities

Key Skills




Information officer

IO Corporate Services

Gov't - Treasury

Records management processing;

Ministerial correspondence support; interpret client requests; undertake research; produce reports

Excellent communication and client services skills; effective team member

Courier Mail


$34 558-$38 539

IO Corporate Services

Govt - Treasury

Support andco-ordination for information/knowledge management; continuous quality improvement, service delivery and client relationships; interpret client requests; develop and conduct training

Excellent communication and client services skills; ability to analyse computerised systems

Courier Mail


$40 864-$44 934

Information Resources Officer (P/T) (Fixed Term)

Iluka Resources

Maintain and develop the records management system and support tools (incl. Thesaurus, archiving, file management); utilise TRIM records management system

Experience in library or records management environment; demonstrated computer competency; eligibility for membership of RMAA or ALIA well regarded; 'A' Class drivers licence

West Aust'n



Information Officer

Institute of Languages

Reception; switchboard; marketing assistance

Good customer service skills; switchboard experience; ability to work as part of a team; demonstrated ability to liaise with people from diverse cultural backgrounds; knowledge of MS Office; office administrative experience; knowledge of EEO/AA principles



$33 990-$39 134

Senior Information Officer (P/T) (Casual On going)

Govt - Adelaide Goal

Assist in organisation and management of guided tours; administration; promotional activities




wk1: $497, wk2: $506

Communications Officer

Agency Ad

Managing flow of information and enquires received (from new Website); occasional attendance at information seminars and expos

Flexible; energetic; willing to learn and contribute as part of team to improvement/creative design of new website;

marketing and info systems skills; some exposure to web editing; recent tertiary qualifications in assoc areas highly regarded.




Membership Officer

Qld Writers Centre


Organised person; keen database skills; excellent phone manner; knowledge of Qld writing industry an advantage

Courier Mail



School and Workplace Visits Officers (Cont. and Fixed Term)

Griffith Uni

Promote the uni's courses to secondary schools, workplaces and other educational providers

wide knowledge of the education sector; public relations and public speaking experience

Courier Mail


Level 5

Field Coordinators (Temp)

Aust Bureau of Statistics

Management of census operations in assigned area; recruitment, training and management of large temporary workforce of up to 200

Management ability and experience in particular recruitment, training and management of large temporary workforce; well developed communication and liaison skills; ability to resolve operational issues quickly and work effectively under pressure; ability to administer a budget and work with limited supervision; ability to ensure security and confidentiality of Census materials; access to phone and secure car and current Qld driver's licence

Courier Mail



Information and Advisory Officer

Midland College of TAFE

Provide information and advice to students, staff, general public, other TAFE locations and govt agencies on enrolments and courses


West Aust'n


$33 730 -$37 476

Customer Support and Information Services Officer, (P/T)(Fixed Term)

Municipal Council

Customer support and internal admin

Methodical and accurate; high level of customer service; friendly, willing and courteous



$410-25 hr/week

$590-36 hr/week

Enquiry Officer-Complaints Unit

Health rights commission

First point of contact in relation to complaint enquires; high level of telephone work; recording of complaints on a database, facilitating direct resolution and referring clients to appropriate agencies

High level oral and written communication skills; proven research skills, qualities of confidentiality, fairness and diplomacy, ability to achieve objectives, meet deadlines and manage stress

Courier Mail


$33 725-$37 618

Team Members - Export Documentation


Ensure exports documentation processes are undertaken in accordance with Service Level Agreements; prepare export bills and invoices; identify and resolve any service difficulties

Demonstrated organisation skills; excellent communication and interpersonal skills; ability to work under pressure; strong customer service orientation

Courier Mail



Information Resource Officer

State Revenue Dept

Proved effective and efficient training and education service in use of departments information resources; coordinate activities of the information resources area

Proven leadership and team building skills; good communication skills; report writing; analytical and problem solving; ability to manage change; demonstrated ability to plan and maintain information systems; experience in keyword titling and thesaurus development, experience in developing information services procedures and experience in development and delivery of training

West Aust'n


$39 174-$41 583

Information Management Officer

Seniors Info Service SA Govt

Development, design, production and dissemination of quality aged specific information

Knowledge of principles and practice of information management and dissemination, familiar with CISA Infosearch database; ability to use computer technology in relation to information provision; qualifications and/or experience in library and information studies or the human services field essential



$35 274

Tourism Information Officer

Royal Botanical Gardens

Face to face enquires and taking in-house bookings

Demonstrated experience in disseminating information to visitors; providing high quality customer service

The Age



Membership Officer

Aust Vet Assoc

Maintain database, assist with website maintenance; answer membership enquires

Excellent customer service; administration skills, familiarity with databases and attention to detail



To $35 package

Information and Resources Officer

Vic Govt

Organise information resources to assist client managers in delivering business development services

Information management graduate; proficient communication and time management skills; interest in industry development and trends

The Age


$28 996-$41 078

Information Officer/Administrator

Victorian Innovation Centre

Handle busy information desk; co-ordinate and promote training seminars; assist with delivery of services and programs for innovators

Tertiary qualifications, good computer and secretarial skills; strong customer relations; administration experience; interest in new ideas and products

The Age




Research/Database, Interest in IT


Liaise with internal clients to conduct research on their behalf using global database; liaise with IT support staff; training

Degree (pref information management); min of 1-2 yrs research exp.; solid PC ability; problem solving skills; customer focused approach




Research Officer

WA Govt

Establish, maintain and collate data into research databases; conduct primary analyses for use by senior staff; prepare materials for reports on behalf of senior officers

Year 10; good verbal communication and interpersonal skill; demonstrated skills in the analysis of quantitative information; demonstrated skills in data collection and analysis using Excel and Access; demonstrated skills to produce reports; administrative skills and experience; demonstrated ability to work under pressure of time; work as team member

West Aust'n



Market Research


Full time supervisor in face to face department

Excellent communication skills; Word and Excel proficiency; people and time management skills; great organisational skills, enjoy a variety of tasks; work under pressure





Resource information Unit

Researcher for mining reference books and CD-ROMS

Good literacy and numeracy skills; computer literate; good typing speed; interest in geology and mining companies essential

West Aust'n



Research Officer Infrastructure Planning

WA Govt

Provide support for senior staff, mainly in a research capacity

Comfortable working in a team environment; effective communication skills; will developed research capabilities; highly organised; proficient Word, Excel, PowerPoint; desirable general knowledge of WA mineral resource sector

West Aust'n


Up to $40 563

Project Assistant


Preparation of reports and other documents; coordination of training courses; undertaking special projects; answering telephone enquires

Strong administrative capabilities; flair for customer service; excellent PC skills (W4W, 60 wpm, Excel); database management; pleasant confident phone manner



Up to $35 000

Project Support Officer

Qld Govt

Support for management of projects and information systems;

Sound knowledge or ability to gain of organisation, administrative and information systems and project management software including skills in the development and maintenance of computer based databases; generation of reports; ability to participate and support other in a team

Courier Mail


$34 558-$38 539

Research/ Administration Officer

Fed Govt

Provide high level or research and administrative assistance to Parliamentary Secretary; manage day-to-day operations of the Parliament House office

Ability to carry out research; writing ability and excellent verbal communication skills; manage a busy office; computer skills (esp. Word and Outlook); ability to relate to Minister and others; discretion and diplomacy at all times; display initiative with minimal supervision; degree an advantage

Courier Mail



Research Officer

NSW Govt

Responsible for undertaking research projects into the jurisdiction and administration of the Court; undertake specific research projects for Chief judge; research assistance to judges; maintain statistical and judgement databases' complete and analysis statistics

Research skills and experience; sound analytical and written oral and communication skills; management and supervisory skill; ability to undertake and prepare complex reports; ability to interpret and critically analyse statistical data; ability to work independently and part of a team; experience in use of computers and statistics as research tools



$45 545-$50 255

Student Services Officer

NSW Govt

Responsible for registration, enrolment and records of the Board's students at law

Experience in student administration or equivalent; skills and proficiency in Word, Excel and database; effective written and oral communication skills; well developed client service skills; commitment and capacity to work independently and to supervise the work of others in high volume environment



$38 583-$42 247

Customer Service

Customer Service Officer


Assist with processing of applications for admission to post grad and undergrad programs; production of correspondence; answering personal, phone and written inquiries; liaison with other sections of the Uni, govt departments and overseas agencies

Excellent oral and written communication; ability to establish work priorities and meet critical deadlines; accuracy and attention to detail; understanding of and sensitivity to issues related to international students; demonstrated capacity to wok in a team; keyboard proficiency; familiarity with computer databases; knowledge of EEO/AA principles



$33 069-$35 904

Client Services Officer

Fed Govt


Ability to work independently or in team environment; ability to interpret and apply a variety of les complex legislation, policies and procedures; sound communication and liaison skills; commitment to client services; ability to quickly acquire knowledge of departments business environment; relevant computer systems



$33 987 -$36 021

Customer Service Co-ordinator


Manage various accounts in dynamic customer-focused environment

Proven skills in customer service; problem solving; planning and meeting deadlines; ability to achieve high quality standards; excellent written and verbal communication skills; knowledge of MS programs and interest in IT industry




Customer Service Officer

WA Govt

Customer service to internal and external customers in provision of products and services of the Registration Services Branch; Information relating to other DOLA products and services

Ability to build and maintain positive relationships with customer service groups; good oral and written communication and negotiation skills; ability to effectively contribute in customer service orientated team; ability to use range of pc applications

West Aust'n


$34 632 - $41 013

Customer Services Officer

Local Govt

Front line customer service; administrative support


West Aust'n


$26 044 - $32 269

Customer Service/Support Officers (P/T)

Local Govt

Quality service and information to internal and external customers; promote council's services to clients in friendly and professional manner

Demonstrated knowledge of exceptional customer service principles; flexible forward thinking approach; superior written and verbal communication skills; ability to work within a team; flexibility and adaptability to work with multi disciplinary team; desirable - experience in Local Govt; computer knowledge; cash handling experience



$30 646 - $36 576

Customer Service Officer


Process claims and resolve enquiries

Effective communication, interpersonal and organisational skills; keyboard and basic numeracy skill; basic knowledge of the function of the Health Insurance Commission; contribute as a member of a team

Courier Mail


$15 187 - $35 217

Client Services Assistant


Assists the Admissions Manager; first point of contact for telephone, email, facsimile and front counter enquiries


Courier Mail


Level 3

Team Leader


Lead, motivate, support team to provide excellence in customer service; identify and analyse trends and provide professional advice on customer service provision

Knowledge of principles and application of Workplace Training and Assessment processes both on the job and off the job

Courier Mail


$47 351 - $51 465

Customer Relations Officers

Local Govt


Excellent communication and interpersonal skills; ability to remain calm and positive in a high pressure environment; ability to be flexible with work assignments and duties; good computer and keyboard skills

The Age


$31 900-$37 000

Team Leaders

Local Govt

Responsible for the day-to-day supervision of team of Advisory Officers and Admin staff; monitoring and management of individual, team and centre performance and providing leadership in all internal and external relationships

Proven ability to supervise customer service functions; well developed written and oral communication skills; ability to mange and develop staff; demonstrated ability to organise your tasks and work of others

Courier Mail


$55 552-$61 770

Client Services Manager (P/T)

Cancer Care Centre Inc

Train, support and manage volunteers; organise information accessed via the Centre's phone support lines; mange the library and resource facilities including the web site; coordinate the newsletter of the centre

Experience managing and supporting volunteers; experience in information management; experience in a community based organisation



Level 3

Customer Centre Supervisor

Local Govt

Provide customer service within the team environment; coordination of resources and provide leadership to the customer centre team

Experience in a call centre/customer centre; computer literate; effective communication skills; supervisory qualifications and experience with budgets an advantage

The Advertiser


$37 114 - $39 585

Customer Service Officer

Vic Govt


Customer service experience (pref retail);

ability to work as a team member; excellent interpersonal and communication skills, both verbal and written; knowledge of and experience in the use of computer database system and point of sale system; experience in administrative support activities; knowledge of the Department's responsibilities and activities; experience in preparing visual merchandising and promotional displays

The Age




Database Administrator


Improve database accuracy; co-ordinate the timely submission of data from wholesale participants

Experience in database; interest in music repertoire; good administration skills




Document Indexer



Excellent hand eye coordination; strong working knowledge of MS Access, Excel, Windows operating system; strong working knowledge of English; legible handwriting; strong written and oral communication skills; common sense




Database Clerk

Private Mining


Accuracy, speed, attention to detail; ability to work with limited supervision; computer literate, experience with relational databases an advantage; experience in exploration or mine field assistant work an advantage

West Aust'n



Administrative Services Officer

Fed Govt

Prepare publication data from a number of sources and format, for migration to a Document Management System using a variety of software packages; assist in the transfer and archiving of migration data as required; provide assistance in DMS training and carry our a range of administrative and clerical functions


The Age


$30 183-$33 472

Data Co-ordinator


Manage the data collection process; liaise with course providers, data entry and verification

Attention to detail; experience in records maintenance; MS office; knowledge of education sector; professional phone manner

The Age


Up to $35 000

Editorial Database Production Assistant


Data conversion and application of subject headings to all news stories for storage in electronic databases

Accuracy, speed (40wpm), attention to detail; time management; TAFE or uni grad; strong computer skills; previous experience using online databases in publishing or information services environment desirable; good general news knowledge; demonstrated interest in current affairs essential




Database maintenance


Customer care telephone follow-up; event tracking, updating and maintaining databases; liaising with sales

Customer service exp; hands on computing including database maintenance; meticulous approach for cross checking event calendars; outstanding communication skills

Courier Mail



Trainee Database and Admin

Private research

Learn and support senior database administrator

Motivation; ability to cooperate; flexibility and willingness to learn

The Age



Database Officer

Tertiary Education

Ensuring info entered into database is accurate, complete, up to date and performed in an effective manner; responsibility for advising on and running queries and reports for en-users; assisting in development of database quality and audit processes

Completed VCE; understanding of relational databases and data entry issues; demonstrated key board speed and accuracy; ability to show initiative; work as part of team

The Age


$31 845-$34 062

Register and Database Officer

Qld Govt

Control/update retrieval systems of cultural heritage places, respond to inquires; implement administrative procedures

Knowledge of Qld Heritage Act 1992; cultural heritage management concepts, procedures and statutory requirements; ability to participate in a team; demonstrated analytical problem solving/research skills

Courier Mail


$40 864 - $44 934

Data Entry/Administrator

Children's Cancer Institute

Receipting; reporting; maintenance and development

Experienced data entry; fantastic Access skills; teams skills; eye for detail




Database Production Assistant


Data conversion, and checking and application of subject headings to all news stories for storage in electronic databases

Accuracy, speed (40wpm), attention to detail; time management; TAFE or uni grad; experience using online databases and the internet; 1 or 2 yrs library, publishing or information services environment essential; good general knowledge; demonstrated interest in current affairs essential; PC and Mac; proficient using Excel, Word and Quark Express; excellent written and oral communication skills; lateral thinker




Admin/ student services

Assistant Administration Officer

Tertiary Education

Provide admin support to research director and academic staff; advice to students; class timetabling; design and maintenance of web pages; word-processing; spreadsheets; databases; reception duties; coordination of diaries

Associate diploma or equiv; high level of computer literacy; experience MS office; internet and email; organisational skills; clerical skills; office procedures; able to use web based software to update web pages; commitment to prevision of high standards of customer service; excellent oral and written communication; able to work independently; team player; flexible

Courier Mail


$37 899-$39 877

Course Administrator

Tertiary Education

Responsible for a group of courses; liaise with students concerning their application and enrolment; undertake financial transactions and manage record-keeping systems

Administration experience; use of management information systems; high level organisational and leadership skills; excellent communication; teamwork; interpersonal skills

The Age


$39 332-$42 456

Administrative Officer

Victorian Arts Centre

Responsible for the collation of information to support the business unit; production of event information guides; maintenance of the unit's records and databases; allocation of physical resources such as uniforms and security passes; admin support

Familiar with MS office including Access; strong numeracy skills; excellent written and oral communication; previous office administration exp. well regarded; ability to manage multiple tasks in a time critical environment

The Age



Clerical officer

Private Education

Responsible for maintenance of filing system and databases; preparation of documents; assisting in establishing and implementing office systems and supervision of reception

Process driven; excellent attention to detail; advance knowledge of MS Access and Word a; mini of 12 months esp. in similar role; customer focused understand and up hold the Anglican Schools Ethos

Courier mail



Student Liaison Officer (Job Share)

Tertiary Education

Provide support staff and students

Associate diploma or equiv, degree an advantage experience MS office and various database software; exp in tertiary sector highly desirable; high level of interpersonal skills; able to work independently; team player

Courier Mail


50% $16 454- $17 527

Clerical Officer - smartlink

Tertiary Education

Provide clerical and admin support to project team; responsible for the development and implementation of various activities associated with smartlink project

High level written communication skills; ability to implement modern office procedures and filing systems; understanding of high quality customer service; organisational ability; good interpersonal skills; team player; computing skills; experience in maintaining and manipulating a database



$26 984-$31 031

Co-ordinator Graduate Admissions

Tertiary Education

Develop marketing material; manage applications for admission; organise student orientation programs; tracking student progress

Excellent interpersonal/communication skills; ability to plan and operate independently; good negotiation skills; computer literate

West Aust'n


$34 066-$38 150

Administrative Assistant

Heart Foundation

Maintaining databases and lists for program participants; administer the Heart Foundation's resuscitation program; administration duties in physical activity projects; general admin and secretarial duties

Database skills; high level work processing and keyboard skills; good communication and writing skills; a class drivers licence; non smoker

West Aust'n


$28 275

Administrative Officer - Rangers

Local Govt

Provide admin and customer support to ranger services

Superior written and verbal communication skills; dispute resolution skills; sound MS Office skills; accurate and fast data entry/keyboarding skills; demonstrated ability to operate effectively within a team environment; experience in operation of computerised fines tracking system and advantage

West Aust'n


$30 000+

Administrative Officer

Local Govt

Admin support

Excellent customer service and communication skills; demonstrated time management and organisation skills; sound MS Office and database skills; accurate and fast data;

West Aust'n


$30 000+

Careers Resource Officer

Tertiary Education

Coordinating and maintaining central office systems including a career resource library; reception; data input to career websites and databases

Extensive secretarial and admin experience; skills in MS office, database, website creation and HTML; demonstrated knowledge of Uni structures

West Aust'n


$31 340-$33 517

Administration Officer

Tertiary Education

Student enrolments; maintenance of results and other student records; word processing; data variations; student enquiries

Attention to detail; highly developed interpersonal skills; communication skills; computer skills; good keyboard skills; able to prioritise tasks; able to cope with busy office

The Age


$30 683-$32 395

Student Services Assistant

Aust film and TV school

Maintenance of information; provision of detailed responses to enquiries

Strong interpersonal skills; customer service experience; able to work under pressure; able to work as part of a team; good understanding of EEO principles; familiar with electronic mail; at least 2 yrs experience in computerised office environment; working knowledge of database software



$29 747-$32 986

Administrative Assistant

Tertiary Education

Customer service; general word processing; data entry; assistance with organising workshops and meetings

Excellent communication skills; accuracy and attention to detail; ability to work independently; prioritise tasks; work as part of a team; intermediate MS Word, Excel and Access skills; able to multi task; familiar with email and internet searching; able to access on-line data information an advantage



$33 232-$35 126

Administrative Officer

Tertiary Education

Provide admin support to dean; executive support to committees; development and maintenance of filing and record keeping systems

Highly developed computing skills essential; self directed; highly organised; possess strong interpersonal and negotiation skills; able to organise others in busy environment



$31 031-$35 079

Clerk - Monitoring

Aust Performing Right Assoc

Assist with record keeping; data entry; monitor TV, radio and print media

Experience with Excel or Access; aptitude for detail; good knowledge of Aust film and TV productions; interest in music; familiarity with French or German advantage




Administrative and Library Positions

Tertiary Education

Human resources; payroll; library, student or course admin; finance and budgets; external relations; general admin

Excellent problem solving; literacy and numeracy skills; great IT ability; adaptability for a rapid and changing work environment; able to work within team; self motivated; able to multi task; good customer service; outstanding ability to communicate; desirable - tertiary qualification; experience in large and complex organisations

The Age


$28 743-$41 270

Senior Awards Officer

Tertiary Education

Responsible for team supervision; processing applications for awards; organising graduation ceremonies; overseeing gown function operations; generating correspondence to students; implementation and maintenance of the student admin systems

Substantial experience in provision of student admin services; experienced in use and management of computerised and manual record systems; supervision of staff; excellent organisational skills; proven capacity to conduct reviews of policies

The Age


$39 332-$42 456

Document Services Clerk

Computershare Registry Services

Provide administrative support; data entry

Good PC skills, MS office; outstanding communication skills




Lost Holders Clerk

Computershare Registry Services

Provide administrative support; data entry

Good PC skills, MS office; outstanding communication skills




Admissions Officer/ Administrative Assistant

Tertiary Education

All aspects of student enrolment; data entry

Highly developed computing and customer service skills; effective team member; warm outgoing personality

The Age





State Govt

Classifying and indexing documents for attaching agency files

Sound knowledge of Records or Information Management practices and principles; experience in indexing; experience with computerised records information system; good time management; conceptual and analytical skill; sound written and verbal communication skills including interpersonal and team skills

West Aust'n


$32 133-$35 876

Records Clerk (50%)

Tertiary Education

Filing; filling file orders for clients; assisting in file audits; classification of correspondence; admin of prospective student file system; data entry

Year 12 able to perform typical clerical tasks; good interpersonal and communication skills; flexibility in adapting to new procedures; able to work accurately and efficiently in busy team environment; experience in records management field and progress towards qualifications desirable

West Aust'n


$27 851-$32 642

Operations Manager - Records and Information Management


Manage the day to day running of operations area

Exceptional organisational skills; proven team leadership experience; ability to prioritise workloads; strong computer literacy skills; lateral thinking; determination to succeed

West Aust'n



Records Management


Administration of opening new files and update database information

Similar corp. or library environment experience

The Age


$32 000

Records Management Systems Officer

Local Govt


Highly motivated; team orientated

The Age



Document Administrator

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

Electronic archiving, scanning, recording of information; other correspondence procedures; client interface

Team player; strong organisational and communication skills; exposure to progressive corporate environment

The Age



Medical Record Clerk-Discharges


Responsible for assembly of records form wards; allocation of records to appropriate area; filing records and loose pathology; updating location of records on database; retrieval of records; answering the telephone

Experience in use of HOSPAS or similar




Administrative Officer - Asset Records

Tertiary Education

Responsible for purchasing of information technology hardware and software; maintenance of fixed assets. Software and equipment registers; required to implement internal procedure re maintenance of record management systems

Assoc Dip or equiv; analytical skills; sound oral and verbal communication; computer literacy, MS office, databases, email, financial packages; able to communicate with management; able to assist in maintaining the faculty asset register; independent worker; team player; working knowledge of PCs, hardware and software; desirable - previous experience in tertiary institute; MS access

Courier Mail


$32 392-$34 083

Internet/ Web/ Library Systems


Library Systems Support Analyst


Customer help desk support, training and project management

Experience in library automation system; appropriate tertiary qual; excellent communication skills; sound technical writing knowledge

The Age



Technical Support Representative


Technical support to customers

Previous customer service; technical aptitude; interest in internet; willing to do shift work; team worker




Web Site Coordinator

WA Govt

Coordinate and maintain intranet web site and promote it use; assist with web content; advice on intranet strategies and web-enabled business solutions

High level communication and interpersonal skills; substantial experience in web page design and development; substantial experience in publishing information to web sites; demonstrated editing and proof reading skill; strong customer focus; HTML skills and MS Front Page an advantage

West Aust'n


$43, 305-$51 048

Internet Layout Advisor


Responsible for liaising between client and web design department; to create, plan and obtain material for website layout within an established design template; identifying opportunities for increasing revenue and managing customer satisfaction

Working knowledge of internet; interest in multi-media advertising; dynamic people person; excellent communication; copy writing skills; strong time management skills; current driver licence

Courier Mail



EdNA Online Information Officer - Schools


Enhancing the comprehensiveness and quality of the EdNA Online resource database for school sector users; entry of info into both manual and automated processes; database management, provide advice and support for users

Tertiary qual; high level interpersonal, communication, consultation and networking skills; experience in using web-based communication; sound skills in evaluating and indexing web resources and negotiating and maintaining quality standards; experience in Aust. School education; knowledge of Aust. school curricula; knowledge of principles of information management including metadata




Library Software Testing Specialist



IT qual or experience; Library qual or exp desirable; excellent communication skills

Courier Mail



Website Customer Service



Excellent communication skills; computer and internet literate; enthusiastic; team player




Internet/ Intranet Content Officer

Local Govt

Coordination and management of the content of the internet/intranet sites; liaise with departments etc on web enabling their information

Expertise in, and knowledge of the development and management of websites; well developed communication, negotiation, conflict resolution and organisational skill; good knowledge of internet development tools, search engines and image processing software; expertise in developing browser base user interfaces; demonstrated high level written and oral communication and negotiation skills



$51 760-$57 294

Internet/Image Library officer - Clerical Officer

NSW Govt


Proven knowledge of internet; general IT skills, spreadsheets, web browsers, web editing; database administration; skills in use of Dreamweaver, MS FrontPage; Access; writing HTML and JavaScript; image scanning data transfer, minimal supervision; strong organisational, diagnostic and problem solving skills; strong oral and written communication skills; excellent client service skills; customer service skills; OH and S policies and principles; desirable - tertiary qual. in web prod; system analysis, implementation and maintenance of web based systems



$36 518-$37 519


Training Administrator


Administration; management of program information; course bookings; organisation of materials; training rooms; course follow up; assist with event management; responsible for updating the training site on internal website; handling of general course enquires; tracking of staff training

Excellent communication skills; interpersonal and organisational skills; confident telephone manner; superior customer service focus; willingness to learn; flexibility to assist wherever necessary; PC literacy




Electronic Products Training Consultant


Provide high quality after sales service; initiate cress selling opportunities; contribute to continuous improvement and development of products by providing current market feedback

Initiative; ability to embrace current and future technology; excellent interpersonal skills; familiarity with legal research techniques and/or adult training an advantage





Workers' Educational Assoc of SA

Tutors for courses ranging from computing and business to personal and life skills

Expert knowledge of their subject; good communication skills



$28 - $40 /hr

Bookshops/ Sales

Bookshop Assist



Cheerful; good customer service; must read




Bookshop Assist



Current bookselling; computer knowledge




Bookshop Assist

Private Gardening


Bookshop experience, knowledge of subject preferred (gardening)




Educational Representative

Educational Publisher

Promoting titles into secondary schools;

Good understanding of NSW educational system; MS word; internet and some database management preferred; self starter; excellent communication skills




Junior Cash Register Operators


Computerised register operation, general enquires, store housekeeping and customer service

Positive attitude, attention to detail




Bookshop Assistant



Excellent customer service skills and book knowledge




Bookshop Assistant


Customer service; cash handling; shelving books;

Professionally presented; enthusiastic; enjoy customer service




Bookshop Manager - Second hand books

Student Rep Council Sydney Uni


Experience in book selling at a supervisory level; excellent communication and organisational skills; ability to work under pressure; proficient in Apple Mac systems; ability to work with and keenness to help student; a knowledge of uni texts an advantage



$44 871+

Bookseller - Primary Sales

School Supplies

Work with teachers and librarians in busy primary showroom and in schools

Well organised; excellent communication skills; strong customer service focus; team player; sales experience; some book knowledge; computer literacy highly regarded

The Age



Invoice Matching Clerk (P/T)


Processing and transferring of Unibooks deliveries to all of the campuses

Previous exposure to computerised invoicing system; good customer service; team player; OHS understanding; attention to detail whilst processing invoices; able to work under pressure, well organised and able to meet deadlines






Service established clients and build up client base

Experience book or publishing industry; understanding of the Public Library System

West Aust'n



Bookseller/ receiving Clerk


Wide variety of selling and computer tasks

Natural smile

West Aust'n



Special Orders

Book Retailer

Operate store switchboard; order books for local and overseas suppliers; customer service

Professionally presented; eye for detail; able to work well under pressure; enjoy delivering excellent customer service







Sound retail background; passion for books; energy and drive; team player





Fundraising Assistant (Temp P/T)


Help with events and administration

Organisational skill; initiative




Journalist/ Information Analyst

Aust Business Intelligence

Summarising articles form daily newspapers and/or journals

Analytical ability; excellent written English, reliability, speed, attention to detail; computer literacy and good typing skills; qual./experience in journalism, technical writing or librarianship

The Age


Training salary $33 000

Secretary/Admin for State Govt candidate

State Govt candidate

Manage the electoral office; recruiting and co-ordinating volunteers; written and verbal liaison at all levels; organising functions

Strong communication skills; drive; secretarial, research and database management skills; experience in political arena; respect for confidentiality

West Aust'n



Title Services Officers

WA Govt

Deal with applications for mining tenements, dealing and other applications under the Mining Act 1978

Experience in accessing computer based information; good communication and interpersonal skills; ability to work in team environment

West Aust'n


$33 898-$39 737

Student Volunteer Co-ordinator

Uni of Sydney Union

Supervise student information dissemination to Union members

Excellent interpersonal, communication and organisational skills; team player; empathy to needs of student members; proven supervisory experience; decision making; delegation and negotiation skill; proficient use of MS word




Broadcast Services Officer

Fed Govt


Background and general experience in broadcasting industry or in video/audio production

The Age


$29 591-$50 091

Photographic Assistant

Landscape Photographer


Love travel; easy going personality; drivers licence; passport; prepared to work long hours

Courier Mail



Editorial Assistant

Aust Country Style Magazine

May and varied admin aspects of magazine production

Excellent telephone and office skills; Mac systems essential; highly motivated; pleasant manner




School Assistant

NSW Depart Education

Assist in range of school, classroom and office activities; record-keeping, bookkeeping and other clerical duties; reception; operating and maintaining classroom and office equipment; purchasing, preparing and maintaining stock and learning/resource materials

Effective communication skills; ability to meet deadlines; ability tow work with teachers and students; paid or voluntary experience in one or more of: office procedure, accounting procedure; typing proficiency, operation of microcomputers and/or classroom/ office equipment; experience in library procedure; experience in hospitality/domestic service industry; laboratory experience



$14.41- $15.45 /hr


Appendix 5

Changing roles, changing goals - transferring the skills beyond the library - A Questionnaire

As the current recipient of the Dunn and Wilson scholarship, my research project is to determine alternative employment paths for library technicians that lie beyond the traditional library situation.

As part of this research I am interested in assessing the following two aspects in relation to those library technicians who have already successfully moved into these types of roles:

·         What are the triggers (if there are indeed any) that cause Library Technicians to consider a move into positions that lay beyond the traditional library

·         Identify the skills and knowledge gained through library practice and study that are transferable into these new roles

I am formulating this research not as a quantitative analysis, but as a focused qualitative process, hence the reason for identifying you as a recipient of this questionnaire. Your personal experiences and information will help to me identify alternate future directions for library technicians and to share this information with all library technicians.

On completion of this questionnaire please return it in either of the following ways:

·         As a return email attachment to

·         Via snail mail to Meredith Martinelli
36 Parklands Road
North Ryde, NSW 2113

If you have any enquiries I can be contacted via the above email or on (02) 9850 7509 (w) 0414 983414 (m)

Please answer the following questions with as much detail as you are able to provide. Where there has been more than one alternate role identify each specific position.


  • When did you complete your Library Technician qualifications?
  • Have you worked in a traditional library environment? If yes for how long in total?
  • What is/was the title of your alternate position?
  • How long have/did you hold this position?
  • What are/were the responsibilities of this position?
  • What was the reason for your decision to move into an alternative role?
  • Can you identify the specific skills/knowledge gained from your Library Technician qualification and any subsequent library practice that were transferable to the alternative role?
  • Can you identify which generic skills (ie communication) were applicable/transferable to this position?
  • Would you consider or have you made a move back into a traditional library position?
  • If yes, Why?
  • If no, Why?
  • What have been the benefits to you personally from moving into this/these position/s?
  • What have been the benefits professionally from moving into this/these position/s?
  • Do you have any advice for library technicians considering a move?
  • Further comments?

Thank you for taking the time to complete this. It is hoped that the final outcomes will be of benefit to all library technicians. The results will be presented in Hobart at the 11th National Library technicians Conference in August 2001. I hope to see you all there.

Appendix 6


31st January, 2000

Course Name

Dear Name

This letter is sent to you with a request for assistance and information. My name is Meredith Martinelli and I am the recipient of the 1999 Dunn and Wilson scholarship, an industry recognised scholarship administered by ALIA.

The aim of the scholarship is to support a library technician to carry out a body of research or report on a particular project or work application that would be of benefit to all library technicians, and in fact, to all in the library and information industry.

As the current recipient I have proposed a study of alternative employment opportunities for library technicians that lies outside the boundary of what would be considered 'traditional' employment. In researching this topic it is necessary for me to first analyse and assess the skills and abilities of library technicians that are obtained through formal and on-the-job training. My intention is to examine the following:

·         Course unit components

·         ALIA work level guidelines

·         Competency standards

As a part of this research I am requesting of you any information that you could provide on your course structure and components and, if possible, any additional information that may outline the skills acquired in the study of each unit.

To verify my request I am attaching a copy of the original letter from ALIA awarding me the scholarship. I would be most grateful for any assistance you can provide and if you have any queries in relation to this request please do not hesitate to contact me. .

Yours sincerely

Meredith Martinelli


Arts Training Australia, Australia. Dept. of Employment Education and Training, et al. (1995). Library Industry Competency Standards. Woolloomooloo, N.S.W., Arts Training Australia.

Australian Education Council. Mayer Committee, E. Mayer, et al. (1992). Key Competencies. [Melbourne?], Australian Education Council and Ministers of Vocational Educational Education Employment and Training.

Australian Education Council. Review Committee. and B. Finn (1991). Young People's Participation in Post-compulsory Education and Training. Canberra, ACT, Australian Education Council.

Australian Library and Information Association (2000) Stages in Library and Information Careers, Australian Library and Information Association.

Australian Library and Information Association (2000) Work in Library and Information Services, Australian Library and Information Association

Australian National Training Authority and CREATE Australia (Culture Recreation Education and Training Enterprise Australia) (1999). Museum and Library/Information Services Industry Training Package. Melbourne, Vic., Australian National Training Authority (ANTA).

Aylott, J. (1999). Achieving the Vision: from library to learning centre - changing roles and functions for library staff at the Canberra Institute of technology. Projections/Reflections: Our Heritage and Our Future 2000 and beyond. Proceedings of 10th ALIA National Library Technicians Conference, Perth, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

Bridgland, A. (1998). 'The linking of knowledge and skills to changing work practices.' Education for Library and Information Services:Australia May: 11-27.

Brittain, J. M. (1996). Information professionals: expanding horizons. Wagga Wagga, NSW, Centre for Information Studies.

Cherrett, C. (1991). 'Library technician skills transfer'. Bringing the Pieces Together. Conference Proceedings: 6th National Library Technician's Conference, Sydney, N.S.W., Australian Library and Information Association.

Cherrett, C. (2000). Business Skills: stepping stones to the corporate world. ALIA Fringe Conference: Beyond the Square, Canberra, unpublished work.

Dalton, P., G. Mynott, et al. (2000). 'Barriers to Career Development within the LIS Profession.' Library Review Vol 49(Issue 6): p271-277.

Debowski, D. S. (1999). Library Technicians and the Management of Technology Innovation. Projections/Reflections: Our Heritage and Our Future 2000 and beyond. Proceedings of 10th ALIA National Library Technicians Conference, Perth, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

Denny, L. (1993). The Only Way is Up: how to succeed in a library without being a librarian. The Tech Connection: Proceedings of the 7th National Library Technicians Conferences, Adelaide.

Dolan, D. R. and J. Schumacher (1997). 'New jobs emerging in and around libraries and librarianship' Online 21(6): 68-76.

Drake, M. A. (2000). 'Technological innovation and organizational change revisited' The Journal of Academic Librarianship 26(1).

Dunsire, G. (2001). 'Cyber or Syberia? Library skills in transition' Impact: Journal of the Career Development Group 4(1).

Evans, J. (1993). Skills Transfer. Sharing the challenges: Library Technicians in the 1990's. J. Bailey. Adelaide, Auslib Press.

Evans, P. (2000). 'E-lending: the next wave to hit libraries?' Biblio Tech Review: Information Technology for Libraries Review January.

Grant, C. (1999). Looking at the Horizon, is it a Sunrise or Sunset for Libraries. Projections/Reflections: Our Heritage and Our Future 2000 and beyond. Proceedings of 10th ALIA National Library Technicians Conference, Perth, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

Hobohm, H.-C. (1996). The Impact of New Technology on Libraries: An introductory note. The Challenge of Change: Libraries and Economic Development. 62nd IFLA Council and General Conference, Beijing, China, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions: IFLA.

Horton, F. W. (1994). Extending the Librarian's Domain : a survey of emerging occupation opportunities for librarians and information professionals. Washington, The Association, 1994.

Hyde, J. (1997). "How Soon is Now? Current developments and future possibilities for libraries and librarians: a library technician's view." The Australian Library Journal 46(2): p.181-185.

Johnston, G. (2000). Aligning your Work and Purpose: step out to an abundant life. Melbourne, Australia, Information Australia.

Klobas, J. (1997). The New Information Environment. InterACTion: the client, the profession, the technology. Proceedings of the 9th National Library Technicians Conference, Canberra, ALIA.

Koenig, M. E. D. (1991). The Transfer of Library Skills to Nonlibrary Contexts. Advances in Librarianship. I. P. Godden. San Diego, California, Academic Press,Inc.: 1 - 27.

Martyn, H. (1997). The Interaction between the Profession and Technological Change in Reference Services: a qualitative perspective from the USA, Canada and Australia. InterACTion:The client, the profession, the technology. Proceedings of the 9th National Library Technicians Conference, Canberra, ALIA.

Misko, J. (1995). Transfer: using learning in new contexts. Leabrook, South Australia, National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd.

Moore, N. (1987). The Emerging Markets for Librarians and Information Workers. London, British Library Research Report No.56.

Murdoch, P. (1998). People in Alternative Careers. Adelaide 98: pathways to knowledge. Australian Library and Information Association 5th Biennial Conference and Exhibition, Adelaide, Australian Library and Information Association.

O'Brien, L. (2000). "From Stacks to Storefront: Library skills translate to bookselling success." Feliciter 45(3).

OECD (1996). The OECD Jobs Strategy: technology, productivity and job creation, OECD.

O'Leary, M. (2000). "New Roles Come of Age." Online 24(2): 20-25.

Reid, D. (1997). Meeting the Future: paraprofessional education and training in a knowledge economy. InterACTion: the client, the profession, the technology. Proceedings of the 9th National Library Technicians Conference, Canberra, ALIA.

Saurine, K. (2000). "Head in the Clouds...feet on the ground." The Australian Library Journal: pp65-71.

Sciacca, R. (1993). Management and Staff Environment Issues Relating to Library Technicians. The Tech Connection. Proceedings of the 7th National Library Technicians Conference, Adelaide, Auslib Press.

Senyk, N., Ed. (1997). Keys to Competency: developing key competencies in the VET sector. A self-paced learning guide, Onkaparinga Consultancy Service (Onkaparinga Institute if TAFE).

Thompson, P. and C. Warhurst, Eds. (1998). Workplaces of the Future. Critical Perspectives on Work and Organisations. London, Macmillan Press.

Williamson, V. and S. White (1996). Competency Standards in the Library Workplace. Adelaide, Auslib Press.


Job Descriptions: improving their currency, accuracy and usefulness

Lorraine Denny

Funded by the 1997 Dunn and Wilson Scholarship, with sponsorship from LJ Cullen Bookbinders NSW, and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders Victoria.


To the sponsors (L.J Cullen and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders) of the ALIA Dunn and Wilson Scholarship for providing me with the financial support to perform this research project and the recognition that Library Technicians have the ability to make a worthwhile contribution to the library profession. To ALIA for the administration of the scholarship. To every respondent who completed and returned the job description survey, without your support this research project would have been difficult to complete. To the many people who wished me well, this encouragement motivated me to complete the project. To the University of Wollongong, and especially the University Librarian, Felicity McGregor, for their support and encouragement in the application for this scholarship. To my daughter Larisssa who spent many hours folding surveys and putting them into envelopes. To Margie Jantti and Bernadette Stephens who provided valuable constructive feedback on this research project. To my family, friends and colleagues for their interest and encouragement and to my husband for his support, interest and extra work he took on to allow me to finish this project.


Many libraries devote a great deal of time and resources to developing job descriptions, but are they relevant, current and useful? The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Dunn and Wilson Scholarship allowed this question to be researched. This research project focused on examining job descriptions from an organisational perspective. The objectives of the project were to:

•        determine the current practice of the role of job descriptions in Australian libraries, using Library Technicians as a sample group;

•        collate examples of Library Technician job descriptions to determine the type of information contained in them;

•        identify best practice in the design, content and uses of job descriptions; and

•        present recommendations to the library profession which would aid them in developing effective job descriptions that are current, relevant, accurate and useful.

The project consisted of three stages. Stage one involved a literature review covering the period 1988-1998. This review identified why job descriptions are important, what they are used for, what is included in job descriptions and trends in the literature.

Stage two surveyed a sample group of library technicians in Australian libraries in order to determine the usefulness, currency and accuracy of job descriptions within the Australian library industry. As the survey response rate was 66 percent a number of findings are generalised to the library industry.

Stage three gained a wider perspective on the uses of job descriptions and the type of information contained in them, by surveying a sample group of organisations who were considered best practice in human resource management. The findings from the Library Technician survey and organisational survey are compared. Based on information obtained through this research project a number of recommendations to improve the usefulness of job descriptions is provided, including a sample job description which incorporates the of recommendations.

1. introduction

1.1 Scope of the research

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Dunn and Wilson scholarship made this research project possible. The following question prompted me to conduct this research:

A great deal of time and resources are devoted to developing job descriptions in libraries, but are they relevant, current, accurate and useful?

This research project focused on examining job descriptions from an organisational library perspective in order to answer these questions.

The objectives of this research project were to:

  • determine the current practice of the role of job descriptions in Australian libraries, using Library Technicians as a sample group;
  • collate examples of Library Technician job descriptions to determine the type of information contained in them;
  • identify best practice in the design, content and uses of job descriptions; and
  • present recommendations to the library profession which would aid them in developing effective job descriptions that are current, relevant, accurate and useful.

The project was not concerned with job analysis or job design, the focus is on the actual job description and their content as this was the central issue dealt with in the research project. The research was conducted from September 1997 to February 1999.

The project consisted of three stages. Stage one involved a review of current literature on job descriptions. Stage two surveyed a sample group of Library Technicians throughout Australia. The aim of this survey was to gain information on job descriptions in Australian libraries including their use, when they are reviewed and the information contained in them. Stage three surveyed a number of organisations from a wide field (for example, banks, hotels, corporate organisations and airlines) in order to gain a wider perspective on the use of job descriptions and the type of information contained in them.

Within the literature, there appears to be some confusion as to what information is contained in a job description. Some authors state that a job description and person specification are separate documents. They (Drummond, 1994; Grant, 1989) argue that the job description focuses on the job, that is, the duties and the responsibilities involved in the job. While the person specification focuses on the human resources or the personal attributes of the person doing the job, that is, their experience, skills and qualifications. While other authors (Plachy and Plachy, 1993; Osborne, 1992; DeLon, 1994) state that both the job and person specifications are included in the job description. For the purposes of this research the term job description covers both details about the job and the person. This information may be included in the one document or separate documents.

2. Stage 1 - literature review

2.1 Introduction

The first stage of the research project consisted of a literature review. The review was limited to literature published between 1988 and 1998 as I was interested in examining job descriptions in today's work context rather than from a historical perspective.

LaRoory (1995) describes three main attitudes towards job descriptions. These are:

  • the campaigners who believe up to date job descriptions are essential for the effective running of any organisation;
  • the neutrals who are probably the largest group and are neither for nor against job descriptions. This group usually does not use job descriptions for managing their area of responsibility; and
  • the contras who believe job descriptions are not necessary or desirable. They think that anything written down about a job is likely to be out of date by the next month, if not sooner.

This appears to be an accurate representation as I experienced all three attitudes when discussing job descriptions with staff from various organisations during the research project. People were either very enthusiastic, couldn't care less - 'yes we do have them but they are not used much' - or felt they were a waste of time, energy and money.

2.2 What is a job description?

Sahl, (1994. p.3) states 'well written job descriptions define the work of the organisation and its reasons for existence as an employer of human resources. More, they define and help quantify the relative importance of work, what each position contributes to a process and the organisation as a whole.' This definition illustrates an important point regarding job descriptions, used in today's work environment, by emphasising that they describe not only what the job is about but how the job contributes to the work of the organisation.

A job description must be accurate but not a minutely detailed list of an employees tasks and duties (DeLon, 1994). As Behn (1997, p. 60) states: 'it is impossible to list, in anything smaller than an encyclopedia, the multitude of tasks … that combine to produce the results desired from a particular job.' Job descriptions are meant to be a guide only 'staff must not interpret them rigidly or job descriptions become a barrier to success' (Degner, 1995, p. 17). Grant (1989) describes them as a 'map' that show direction. Job descriptions are not a description of how a job is to be done (Grant, 1989), a contract (DeLon, 1994) or set of rules, regulations or proper practices (Grant, 1989). They describe the nature of the work to be done by stating the purpose and main responsibilities. They may also include information on the type of person who is best suited to perform the job.

Grant (1988) describes job descriptions as a valuable resource. They have the potential to be a useful organisational tool, however, to realise their potential they must be properly prepared. Grant (1988, p. 53) believes many job descriptions do not reach their potential because they 'are too simplistic, they lack detail, they are out of date, they neglect many key structural elements of the job and they are unclearly written'.

There are two main types of job descriptions, the generic or general and the specific or individual. Generic job descriptions are written in broadly stated general terms without identifying specific responsibilities, requirements, purpose and relationships. Some organisations use generic job descriptions for the same level within an organisation. For particular positions an additional duty statement may be developed. Specific job descriptions provide information on all essential responsibilities assigned to the person performing the job, they are usually quite detailed and comprehensive. (How to write job descriptions the easy way, 1993)

2.3 Why are job descriptions important?

Ray and Hawthorne (1993, p i) state 'an accurate and detailed job description is an increasingly crucial component of the effective use of valuable human resources in libraries and other organisations.' The primary function of a job description is as a communication tool. They effectively communicate a great deal of information about a job, especially between the manager and employee (Giles, 1995; Grant, 1989). 'When employees have a road map to success they often perform much better - and that translates into continued business growth for you and your firm' (Consulting Task Force, 1991). Information may include reporting relationships; skill requirements; major responsibilities; where the job fits into the organisation and what is required of the position. This information is presented in a completely objective and impersonal way (How to write job descriptions the easy way, 1993) which allows the job description to be used in relation to many human resource functions such as recruitment, induction, training and performance management.

Well written job descriptions also provide information to prospective employees about organisational expectations of a particular job (Carlopio, 1996). This aids in retaining staff as the more a prospective employee knows about the culture of an organisation and what is expected of them, the quicker they will settle into the organisation. Unclear job descriptions, which do not describe organisational information and expectations, may mislead a new employee. 'A major barrier to the formation of organisational commitment is a large gap between what people expect and what the realities turn out to be' (Carlopio, 1986, p.58).

2.4 What are Job descriptions used for?

Job descriptions have the potential to be used for a number of human resource functions. The main purposes reported in the literature include the following (see appendix 1 for a list of purposes of job descriptions and literature references). Again the emphasis is on well written job descriptions.

  • Selection and recruitment. Job descriptions may be used to advertise jobs, screen applicants, develop questions for the job interview and identify essential and desirable criteria.
  • Induction and orientation. Job descriptions provide a good introduction and overview of the job which enables the employee to understand what the organisation expects of them.
  • Understanding the employee's role in the organisation. Job descriptions allow the employee to see where they fit into the big picture of the organisation, and how their job contributes to the organisation. They may also reflect organisational goals and objectives.
  • Identifying training requirements. Job descriptions may identify initial training requirements for a new employee. If they are included in a performance management system they may be used as an aid in identifing training to improve performance or additional training needed as a result of changing responsibilities.
  • Performance management. Job descriptions are the foundation of an effective performance management system (Meng, 1992) and are used in conducting performance reviews or job evaluations. They may also be used to develop performance measures (Russell, 1996). However, it is important to note that job descriptions are only one component of an effective performance management system. Such a system includes other processes and documentation. For example, an organisation may have induction policies and program, identified roles and responsibilities of various levels of staff, a rewards and recognition program and performance appraisal system.
  • Career development. A study of job descriptions can help employees determine what qualifications, experience and skills are needed to apply for different positions within the organisation. This information can then be used in career planning or development.

Other purposes listed in the literature include:

  • orienting new supervisors on what their subordinates and bosses do (Grant 1989)
  • analysing work flows and methods (Plachy and Plachy, 1993)
  • mentoring (DeLon, 1994)
  • industrial relations (Drummond, 1994)
  • job restructuring (Drummond, 1994)
  • determining what kinds of assignments are given to employees (Bust 1990, Lemos, 1994)
  • organisational and personal goal setting (Giles, 1995)
  • conducting an organisational audit (Drummond, 1994)
  • defining or reviewing organisational structure (Plachy and Plachy, 1993)
  • measuring accurate salary administration (Russell, 1996)
  • preparing and analysising job descriptions help assure jobs are well designed and that all sections work together to achieve the organisational aims (Grant, 1989)
  • quickly preparing substitute workers or temporary help (Grant, 1989)

2.5 What is Included in a Job Description?

The content of the job description varies widely from organisation to organisation and the purpose of the job description will influence what is included. The following list outlines the most commonly referred to components of a job description (apart from the job title, identifying code, grade/level, department, name of company, physical location, job status, date and name of incumbent) described in the literature reviewed (see appendix 2 for a list of literature references):

  • job function or purpose which explains the general purpose of the job and why it exists. It also provides the reader with a concise overview of the job.
  • duties or tasks includes a precise specific list of what the employee does and is expected to do.
  • responsibilities are a summary of the main responsibilities required of the position. Other terms used include Critical Success Factors (Herman and Herman, 1995) or work functions.
  • accountabilities outline the major results expected from the job.
  • organisational relationships outline how the job fits into the organisation and the structure of the organisation.
  • working environment identifies the physical and social contexts in which the job is performed. It may also include working conditions.
  • personal contacts refer to the people the employee will interact with while performing the job.
  • reporting relationships include whom the employee reports to and what supervision the employee exercises.
  • authority identifies what decisions the employee can make and resources they can commit.
  • performance standards identify specific standards which can be used to determine whether the job is being performed satisfactorily. Other titles used include outcomes, measures of accomplishment or expected outputs.
  • skills including competencies, knowledge and abilities required to perform the job.
  • education or qualifications refers to qualifications needed for the job. This may also include training requirements.
  • experience refers to the type and nature of experience needed to perform the job.

Other components discussed in the literature include:

  • managers expectations (Osbourne, 1992)
  • career mobility (DeLapa, 1989)
  • position(s) previously held (DeLapa, 1989)
  • meetings to attend/reports to be completed (DeLapa, 1989)
  • management information required to be passed out from the job (Drummond, 1994)
  • time percentages (Grant, 1996)
  • scope and impact of the job (Sattler, 1993)

2.6 Format of job descriptions

The layout and format of the job description is very important as a clear format will aid in understanding the document. Before deciding on a format, the organisation firstly needs to consider what the job description will be used for (Grant, 1989). Once a format is decided it needs to be standardised across the organisation (Osborne, 1992; DeLon, 1994). Present tense should be used (Kramer, 1997) as the job description refers to what the person is doing, not what they have done.

The literature varies on the recommended length of job descriptions. DeLapa (1989) suggests 1-3 pages whereas Giles (1995) recommends no longer than two pages.

2.7 Different approaches to job descriptions

Moravec and Tucker (1992) describes how British Petroleum replaced job descriptions with a matrix reflecting skills and behaviours. This matrix focuses on skills and behavious rather than individual jobs. Each skill matrix describes steps in the career ladder, from the lowest to the highest, along the vertical axis. The horizontal axis describes the skills and competencies that are required for each step. Moravec and Tucker (1992, p. 43) argue that 'skill matrices differ significantly from job descriptions, they specify roles and levels of performance rather than jobs in a box.' Through this system managers know what to expect of their employees and employees know what the organisation expects of them.

La Roory (1995) discusses a different approach to job descriptions by defining jobs in terms of a 'contribution matrix' (p.47). This matrix identifies team outputs and contributions made by each member within a team. Agreed outputs are written along the vertical and team members' names along the horizontal. Under each output the processes and contributions made by each team member are listed. The output is then assigned to the person who has the overall responsibility. La Roory (1995) argues that some of the advantages of this approach is that it focuses on the whole department rather than the individual job, incorporates team involvement, can be used to show use of resources and is a good vehicle to identify improvement opportunities.

2.8 Trends in the Literature

Figure 1 identifies the main developmental trends of job descriptions identified through the literature review. While this project did not aim to identify historical trends it became clear while reviewing the literature, that even though the basic format and style of the job description has not changed greatly, the focus of the job description has changed over the last 10-15 years. Job descriptions that suited the work environment in the 1980's are referred to as traditional job descriptions. It is important to note that many authors and organisations still focus on the traditional job description format in today's work environment.

Figure 1: Traditional job descriptions vs. job descriptions today


Traditional job descriptions

Job descriptions today

Focus on what a person is required to do - that is, a list of duties

Focus on major responsibility areas, results and outputs the person is expected to achieve

Looks at the job from an inside-out approach

Looks at the job from an outside-in approach

Written by the human resource department

Written by affected employee and manager in consultation with the human resource department

Statement included - 'and any other duties assigned by the supervisor'

The job description is seen as a profile that describes major responsibilities rather than covering everything an employee does

Access to job descriptions by affected employee and management

Job descriptions for all positions are available for any staff member to see and are used as a career development tool

Individualistic in nature - appear to focus on the job alone

Job descriptions reflect the interdependence of the job within an organisation

Reviewed when a job becomes vacant or reclassified

Incorporated into the organisation's performance management system and reviewed regularly with the employee to maintain currency, accuracy and relevance

Time, percentages or frequency included

Performance measures or indicators are included

A noticeable shift, outlined in the literature, is that job descriptions today focus on major responsibility areas rather than duties. Duties represent the methods by which the responsibility areas are accomplished. Responsibilities are like mini-jobs that must be done to get the total job successfully completed. In a fast changing work environment, responsibility areas generally remain constant whereas, duties change constantly with advances in technology and improvements to processes (Segall, 1989). Focusing on duties make it difficult to keep a job description current and does not represent the true nature of the job to be performed. When focusing on responsibilities it is important that these relate to meeting organisational objectives (DeLapa,1989).

The following quote illustrates this point:

'The duty statement is an anachronism left over from the days of rigid bureaucracies with pyramid hierarchies. But in these days of multiskilled people working in self managing teams, the traditional job description has all the value of a parachute that opens on the second bounce.' (Job descriptions? Burn the bloody things, 1995)

In addition, job descriptions have moved from focusing on what a person is required to do (that is, their duties) to focusing on the results or outputs the person is required to achieve. 'An employee can perform duties endlessly without ever accomplishing anything of value. To be truly effective job descriptions must specify what results are to be achieved.' (Plachy, 1991, p. 8) This perspective of focusing on what the person is required to do implies looking at the job from an inside out approach. However, when focusing on the end results it implies looking at the job from an outside-in approach. (Job descriptions? Burn the bloody things, 1995). Focusing on end results helps employees understand why the work is important. Knowing the results also allows employees to discover new ways to accomplish results (Plachy and Plachy, 1993) thus encouraging initiative and creativity.

In the past, the Human Resource department wrote job descriptions with little or no input from the employee actually doing the job. Today's job descriptions are usually written by the affected employee and manager (Langdon, 1996) or by the team that the job is a part of. The Human Resource department now provides a consulting role in the development of job descriptions and their job is to show managers how to define jobs (Langdon, 1996). This approach provides a more accurate job description as it is the employee and manager who have the best insight into the job and are aware of the responsibilities and results expected. Employee involvement also creates ownership (Degner, 1995).

As mentioned, job descriptions are not meant to list every duty an employee performs. However, in the past many job descriptions included statements such as 'and other duties and responsibilities that may be required on either a temporary or permanent basis' (Consulting Task Force, 1991). This allowed managers to change duties or add duties without discussing this with employees. In today's organisation job descriptions are marketed differently in that they are promoted to staff as a job profile outlining the main responsibilities, not all the duties that need to be performed. Changes to these responsibilities are discussed between the manager and employee.

If job descriptions are to be used as a career development tool they need to be available for all staff within an organisation. Some organisations make them available on-line through their intranet. This often was not the case in the past where job descriptions were only available to the person doing the job, their manager and senior management.

Traditional job descriptions were often described in a way that implied complete independence from other positions within the organisation and were very individualistic in nature. When reading this type of job descriptions it is unclear what role the job has in the organisation or how it is related to other positions and processes within the organisation. This type of description encourages independent rather than group action (Dunn, 1993). Job descriptions today need to reflect the interdependence of processes and people within the organisation. If the organisation is based on teams and employees are expected to work together to accomplish objectives and goals, this needs to be reflected in the job description.

Job descriptions were often only reviewed when a job became vacant or new duties were added. In today's work environment job descriptions are incorporated into the organisations performance management system in order to ensure they are reviewed regularly with the employee (Carlopio, 1996). This maintains currency, accuracy, relevance and usefulness of the job description.

Grant (1989, p.5) stated that job descriptions 'are not a work schedule', however, in the past many indicated how much time is spent on different tasks. In today's work environment time percentages or frequency have been replaced with performance measures or indicators which provide a clearer indication of what is expected from the job.

Gilliland (1997, p.42) outlines the traditional components of a job description as:

  • job title
  • main purpose of the job
  • who the individual reports to
  • main tasks or areas of responsibility

For a more focussed job description he suggests the following be added:

  • a summary of the organisation's goals and targets
  • key result areas flowing from the goals and targets
  • the basic competencies needed to achieve these goals and targets
  • performance criteria

2.9 Criticisms of job descriptions

Throughout the literature there are a number of criticisms of job descriptions. Sullivan (1996, p.1) states that there is no evidence that they 'work', may be loved by HR people, but are seldom loved by anyone else. However, many of the criticisms directed at job descriptions can be overcome if we focus on 'well written' job descriptions that meet the needs of today's work environment as the following examples show.

  • 'In a fast changing environment by the time they are written they are out of date' (Sullivan, 1996, p. 1). This is the case with job descriptions that focus on duties. Job descriptions that focus on responsibilities and key result areas do not change frequently which means that they do remain current for long periods.
  • 'They force individuals into job/your job conflicts and inhibits thinking outside the box creativity' (Sullivan, 1996, p. 1). Again this is true of job descriptions that look at the job in terms of duties. Job descriptions that look at the results the person is required to achieve do not prescribe what the person is required to do, they provide direction. As Plachy (1993) points out, focussing on results can encourage initiative and creativity. A quote by General George Patton illustrates this point: ' Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity'(Sacher and Sacher, 1998)
  • 'They are often done by HR people who know little about the technical aspects of the job' (Sullivan, 1996, p. 1). Job descriptions for today's organisations are written by the people involved in the job such as the employee doing their job, their manager and/or members of the team that the job belongs.
  • 'They can (and should) be replaced by weekly/monthly measurable (and incented) performance goals drawn up between the employee and the team' (Sullivan, 1996, p.1). It needs to be remembered that job descriptions are only one component of a human resource management system, performance measures may form part of the job description or form a separate document.

3. Stage 2 - Survey of Library Technicians

3.1 Introduction

Stage two of this research project involved the development of a survey based on information obtained in the literature review. Library technicians were chosen as the sample group for the survey. The aim of the survey was to determine how current, accurate and useful job descriptions are in Australian libraries.

3.2 Methodology

Surveys were sent to library technicians in all states within Australia, the Northern Territory and Australian Capitol Territory and represented special, public, academic and school libraries. A total of 303 surveys were distributed. Names of survey participants were identified from the delegates' list of the 9th National Library Technicians Conference held in 1997. Additional surveys were sent to willing participants identified through the Library Technician Discussion Group,LibTec. A maximum of three surveys was sent to each library, in order to gain as broad a representation of libraries as possible.

Participants were asked to complete the survey whether they did or did not have a job description. They were also asked to include a copy of their current job description if possible. A prize of $100 was offered to participants as an incentive to return their survey and to improve the response rate. Participants were given approximately one month to return the surveys.

The first three questions of the survey obtained background information regarding library technician status, experience in libraries and the type of library. Other questions in the survey focussed on the accuracy, updating, reviewing, uses and content of job descriptions. A copy of the survey is in appendix 3.

3.3 Results

200 surveys were returned including four surveys that were not completed because the respondents were educators rather than library technicians. This represents a 66 percent response rate. This is an excellent response rate as a statistical consulting firm indicated any response rate over 30 percent was a good result. The winner of the $100 was Bruce Lowth from Palmerston Library. Approximately 67 percent of respondents included a copy of their job descriptions, which provided valuable additional content information that is incorporated into the results.

The majority of respondents (83 percent) had completed a Library Technician qualification. 60 percent had more than ten years experience in libraries; 27 percent had 6-10 years; 12 percent had 2-5 years and 2 percent had 0-1 years.

The type of libraries represented in the survey are shown in Figure 2:

  • Academic Libraries- 81 surveys - 41 percent
  • Public Libraries- 34 surveys -17 percent
  • Special Libraries- 61 surveys - 31 percent
  • School Libraries- 15 surveys - 8 percent
  • Other libraries - 5 surveys - 3 percent

Surveys were returned from all states within Australia, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Figure 2: Type of libraries represented in the survey

An overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) had job descriptions for their current position. Of these, 27 percent felt that their job description was very accurate; 46 percent felt they were mostly accurate; 22 percent felt they were somewhat accurate and 5 percent felt they were not accurate at all.

In relation to the updating of job descriptions, 24 percent had been updated in the last six months; 19 percent had been updated in the last 6 to 12 months; 23 percent had been updated in the last one to two years and 34 percent had not been updated for over two years.

Figure 3 illustrates when job descriptions are reviewed or updated. The main reasons for reviewing a job description are when a job becomes vacant (45 percent) or when a job is reclassified (30 percent). Only 15 percent of respondents reviewed jobs annually.

Figure 3: When job descriptions are reviewed


The majority of job descriptions explained where the job fits into the organisation (69 percent) and the purpose of the job (83 percent).

Figure 4 indicates what job descriptions are used for. The main use of job descriptions is for selection and recruitment (74 percent). 55 percent used them in performance appraisals. 18 percent used them to identify training needs and 16 percent used them in the induction process.

For the majority of respondents performance standards (78 percent), time or percentages for each duty (86 percent) and goals, mission, vision or outputs (55 percent) are NOT included in job descriptions.

45 percent of respondents indicated that their library had a separate person/job specification; 32 percent said they did not and 23 percent were unsure.

A summary sheet indicating the number of responses for each question is in appendix 4.

Figure 4: Uses of job Descriptions


Figure 5 illustrates the type of information included in job descriptions returned with the survey. These job descriptions ranged from half a page, which did not describe the purpose of the job or where it fitted into the organisation, to job descriptions that were four and five pages in length which gave a detailed overview of the job, how it fitted into and contributed to the success of the organisation.

Figure 5: Information included in survey respondents job descriptions


Job Description information

Percentage of job descriptions that included information

Organisational relations including reporting relationships

64 percent


59 percent

Job function/purpose

53 percent


44 percent


36 percent


33 percent


31 percent


25 percent

Selection criteria

21 percent


20 percent


20 percent


12 percent

Performance Standards

9 percent


9 percent


9 percent

3.4 Comparison with survey conducted by the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) conducted a survey of librarian job descriptions in 1993 (Ray and Hawthorne, 1993). The aim of this survey was to capture background information on the currency, content and use of librarian job descriptions. Figure 6 compares survey questions that were directly comparable between this survey and the library technician survey.

Figure 6: Comparison between ARL Survey and Library Technician Survey


Survey Information

percent Result from ARL (1993) Survey

percent result from Library Technician Survey

Accuracy of job description
Very accurate
Mostly accurate
Somewhat accurate

29 percent
56 percent
15 percent

27 percent
46 percent
22 percent

When job descriptions are reviewed?

35 percent

15 percent

Uses of job descriptions
Selection and recruitment
Performance Appraisals
Identifying Training Needs

85 percent
75 percent
60 percent

74 percent
55 percent
18 percent

Describe the purpose of the job

89 percent
11 percent

83 percent
17 percent

Are time/percentages used?

25 percent
75 percent

14 percent
86 percent

Are performance standards included?

6 percent
92 percent

22 percent
78 percent

Although the ARL survey was conducted five-six years ago it is interesting to note the comparison in results. The ARL survey indicates that respondents found their job descriptions to be more accurate. The reason for this may be due to the larger percentage of libraries reviewing job descriptions annually and using them in performance appraisals. It is also evident from this comparison that Australian libraries are beginning to incorporate performance standards into their job descriptions although this only represents a small percentage.

3.5 Findings

As the response rate from this survey was over 30 percent and represented academic, special, public and school libraries the following findings may be generalised to the library industry.

  • Job descriptions are developed and used by the majority of libraries and employees feel that they are mostly accurate (46 percent). This is not surprising considering firstly that the majority of job descriptions had not been reviewed for over two years and secondly the constantly changing library environment. 
  • The greater number of libraries represented do not have a mechanism to regularly review job descriptions as the majority of job descriptions (34 percent) had not been reviewed in the last two years. Job descriptions are most commonly reviewed when a job becomes vacant or is reclassified.
  • Selection and recruitment appear to be the main purpose for which job descriptions are used in libraries. 55 percent of respondents indicated that they were used in performance appraisals, however, it is unclear if they are reviewed in this process. Job descriptions are not often used for identifying training needs or in the induction process.
  • The majority of library job descriptions do describe the purpose of the job and where the job fits into the organisation, although it is unclear how detailed this is as the majority do not indicate the goals, mission or vision of the organisation. For the question - Does your job description explain where your job fits into the organisation, it appears from the sample descriptions that it is mainly described through an organisational chart.
  • Time or percentages are rarely included in job descriptions (14 percent). Examples of descriptions that include percentages seem to be those that focus on duties rather than major responsibilities. Performance standards for the majority of libraries are also not included, although many include accountabilities.

Additional comments made by respondents indicate that the question regarding whether libraries have a separate person/job specification caused confusion and many respondents were unsure about what I meant. The aim of this questions was to determine whether details about the person's attributes or qualifications required to do the job were included in the same document as the job description or separately. For this reason it is difficult to generalise findings for this area. From the job descriptions returned with the surveys, some libraries label job specifications and person specifications separately while other libraries include both types of information in their job descriptions but do not label them.

Accountabilities in the literature refers to the results expected, however, when analysing the library job descriptions accountabilities were often a list of responsibilities or who the position was accountable to, very few outlined the results expected. Some libraries are beginning to use job descriptions as a performance management tool as they include performance measures or standards, although this is still only a small percentage (22 percent). Performance measures identified were both qualitative - 'polite, courteous and efficient client service' and quantitative in nature - 'number of complaints received each quarter'. Some job descriptions did not identify the standards but outlined that there was an expectation that they would be developed as part of the job -'Performance standards will be negotiated between the incumbent and the Manger Library Services as part of the ongoing performance management program.' (Please note: these examples were taken from examples of job descriptions returned with the survey).

Some job descriptions included the selection criteria for the job in the job description and this is usually split into essential and desirable. This aids the library in using the job description as a tool in selection and recruitment as the criteria are clearly labeled for advertising, culling and interviewing applicants.

4. Stage 3 - survey of organisations

4.1 Introduction

In my initial proposal for the scholarship, the aim of this stage of the research was to survey organisations that were considered best practice in the design and implementation of job descriptions. This proved a difficult task, as the available literature did not specify organisations that excelled in this area. However, theHR Best Practices in Australasian Companies: 1997 Report did specify organisations that were considered best practice in human resource management.

The aim of this survey (see appendix 5 for a copy of the survey) was to determine the following aspects of job descriptions within organisations other than libraries.

  • When were job descriptions reviewed?
  • What were job descriptions used for within the organisation?
  • Were performance standards included in the job description?

4.2 Methodology

Surveys were sent to organisations identified in the HR Best Practices in Australasian Companies: 1997 Report. As this resulted in a small number of organisations, additional surveys were sent to organisations that had been awarded the Australian Quality AwardInvestors in People or were recommended to me for their usage and content of job descriptions. A wide range of organisations were included in the survey, for example, banks, councils, hotels, airlines, food production companies and manufacturing industry.

The survey also asked organisations to include a copy of their job description when they returned the survey. A reply paid address envelope was included with the survey.

4.3 Results

A total of 30 surveys were distributed. Seventeen were returned which represents a 57 percent response rate. appendix 6 outlines a summary of results.

All respondents to the organisation survey used job descriptions within their organisations.

Figure 7 illustrates when job descriptions are reviewed or updated. Results indicate that the main reasons for reviewing a job description are when a job becomes vacant (82 percent) or when a job is reclassified (59 percent). 29 percent of respondents reviewed jobs annually.

Figure 7: When Job Descriptions are reviewed - Organisation Survey


Figure 8 indicates the uses of job descriptions. The main use of job descriptions is for selection and recruitment (100 percent). A large percentage (77 percent) also incorporated job descriptions into their performance appraisal system.

Figure 8: Uses of Job Descriptions - Organisation Survey


47 percent of respondents included performance standards in their job descriptions.

Nine respondents (53 percent) included a copy of their organisation's job description.

Figure 9 illustrates the type of information included in job descriptions returned with the organisation surveys.

Figure 9: Information included in organisation survey respondents job descriptions

Job Description information

Percentage of job descriptions that included information

Purpose of position/Objectives

89 percent

Responsibility Areas/Key Result Areas/Key Accountabilities

78 percent


66 percent

Working Relationships/Reporting relationships, including organisational relationships

55 percent

Major challenges

22 percent

Performance Indicator/Standard

22 percent

Authority/Decision Making

11 percent

Position Size Dimensions

11 percent


11 percent

Corporate goals

11 percent

4.4 Findings

Comparison of the results from the library technician survey and organisation survey is shown in Figure 10. These results indicate that organisations identified for their quality human resource practices make more extensive use of job descriptions within their organisations (especially in the areas of identifying training needs and performance appraisal) and review them more frequently. Results also indicate that more organisations (47 percent) are incorporating performance standards into their job descriptions than libraries (22 percent).

Figure 10 Comparison of results from Library Technician Survey and Organisational Survey


percent result from Library Technician Survey

percent result from survey of other organisations

When are job descriptions reviewed in your organisation? 
Every two years 
When jobs are reclassified 
When new duties are added 
When a job becomes vacant 
Not reviewed 

15 percent 
4 percent 
30 percent 
16 percent 
45 percent 
5 percent 
14 percent

29 percent 
12 percent 
59 percent 
53 percent 
82 percent 
0 percent 
6 percent

What are job descriptions used for in your organisation? 
Selection and recruitment 
Performance Appraisals/Reviews 
Identifying Training Needs 

74 percent 
16 percent 
55 percent 
18 percent 
0 percent

100 percent 
41 percent 
77 percent 
53 percent 
12 percent

Are performance standards included in the job description? 

22 percent 
78 percent

47 percent 
53 percent

4.5 Discussion

From the findings of the Library Technician survey and the information contained in job descriptions returned with the survey it appears that many libraries are using outdated job descriptions that do not meet the needs of today's work environment. They focus on what a person is required to do, that is their duties, rather than on what the person is expected to achieve, that is major responsibilities and outcomes. It is interesting to note, in comparison, that the organisation job description examples (returned with the survey) focussed on responsibilities or key result areas rather than duties.

I found it interesting that the vast majority of descriptions (from both the library technician survey and the organisation survey) did not include the mission statement of the organisation, goals or an explanation of how the job fits into the overall objectives of the department, team or organisation. Again this information is important if the job description is to reflect the interdependence of the job within the organisation and how it contributes to the overall success of the organisation. Absence of this information makes the job description very individual in nature and makes it appear that the job is conducted in isolation. This encourages independent rather than team action (Dunn, 1993).

As mentioned in the literature, job descriptions are a useful tool that can be used for many human resource functions. Some libraries are using their job descriptions to serve several purposes. For example: The Australian Courts and Administration Authority Library states that their Job and Person Specifications serve the following functions:

  • when filling a vacant position, to provide both job applicants and the selection panel with information on the responsibilities and duties of a job, and the skills and knowledge that it requires; and assist in ensuring selection based on merit
  • to assist with induction and training
  • when reviewing an employee's performance, to provide a basis for discussion
  • when considering and refining organisational goals, to provide information on the relationship of the position to others within the organisation, and to the organisation's function
  • when considering job classification, to provide base information on the responsibilities and reporting relationships associated with the position

However this library appears to be in the minority, as findings suggest that libraries mainly use job descriptions as a selection and recruitment tool. In comparison, when examining the results of the organisation survey it is clear that many organisations are making extensive use of their job descriptions and using them for a variety of purposes.

The inclusion of performance standards in job descriptions is one area that libraries need to explore in the future. They allow the organisation to communicate expectations to the employee especially if the organisation has identified or articulated performance indicators or service standards. Results from the organisation survey suggest that organisations are moving in this direction and using job descriptions as a performance management tool.

Some organisations have moved to providing generic job descriptions for employees performing similar responsibilities. Jones (1996) argues that generic job descriptions provide flexibility because they address expectations and accountabilities rather than the details of how a task should be performed. While there has been a shift to focus on expectations and end results, I believe that generic job descriptions are not as effective as individual job descriptions as they do not encourage ownership or commitment and fail to demonstrate to the employee that their job, responsibilities and contribution are valued by the organisation. While many jobs are similar there may be one or two different areas of responsibility for a particular job.

5. Where competencies fit?

Competencies are 'all the knowledge, skills and attitudes people use in order to fulfill their mission in the company' (Devisch, 1998). As the Library Industry Competency Standards (1995, p.3) 'reflect performance requirements' and adopt an outside-in approach to jobs they are a very useful tool to provide input into the development of job descriptions. Competencies are helpful in identifying the qualities of the person required to perform the job. They can also provide information on responsibility areas and examples of performance indicators or measures, however, it is important to tailor job descriptions to meet the needs of the individual organisation. It is also important to focus on the key competencies required for a position as the job description is meant to provide an overview of the position and identify major responsibilities.

Some organisations have identified core competencies which relate to their organisational values and these are often included or reflected in the job description. In addition some organisations have developed Competency Profiles for each position within their organisation, for example, Murdoch Magazines. These profiles outline key organisational competencies, key management competencies and key functional (technical) competencies. The profiles are incorporated into the organisations performance management system and form the basis for job profiles, recruitment guides, performance assessments and career/development 

6. Recommendations

As Ray and Hawthorne, (1993. p.i) state 'maintaining a current job description in today's environment of rapid technological change and increased demand for professional and managerial flexibility represents a challenge for both libraries and librarians'. The following recommendations are based on the research and surveys conducted as part of this project. I believe that if libraries adopted these recommendations their job descriptions would be current, accurate and could be used for a variety of purposes.

  1. Before developing job descriptions, the library first needs to determine what they will be used for. This will then provide information on what content is to be included. I believe that if organisations are going to invest the time and effort into developing job descriptions they should be used for more than selection and recruitment. As discussed in this paper their uses extend far beyond this, for example, identifying training needs, induction, performance management and career development. The success in writing and using job descriptions depend on this critical first step (Degner, 1995).
  2. Libraries need to focus on specific rather than generic job descriptions. This encourages ownership of the job and helps the library to determine that all responsibilities within the library are performed. It also lets employees know that their contributions to the library are individually valued.
  3. When writing a job description it should be kept in mind that the job is described in enough detail so that the reader can understand:

1.       how the job fits into and contributes to the organisation

2.       the purpose of the job

3.       major responsibilities of the job

4.       the work standards which apply to the job

5.       the skills, experience and education required to perform the job.

                        The main output that the majority of libraries produce is service, service to our clients (whether they be internal or external clients). I found it surprising that many of the job descriptions included with the library technician survey did not reflect the importance of client service. I believe library job descriptions need to be client focussed and service orientated in order to accurately reflect the nature of our work.

                        The most important recommendation, from this research, is that job descriptions are aligned with an organisation's management framework and are representative of this framework. For example, the job description needs to reflect the organisation's culture by incorporating its mission statement, performance indicators, critical success factors, values or goals. This provides potential employees information on the culture of the organisation and outlines what is expected of them by the organisation.

While the format, writing style, content and details of job descriptions vary tremendously from library to library the following elements (although different headings may be used) are recommended for inclusion in job descriptions in order to improve their accuracy, currency and usefulness.

  • Overview of the organisation - the job description needs to provide a clear and realistic overview of not only the job but also the organisation.As this research indicates that the majority of libraries use job descriptions in selection and recruitment it is important that the description provides an overview of the organisation.
  • Purpose of the job -- this statement should explain the reason why the job is necessary and show the way the job contributes to organisational goals. For example - To fulfill the mission of... (Cervenka, 1997)
  • How the job fits into the library -- this needs to be addressed in more detail than the inclusion of an organisational chart. An overview of both the organisation and team/department environment should be included. For example if the job is part of a team then this should be emphasised. This approach will avoid the job description appearing individualistic in nature and illustrate the interdependence of today's work environment.
  • Reporting relationships - including who the person reports to and who the position supervises.
  • Major responsibilities -- the job description should focus on responsibilities and outcomes rather than a detailed list of tasks or duties. It is important that the responsibilities relate to organisational goals or objectives. This helps link the job to the organisation rather than viewing it in isolation.
  • Challenges - this section lists the principal challenges or problems faced by the employee in achieving the results of the position. These may be related to job complexity, economic and environmental aspects or growth potential. Again this communicates to the employee what is expected in the position.
  • Results expected/ performance indicators/expected results/key outcomes - these should relate to the library's service standards or performance indicators rather than to individual performance, for example, meet cataloguing service standard rather than catalogues ten books per day. If performance indicators are to be developed as part of a performance management system then this should be stated in the description.
  • Qualifications, Experience and Skills -- this section includes qualifications and experience required for the position plus all the practical, functional and technical skills. Identification of these as essential or desirable will aid in developing selection criteria for a position.
  • Attributes or Behavioural competencies -- this section identifies any individual, interpersonal and/or managerial competencies or qualities that an employee needs to possess (eg: flexibility, stress tolerance, teamwork, planning etc.) Where possible these should be related to the organisational culture, values or identified core competencies.

Other recommendations include.

  • Job descriptions are written in conjunction with the person currently doing the job as they are in the best position to know what the job involves. Input can also be gained from the manager and team members. Staff input encourages ownership and accountability and motivates the employee's full commitment. When writing the job description we need to focus on the end results and use an outside-in perspective rather than an inside-out perspective, and this needs to be communicated to all staff.
  • The format of the job description be clearly set out and easy to read. While some job descriptions include valuable information, they may be hard and time consuming to understand because of their format. The format can be improved through the use of bolding information to make sections stand out or with the use of columns and tables.
  • Job descriptions do give some direction to employees, however, it should be remembered that job descriptions are only one aspect of human resource management and are used in conjunction with other systems, tools and documents. Libraries need to avoid trying to include too much information in the job description.
  • Employees have access to their own job description. If job descriptions are used for career planning, all employees should have access to the job descriptions for all positions within the library. Some organisations have made this possible by placing all job descriptions for their organisations of their intranet.
  • Job descriptions are promoted to employees of the library as a 'overview' of major responsibilities and expectations, not an all-encompassing list of expected tasks and duties. Some libraries have used the word job or position profile rather than description as this suggests an outline or overview of a job rather than a statement describing the job.
  • Job descriptions must be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain consistent with the goals and objectives of the organisation (Cervenka, 1997), this may be incorporated into a performance management system. Regular review also allows employees to have a clear understanding of responsibilities and expectations. As Degner (1995) explains, the job description process is continual, it is not a one off event.
  • It is important to have an adequate and comprehensive communication program in place when establishing or revising a job description program (How to write job descriptions the easy way, 1993). Employees need to be kept informed of what the organisation is doing and why.
  • Job descriptions need to be standardised across the organisation.

Appendix 7 includes an example of a job description that incorporates many of the above recommendations. The first section of the Position and Person Profileprovides an overview of the position and the role the position plays within the organisation. This overview also illustrates the interdependent nature of the position by providing a summary of the organisational environment (including organisational culture), organisational structure and team environment (including team goals and key processes). The aim of this overview is also to communicate organisational expectations to an employee or prospective employee. ThePerson Profile outlines the qualifications, experience, skills and personal attributes of the person required to perform the job. The skills are linked to the organisations identified core competencies and the personal attributes are linked the organisations identified Values. The Position Profile outlines the major responsibilities of the position which are linked to the organisations identified Critical Success Factors. The performance outcomes highlight the end results expected from the major responsibilities while the performance indicators are measures of accomplishment for each responsibility. These indicators are largely linked to organisation or team service standards and performance indicators rather than individual performance indicators in order to illustrate the team based structure of the organisation.

In conclusion, the following two quotes illustrate the importance of using job descriptions once they are developed:

'Usage will give the job description life, making it a meaningful part of the total management of the organisation' (DeLon, 1994, p. 340).

'Job descriptions that sit on the shelf are worthless. If you take the time to develop them, use them properly as a management tool and make them available to staff.' (Degner, 1995, p.17).


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A case study of higher-level library technicians

Jean Bailey

Funded by the 1995 Dunn & Wilson Scholarship, with sponsorship from LJ Cullen Bookbinders NSW, and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders Victoria.



To the sponsors (L J Cullen and Apollo-Moon Bookbinders) of the ALIA Dunn & Wilson Scholarship for providing me with the financial support to perform this study. To ALIA National Office staff for administering the scholarship and providing advice. To the participants Wilma Bancroft, John Simmons and Sandra Woods for their support and patience. To the University Librarians, Helen Hayes (University of Melbourne) and James O'Brien (University of Western Sydeny, Macarthur) for their agreement to their staff's participation. To the administration at the University of Sydney Library for supporting my application and approving my leave. To my mentor Angela Bridgland for her support and guidance. To my family, friends and collegues for their interest and encouragement. To my partner Louise O'Brien for 'being there' for me throughout the project; as always her support and guidance contributed greatly to the finished work.


Prior to award restructuring in universities, library technicians only had the opportunity to progress to the senior library technician Grade 3 level in academic libraries. Award restructuring placed such library technicians at Higher Education Worker (HEW) Level 5. It also provided them with the opportunity to make a case for reclassification at a higher level or to apply for positions at higher levels. The aim of this study was to examine the career progression and practice of library technicians who were operating at HEW6 or above in academic libraries as case studies, and to examine the role of those library technicians vis-a-vis the library industry competency standards. The study sought to identify and therefore substantiate the ability of library technicians to function effectively at higher levels than was normally expected. The design of the study was informed by case study research and focussed on a small number of library technicians in order to gain an understanding of how they had achieved their career progression, and of the activities and processes they were involved in. The data were collected using observation and interviews, and from secondary sources such as job descriptions and curriculum vitae. The observation and interview data were analysed and allocated thematic labels, and used as the basis to the report. The study also articulated the participants' experience of arriving at and being in their positions, their continuing professional development, their future aspirations, and the implications of their appointments. The study findings are considered and discussed in light of the literature review, library competency standards, and the newly-developed national curriculum for library technicians.



The Australian Library and Information Association's (ALIA) Dunn & Wilson Scholarship made this study possible. In applying for the scholarship, I outlined the following aims of the study which were:

  • To examine the career progression and practice of library technicians who operated at Higher Education Worker Level 6 (HEW6) or above in academic libraries as case studies; and
  • To examine the role of those library technicians vis-a-vis the industry competency standards which were the basis to the development of the national curriculum.

There had been few studies on the role of library technicians in Australia and certainly none on those who worked at higher than traditional levels. It had been only since the reclassification of positions arising out of award restructuring, that such positions have been made available to library technicians. The study focused on three library technicians: Wilma Bancroft, co-ordinator of the interlibrary loans unit/HEW6 at University of Western Sydney, Macarthur Library (who actually left the position shortly after the interview stage of the study); John Simmons, manager, Orders/HEW6 and Sandra Woods, manager, serials/HEW7 at the University of Melbourne Library. The study set out to identify and therefore to substantiate the ability of library technicians to function effectively at higher levels than was normally accepted.

I suggested that the case studies could be used to inform the education and development of library technicians and provide exemplars for career path options. I also proposed that there could be realisation [by administrators] of the potential of library technicians to function effectively at a higher level and thereby the opportunity to free up professional staff to operate at an even higher level as befits their education. The latter could impact on human resource planning in library and information services and the rationalisation of task allocation could result in greater fulfilment for both library technicians and librarians. The study included: a literature search and review; observation and interviews of the participants and thematic analysis of same; description and analysis of the role of the practitioners; and a discussion of industry competency standards and the national curriculum.

Literature review

It was interesting to look back to an analysis of library technician tasks in 1983/84 and five year predictions of those tasks. The analysis was performed as a means by which syllabus implications for courses could be considered. The tasks were:

Write job descriptions as requested by Librarian... train nonprofessional and junior para-professional staff... write simple investigatory reports... monitor environment in relation to appropriate occupational health standards... [and] participate in systems analysis. Syllabus implications [were ]... that library technicians will be increasingly responsible for the supervision of junior para-professional staff... Included basic supervision - a unit existing in TAFE network as it met the requirements of the tasks and sub-tasks. (Smeaton, 1984, p34)

Since that time there have been many developments in library and information services not the least of which has been that of education of library technicians. Such education has provided them with the potential to be efficient and effective library paraprofessionals, however, the opportunity to practice accordingly has not always been forthcoming. The literature concerning underutilisation of library technicians and its effects on their morale, together with that of addressing the need to harness their potential in order to free up professional staff for more appropriate duties, has been reviewed in order to provide a background for the case studies.

It would seem that underutilisation may arise out of a general undervaluing of the role of library technicians. Kreitz and Ogden (1990) reported 'a 'deep resentment' by paraprofessionals of the professional staff's treatment of them' (p298). In their study, they had experienced great difficulty in allocating the professional or paraprofessional label to library tasks and suggested that their 'difficulty ... parallels the problems faced by the profession in trying to define what it is that each class of library employee does that makes it unique and thus rewarded differentially' (p301). Evans (1993) commented on the misunderstanding of some librarians 'about the way library technicians can and should be used, and a lack of desire ... to provide a working environment that will challenge them and benefit the employing organisation' (p112). Clayden (1993), however, in commenting on the future of library technicians in cataloguing in Australian libraries, believed that her 'view of a future in which technicians skills are more fully utilized has already arrived' in special libraries (p180). Thornber (1993) identified 'technological advances; budgetary constraints; award restructuring; and educational and employer emphasis on the managerial skills of librarians' as the reasons for the delegation of some tasks which had previously been viewed as belonging to the librarian as (p9).

In a survey of library technicians in academic and state libraries in all Australian states and territories, Chambers (1993) found that those 'in supervisory positions were responsible for the attainment of team targets ... [which] were set by librarians' (p21-22). These were senior library technicians operating at what was equivalent to the HEW5 position and they were responsible for work flows and task allocation, staff training and supervision. Chambers also found that library technicians 'did not want to usurp the role of librarians, but they were ... keen to develop and extend their skills in all areas of the library ... [including] supervisory and management skills' because they were optimistic about the possibility of 'moving into management and supervisory positions in the future' (p23).

Senior library technicians at the State Library of New South Wales could be viewed as equivalent to the HEW5 level in academic libraries, and Crook, when talking about the imminent appointment of the first appointees in 1983, spelt out the very high expectations of them which Scott (1993) neatly paraphrased as: 'a thorough understanding of, and a high degree of competence in, a broad range of technical processes; organisational understanding; the ability to manage change; communication skills; leadership qualities; decision making skills; problem solving skills; action planning skills; goal setting skills; and competence in training others' (p96). Ten years later, when writing about the future for library technicians at the State Library of New South Wales, Coffey (1993) pointed out that 'in the area of human development and organisational change, their [senior library technicians] development needs are identical to [those of] enior librarians: awareness of organisational issues and dynamics; leading diverse and multicultural groups; counselling and grievance resolution; contributing to branch strategic planning; planning and organising work flows; project implementation; and working cooperatively with other team leaders and other branches of the Library' (p63). It may well be that some would consider those expectations to be higher than those normally associated with Level 5 positions.

Cherrett (1993) found it 'quite extraordinary' considering their education, that there were very few library technicians working in the serials departments of university libraries (p16). In commenting on the capability of library technicians to accept higher responsibilities, Cherrett also stated that she could identify 'no significant reason why library technicians under the direction of professional staff, could not administer a serials section/department in a large library' (p18-19). Cherrett believed that the allocation of such responsibilities to library technicians would result in librarians been freed to take up higher-level administrative duties because they would be 'assured that the duties were being performed by well trained, competent staff' (p19).

The potential for enhancement of the librarian's role was supported by the literature. Weihs (1986) predicted that library technicians would catalogue whereas librarians 'would shift to the design of information systems and specialized information' (p304-5). Eskoz (1990) expressed the 'belief that professional librarians still spend too much time in routine cataloguing that could be delegated to high-level paraprofessionals under supervision' and that 'a professional background should enable the catalog librarian to see the larger whole; to evaluate priorities; to make wise, long-range decisions; and to acknowledge the importance of sometimes tedious details of quality cataloguing' (p391). Thornber (1993), in commenting on the delegation of tasks to paraprofessionals in special libraries, stated that there seemed to be a perception 'that to achieve higher professional or academic status, [librarians] have had to relinquish the more repetitive and technically oriented tasks' (p9). Crook (1993) anticipated that work in library and information services would 'become progressively more demanding and more fulfilling for both professionals and paraprofessionals, and that the professionals will finally recognise that they can only find their place in the sun with paraprofessionals by their side as equal players in the team' (p1). More recently, Rider (1996) suggested that 'to meet the needs of the 21st century, libraries will want to maximise the potential of all library staff to develop new roles and contribute successfully to the mission and goals of the future library' (p31). According to Oberg (1992) this will contribute to what library technicians want: 'respect, trust, collegiality, just compensation, and a future - in short, a career and not just a job' (p107).

The development of national competency standards for libraries in keeping with the national education and training agenda, and the subsequent and almost immediate effort to develop a national curriculum for library technicians based on those standards, with the support of ALIA, could be seen to reflect a parallel recognition by the library and information community of the importance of the role of library technicians. Doyle (1995) wrote that 'competency standards can help educators and trainers to: match education and training to industry needs; provide better career advice to individuals; and identify gaps in existing training and show industry and learners the benefits of providing and undertaking training' (p17). Further, Williamson and White (1996) wrote that 'Competency standards are ... means by which industry expresses its education and training requirements... industries are able to make explicit statements to education and training providers about the skills and knowledge they require from people in the workplace' (p3-4). Bowden and Masters (1995) appeared to support this approach in that they 'have found it useful to develop a conceptual model of the relationship between observable practice and underlying capacities which make competent practice possible' (p155 ).

The national curriculum has been developed from the library industry competency standards and offers students the opportunity to exit at levels 3 and 5 within the Australian Standards Framework (ASF). Students are provided with a number of modules associated with a management/supervisory role. Graduates exiting at Level 3, that is with a certificate, have participated in modules on managing self, managing operations-change, managing an information agency, and occupational health and safety; a total of 140 hours. Those exiting at the diploma level (ASF5) have participated in further modules on managing effective work relations, work team communication, dealing with conflict, and a further occupational health and safety module; over 100 hours. Thereby the diplomate has experienced over 240 hours of educational input on management/supervisory related subjects which equates to almost one fifth of the total course of 1360 hours.

The literature review mainly supported the view that library technicians are underutilised, however, there were some optimistic comments about their increased utilisation in the areas of cataloguing and supervision. Whereas it was revealed that some senior library technicians had been operating at a higher level for over a decade at the State Library of NSW, there was concern at the lack of opportunity for higher-level functioning in the serials departments of academic libraries. Although there was some evidence of librarians having released technical tasks to library technicians there was much more comment, usually from librarians, of the need to do so in order to achieve library services of high standard. The literature revealed the importance of competency standards to the linking of education and practice and outlined the associated underpinning framework used in the development of the TAFE national curriculum. Quirk (1994) stated that competence is 'a stage of development of learning leading to expertise' (p15) and supported this by a citation from Benner (1984) who 'in her study of the development of expertise in nursing, makes use of the Dreyfus model, which identifies five stages of proficiency...: novice; advanced beginner; competent; proficient; expert'.


The design of this study is informed by case study research. Yin (1993) stated that case study research was 'an appropriate research method ... when trying to attribute causal relationships' and that the main reason for using the case study 'is when your investigation must cover both a particular phenomenum and the context within which the phenomenum is occurring' (p31). These criteria certainly fitted my intent to investigate the relationship between library technicians and higher-level library worker positions within the context of various services within the academic library. In keeping with the case study approach, I identified concrete examples of higher-level practice, and brought together observation and discussion to describe the higher-level functioning of the library technicians under study.

Case studies are not necessarily defined by the research methods used but by the interest placed in particular cases and what can be learned from them. My evidence arose from observation and interviews of the participants, and supporting documentation and thereby fitted Yin's (1993) suggestion that 'the important aspect of case study data collection is the use of multiple sources of evidence - converging on the same set of issues' (p32).

Wolcott (1994) stated that the 'greater problem for first-time qualitative researchers is not how to get the data but how to figure out what to do with' it (p9). He went on to state that 'analysis refers quite specifically and narrowly to systematic procedures followed in order to identify essential features and relationships' (p24) and I decided to take such a systematic approach by identifying themes and sub-themes. I did this with all the data from both the observation and interview phases of the study.

The participants in the case studies were myself as the researcher, at times observer/interviewer, and three participant-practitioners. I purposefully selected the participants from a small list of known practitioners operating at a higher level. I was interested in gaining an understanding of the participants, what had contributed to their career progression, and of activities and processes that they were involved in, not in judging or evaluating them.

Data collection 
During the observation phase of the study, the participant-observation mode was mainly used in which I (the participant-observer) was engaged in passive participation. I did not interact with others to any great extent, but observed the participants and recorded what occurred, and my major role in any situation involving others was that of 'spectator'. I found it useful to take on an 'in training' stance in which I concentrated on what I saw and heard as if I would be called upon to replicate it later. I made a particular effort to note everything. When participants were involved in process activities, I sometimes required further information and therefore raised questions at the time. Sometimes the participants felt the need to inform me about what they were doing or to give me some background detail; this in fact contributed to the richness of the data.

I certainly made every effort to avoid intrusion into the situations studied. I asked the participants to inform other staff prior to my visit about the purpose of the visit. I believed this would serve to prevent undue interest in my presence within any particular situation. I asked that no special preparations were made for my visit and that no attempts were made to set up special situations; I just wanted to observe and record typical work days.

I requested secondary sources that I thought would be helpful in verifying details (such as correct titles), in corroborating information and as supportive evidence. I was provided with curriculum vitae, a diary of activities for a month, two position descriptions and one job evaluation, organizational charts, annual reports, strategic plans and other documentation such as action plans, forms, and brochures which the participants had compiled and which they considered useful to the study.

During the observation phase of the study I spent a total of nine hours spread over one and a half days with each participant. The aim of the observation was to identify their duties, interactions with other staff, and level of functioning. I used that initial data analysis of the observational phase on which to decide my approach to the interviews which were held four months later. In fact the observational data plus the secondary sources was so rich with information about the roles and levels of functioning of the participants that I decided to mainly focus the interviews on: their experience of getting into the position; their experience of being in the position; their Continuing Professional Development (CPD); how they viewed the future for themselves and for the position; and the implications of their being in the position. The interviews lasted between one and three hours.

Data management 
I personally typed up the observational data and fully transcribed the interview conversations. This process was very useful because it assisted me in identifying some of the themes. I then highlighted what I considered to be important issues and allocated a thematic label after which I assigned labels to thematic groupings. Those groupings provided the structure for the descriptions below.

Case study

Background information 
The University of Melbourne (1995) undertook 'teaching and research programmes for some 30,000 students, supported by almost 5,500 staff' covering a wide range of disciplines (p1). The libraries consisted of the Baillieu Library, which mainly covered the humanities and social sciences, and seventeen (17) branch libraries covering science and technology, law, music and education. The collections were comprised of over 2.1 million volumes and in addition to supporting the University's research and teaching programmes, there was a commitment to meeting regional and national needs. The establishment of the Library comprised 270 specialist and support staff. Both positions in the study were in the information resources division which was 'responsible for ordering, acquiring, accessioning, cataloguing and the physical preparation of library material' (p1). There were approximately 100 staff in the division whose aim was to ensure material availability and access for patrons. The orders section enhanced the Library's service by maximising buying effectiveness of the book vote and by ensuring that procedures were as efficient and flexible as resources allowed. The sixteen staff of the orders section comprised two HEW4s, one HEW3, and thirteen HEW2s. (integration with the Bibliographic Searching Section (BSS) had increased the staff to 25 supervised by John and the BSS head). The serials section supported the university objectives of research and teaching by maximising buying effectiveness and enhancing accessibility by ensuring that serials and periodicals were available in the shortest time. The serials collection comprised 18,000 titles. The section was responsible for all aspects of serials processing apart from cataloguing which was handled by the cataloguing sections. The position description (1993) stated that staff also contributed to divisional objectives and to library-wide activities such as 'strategic planning, service management, orientation tours and in-service staff development' (p2). In addition to the manager, the serials section comprised one HEW5, two HEW3/4s, eight HEW2s and casual staff.

The mission of the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Macarthur stated in the collection development policy (1995a) was 'To provide excellence in higher education, research and associated community service within South-Western Sydney' (p1) and library's activities were directed towards supporting that mission. In 1994, the collection was made up of 225,479 monographs, current subscriptions totalled 3,024, and there were 58 staff. The library goal relevant to the Interlibrary Loans Unit was that of supporting 'research by providing access to materials' (p1) and the collection development policy (1995b) also indicated a commitment to developing the distributed national collection and emphasised the importance of cooperative relations with other libraries. The interlibrary loans unit supported the library's goal of 'providing the means to deliver needed resources to research staff and students' and the concept of access, by the library to the collections of other libraries, mentioned in the draft strategic plan (1996). The unit establishment comprised Wilma and one permanent Assistant Library Technician (ALT). The information desk and loans plus the casual pool provided a total of eleven staff, from assistant library technician to library technician level, for a total of fourteen hours. In addition, loans discharged books returned from interlibrary loan and did some checking whereas the stack services were involved in some retrieval functions.

Position information 
Whereas the observation period focussed on Sandra's work in the INNOPAC implementation team, the other aspects of the study mainly focused on her work in the serials manager position. Her position in the implementation team was at the same (HEW7) level and was closely associated with and thereby drew upon her serials manager expertise.

The serials manager was responsible for the effective functioning of the section, and for the provision of a direct enquiry service to users. The position also had to provide input to divisional goals and plans as well as involvement in library-wide planning and service initiatives. The main responsibilities of the position were: to maintain an efficient, fully operational serials section; to manage the budgetary responsibilities of the serials allocation; to maximise the personnel resources available in the section; to assist in communication within the division and the library; to assist in the provision of direct service to users; and to contribute to library service objectives. For a more detailed description see Appendix A.

Sandra did not have a position description statement for the work she did in regard to INNOPAC implementation work, however, her primary function as a member of the implementation team was to be responsible for setting up parameters for the serials and acquisitions modules and to work with the acquisitions and serials working groups to achieve same. Sandra was also to assess and evaluate work flows, plan work involved in entering manual data onto the system, prepare and deliver training in relation to the acquisitions and serials modules, and to document the agreed processes. Sandra was a member of the serials and acquisitions committees, the technical committee, and convenor of the labels committee.

John as the orders manager was responsible for the effective management of the section, for leadership and direction and for input to divisional and library strategic planning goals. His primary responsibilities were complex problem solving tasks and planning the effective expenditure of the monograph budget. The main responsibilities of the position were: to maintain an efficient, fully operational orders section; to manage the budgetary responsibilities of the monograph allocation; to maximise the personnel resources available in the section; to assist in communication across the division and the library; and to contribute to the library's mission and service goals. For a more detailed description see Appendix B.

The minimum training level or qualifications needed to perform the basic requirements of the position for both the orders and serials managers positions were eligibility for professional membership of ALIA and at least four years subsequent relevant experience; or completion of a degree and at least four years subsequent relevant experience; or completion of associate diploma (library & information studies) or other relevant qualification with at least six years relevant work experience; or extensive experience and management expertise; or an equivalent combination of relevant experience and/or education/training. Other essential criteria were: interpersonal skills including group leadership; problem solving skills; ability to implement and manage change; ability to prioritise and maximise resources. A desirable for the Serials Manager position was a working knowledge of ABN, AACR2 and dewey decimal classification.

Wilma's curriculum vitae below was mainly based on her contribution to a job evaluation process which resulted in the reclassification of her position for HEW5 to 6. There was no documented position description available for the interlibrary loans unit co-ordinator's job, however, the Sydney Morning Herald (1996) advertisement for the position, following Wilma's resignation outlined essential criteria as: 'Eligible for professional membership of ALIA, or library technician membership of ALIA plus significant relevant experience; high level information technology skills; organisational ability; excellent communication and interpersonal skills; awareness of and commitment to teamwork; commitment to quality service' (p5E). A desirable was 'reference or inter-library loan experience in an academic library'.

Observation data

Observation of John, Sandra and Wilma revealed some similarities and some differences. One major difference was in the actual focus of the work. Whereas John's work was management oriented, Sandra's was project/facilitation oriented, and Wilma's was task oriented.

John was mainly involved with management of the service and staff, and management of a project. Aspects of his management of the staff included support and facilitation that was demanded by the self management model which he had developed. Prior to a combined meeting, staff referred to him about the integration of the orders section with the bibliographic searching section. He supplied them with essential information such as a floor plan and also gave them some input about alternatives for organisation, 'we're set up by supplier ... they're set up by funds' and about the running of a meeting 'best discussion will come by letting it all blend ... look at strengths, people, roles'. John also suggested that there might be a need for a reasonably immediate follow up meeting to address any unresolved issues. Staff asked if he and the other section head had any preferred model to which John replied: 'I hope you will work it out at your level'. Further, he also gave the staff some essential information which they required for their preplanning in relation to the changeover to the INNOPAC system: they thought they could accession in the following week and he told them they could but that they had to edit the list. This information led to some confusion and John took on a more directive approach which facilitated a more logical outline of the process and the staff's realisation that they could carry out the procedure. This intervention revealed that John was ultimately in control of activities as did a staff question, 'Will you want us to add items that we accession?' and a later comment 'It's after 4pm you could leave' to staff in a group talking outside his office; although no one actually left I think it was an indication that John continually monitored their activities. Conversely his willingness for staff to solve their own problems was evident: staff queried a flow chart in relation to data entry for INNOPAC and John suggested that they review it.

The impact of the above and previous discussions with John was reflected in a document which a member of staff had prepared for a combined meeting. It outlined the reasons for inviting certain participants and for developing a structure based on a self management philosophy; it addressed negative perceptions held by some staff; it spelt out John's role in relation to the integration; it made suggestions for strategies to be used to move forward both in relation to the integration of the sections and the changeover to the INNOPAC system. This document clearly reflected John's development of sectional staff to a self managing groupJohn commented that he used to organise blitzes to clear backlogs but the staff took it over, and also that when staff shared a problem he usually gave it back to them to solve.

John was also responsible for a project to get equipment and software out to the branch libraries in preparation for the launch of the INNOPAC system. He had been asked to manage the project about a week prior to my visit and this had been confirmed on the previous day; everything had to be in place by the end of the week. John had delegated the actual work to two members of staff, one of whom had computer expertise and another who had a great deal of anxiety about working with computers. John spent some time talking to them to make sure they were clear about what was required and informing them about what he was doing. John also liaised by phone with some branch libraries about the equipment they would receive and about sending an e-mail out to inform everyone. He was open to alternatives and could even see the value of same 'if the Division want to do something extra ...[they] may see something we haven't noticed'. John had composed a notice for readers; based on minutes of the circulation committee meeting and consultation about procedures with a member of the implementation team. John had used what he called a 'positive interventionist' approach to its construction and it certainly very clearly informed the users what they could and could not do as from mid-December and the impact of the changeover on loan information. He had to await approval from the signatory before organising printing and distribution. John maintained contact with staff to ensure that everything was proceeding well. In addition to his project management skills, John clearly took into account staff development issues [the involvement of someone with computer anxiety] and the importance of liaison.

John had an appointment with a member of staff to discuss her application for another job. He asked her to outline the position she was applying for and then suggested she ask for a position description. John got her to reflect upon her supervisory skills and audiovisual collections and he suggested she do some research by talking to audiovisual staff within Baillieu Library. He also suggested talking to a member of staff from a small branch library to gain information about lending services in a similar environment to the position she was applying for. He systematically went through essential criteria with her and suggested revision of her curriculum vitae to emphasise what she had done in relation to those criteria. He suggested that she consider her weak areas and said that he would be interested to hear about same. John also emphasised the importance of seeing the position supervisor prior to the interview. This discourse revealed John's awareness of the selection process, his detailed knowledge of staff within his Section, and his interest in their growth. This was further evidenced in a sensitive interaction with another member of staff who had had a great deal of computer anxiety and whom John had counselled through to the point where she was willing to work on those issues: whilst applying for leave John raised the fact that they would be considering more computer skills when she returned and she responded positively to his suggestion. At a more basic level he was involved in skills sharing when he informed staff how to send an e-mail.

John's obvious respect for his staff was apparent in the above interactions as it was when he commented on a group interaction outside his office: 'it's a long time since [I've] seen [such interaction] - it's nice'.

John was involved with financial matters in relation to the acquisition of materials. He had some interactions with his supervisor in regard to the clearing of funds by the end of the financial year and organised for a member of the Administrative Services Section (ASS) to provide him with a cash balance; he also informed her that he was going to assess the organisation of accounts at the beginning of the following year. John was obviously aware of the fact that INNOPAC would provide better accounts reporting information for everyone who needed it including staff in branch libraries. He had more interactions with ASS about payment of invoices and comments revealed an awareness of real schedules and his willingness to operate according to same, for example the university's accounting system had a different closing date to that of the library. John informed me that he put into effect a twelve month cancellation policy because he had found out from reading the manual that the previous automated system would not cancel under approximately two thousand days and this resulted in a skewed picture of what was committed. He would determine what was required to continue this strategy on INNOPAC. John commented that he used checking of invoices to monitor for problems and addressed same when they arose. A staff member presented an invoice for authorisation of payment and John checked that the amount was correct before signing it; his interaction with that staff member revealed his knowledge of the recording system. John indicated an awareness of the need to continually monitor supplier activities and had in fact put into place a strategy for keeping a major supplier 'honest': he occasionally used a smaller supplier and had informed the major supplier of that strategy. The latter responded by offering a discount which they maintained despite the fact that John continued to use the other supplier. This indicated that not only was John involved in the basic processing of invoices and the maintenance of records but he had put in place a strategy that ensured the best possible use of funds.

Different aspects of John's involvement in orders were observed. He followed up a phone call about an order by asking someone to type it upHe sent an e-mail thanking a supplier for sorting out an order; John believed it was important for him to maintain personal contact with suppliers and to give thanks when they were due. He dealt with orders including a problem order and followed this up with required action to facilitate the agreed-to fast track. He assessed the INNOPAC system's acquisition plus create list capabilities. He discussed the strategies for changeover from the LIB to INNOPAC system. He gave some thought to the selection of a member of staff for delegation to the INNOPAC implementation team for data entry of fund and vendor codes and then subsequently went through an in-depth introduction of that person in order to provide them with sufficient information to perform the task. He had a discussion with the leader of the INNOPAC implementation team about various codes, worksheets and the difficulties associated with understanding them and tricks learnt from others. John identified the need for the INNOPAC procedures manual to be updated and indexed. Throughout all of these tasks and interactions, John's understanding of acquisition systems, both manual and automated, and human resource management issues were very evident.

Meetings, liaison, data entry, planning and documentation were the major aspects that I observed of Sandra's work.

Sandra was intensely involved with the finalisation of a draft activity plan for the implementation of the INNOPAC serials module. The plan was a very detailed timetable from November 1995 to January 1998 covering the training of staff, human resources, equipment, occupational health and safety issues, data entry, and the changeover from a manual to an automated system. Sandra consulted with a member of staff in a branch library about an issue which she thought would affect branch libraries and she met with the acting serials manager to discuss the document which was also to be used as a basis for discussion with staff about their respective roles in the serials section. Sandra made some adjustments to the plan based on that discussion. They discussed their roles and decided that it was appropriate for Sandra to lead the implementation project in the serials section. They then discussed the agenda for the meeting with staff which was to be held on the following day. Throughout this interaction it was very evident that Sandra had a clear grasp of both the serials and the system issues involved in the changeover.

At the meeting in the serials section to discuss the activity plan, Sandra spoke about the two systems (manual and INNOPAC) running in parallel and acknowledged the staff's achievement in cleaning up records before automation. She informed them that she would be the project leader in relation to serials data entry. Sandra emphasised that the data entry activities must not get in the way of client services. She was also very clear about the acting serials manager continuing in that position, as she would be working with the director of management services, and was enthusiastic about future developments involving the new (INNOPAC) system. She spoke of the need for a flexible approach to training needs and said she would set up a system for recording ideas in relation to work flows. She gave staff ample opportunity to ask questions about the timetable and about the new system, and to contribute to problem solving, for example how to handle certain titles. Sandra also informed them that priorities might change as the implementation proceeded and therefore timetabling would have to change. Before the meeting closed, Sandra checked that everyone had a clear idea of what was going to happen. Throughout this meeting, Sandra demonstrated her commitment to staff involvement in the implementation process.

Sandra made copious notes about relevant issues in relation to worksheets and timetabling at the meeting of the system technical committee (which comprised Library-wide representation plus the INNOPAC implementation team), She gave some input in response to questions about worksheets. Sandra had worked with the team leader in preparing a discussion paper about record templates in the INNOPAC system which was presented by the team leader. This paper outlined the purpose of templates, listed the type of records, posed some of the questions that needed to be addressed, outlined work flow considerations, and made recommendations for future action. Sandra was to be involved in some follow up to make policy recommendations to the technical committee regarding number of templates, content and standards. Sandra provided feedback about the first meeting of the labels committee which she chaired and which was representative of all campuses and relevant areas of the library. Sandra stated that advice and samples were being sought from suppliers and from another university library, and that the work should be completed by the end of January. Again this input (discussion paper and feedback from meeting) indicated that Sandra had a clear grasp of the INNOPAC system and of library procedures. Immediately after the meeting Sandra followed through on a request from the meeting that she find out the dates of the long vacation.

Sandra was involved in activities related to data entry in order to customise the INNOPAC system for the library's use: planning for the entery of leading articles therefore she asked another member of staff to check the paperwork beforehand; identifying what was needed and who could provide information about the frequency of serials. At one point Sandra could not get to where she needed to be in the INNOPAC system therefore she called upon her supervisor. This revealed a willingness to acknowledge her own limitations and to ask for assistance. They both tried to replicate the problem and failed therefore Sandra immediately sent an e-mail to the INNOPAC consultant.

Sandra also met with a member of staff from the serials section about binding and asked her to compile a list of questions for the INNOPAC trainer which would also be used during the training sessions for library staff.

Sandra made a presentation to staff from branch libraries with the aims of: sharing information about progress in relation to the INNOPAC system; starting them thinking about work flows; and introducing them to the serials and acquisitions modules. Sandra emphasised that it was only an introductory session and that there would be more detailed training later. She presented nineteen overheads to support her presentation in which she informed them about the structure and organisation of INNOPAC with an emphasis on files, records, fields and codes. Finally, Sandra presented the activity plan on an overhead and discussed the implications. Throughout the presentation she was open to questions and revealed a flexibility in that she was not firmly committed to any particular approach or strategy. For example, when asked whether they would close roneos, Sandra said it was up to them, however, she did advise that they not duplicate work and that they held on to roneo cards for control purposes until they were sure that all information was in the holdings field of the INNOPAC record. When closing the session, Sandra said they could contact her by e-mail about any questions arising. Sandra was well prepared for the session, was very clear about its aim and maintained her clarity throughout; she was obviously well versed in the principles of good presentation.

Wilma was mainly involved with data entry tasks and supervisory matters throughout the observation stage of the study.

Wilma demonstrated an awareness of staff needs in regard to use of equipment and use of software. She was also alert to the need for staff to have resources such as equipment as they required same. Wilma also demonstrated her sense of accountability in relation to the cost of acquiring items on interlibrary loan by seeking out less costly means.

Wilma obviously viewed staff development as a responsibility. She expressed pleasure about the full time staff member going to courses because it contributed to her abilities within the section. She also showed great interest when interacting with a part-time member of staff about her application for another job.

Wilma spoke about the positive effect of establishing good rapport with clients and demonstrated the importance by talking about the request in hand where the academic had provided her with additional information in order to facilitate access. She was very responsive to client requests in that she took immediate action such as confirming an extension of a loan for an academic. Also, when someone presented to the unit office looking for a book which was supposed to be held at the circulation desk, Wilma escorted them to the desk, looked around and on not finding same said she would follow it up; she did so immediately and found out that the book had been returned to the lending library because the expiry date had lapsed. She then informed the academic and asked if she wanted the book re-requested; quality principles in action!

Wilma's memory for detail was apparent when a member of staff named an undergraduate student who had made requests; she immediately referred to a list which informed her that person had been given special permission.

Evidence of Wilma's service standards and monitoring was apparent in her comment during data entry on the fact that a particular library was providing better service; at one time she had avoided using that library because supply was too slow or their standard response had been 'unable to supply'. Also when doing statistics, which was a major activity during the visit due to a request from her manager, Wilma compared months and stated that August was the heaviest month. She also realised that the total statistics were down and on checking identified that she had not entered the figure for one month. Wilma stated that whilst processing statistics she tended to identify problems which indicated mistakes made by staff and which she followed up with them, for example she identified that someone had recalled an item then had sent it out again to the same person. Wilma also had to respond to a request from the accounts department for clarification of the system for ordering Interlibrary loans vouchers; she was responsible for the control of same and later in the day the ALT pointed out that more were needed.

Wilma was also involved in a problem solving activity for the interlibrary loans section in a different campus library: she ascertained that a book had been sent out in the wrong name and staff were then able to locate it.

Wilma carried out activities related to the development of the interlibrary loans system. Whilst processing a returned book she realised the strap was missing therefore rang the library concerned; also decided that as this frequently happened there was a place for a proforma letter and wrote herself a note to do this. She informed me that she had also put together a proforma letter which facilitated the ordering of articles from another campus and that she had instituted and developed a control system using the straps which had a barcode label attached and request number added; the book title was in the data base with the request number plus date due whereas the barcode was on the circulation system. Wilma also commented that she had tried to network Interlibrary loans requests but this had caused problems and she intended reinstalling the software when the library got its own server. Whilst working on computer she identified that access to certain software would be improved if another programme group was minimized therefore called upon Systems staff to deal with same. She had previously suggested to her administrator that it would be beneficial for a proposal to be made for a longer loan period from a major library. All of this would seem to demonstrate that Wilma is always looking at ways of improving service delivery and efficiency.

Wilma spent a major proportion of her work in supervising staff. She checked another person's paperwork and then asked them to do photocopying; also reminded them of the need to record statistics. She received someone's search results. She checked why a member of staff from a different section had not arrived to work in the Unit. When they did present, Wilma gave them a list of chores to do including checking photocopies, and preparing material for dispatch. She got staff to check requested items against the Library's holdings, to enter requests on the data base, to sort requests for filing, and she spoke about her intention of teaching someone else to enter other information on the data base because it was a lower level task which she found extremely boring. She interacted with staff to clarify whether an item was held and pointed out the financial implications of making an Interlibrary loans request for a held item. Wilma also performed administrative tasks such as forwarding time sheets. The supervisory demands made on Wilma during my observation of her work was even more extensive than those I've listed and not only did she handle these competently she also seemed to be thinking ahead and required the same of others, for example she asked the full time staff member what she would be doing in the afternoon and stated that if she could let her know then Wilma could inform someone else what was required of them. In addition, whilst completing her own tasks Wilma obviously was very aware of what else was occurring and when work/issues needed to be attended to. Another aspect of Wilma's supervisory style that was evidenced was when leaving the building during a fire drill she was talking to staff about their roles and responsibilities. Also, having returned to the building Wilma commented to me about her awareness that as their supervisor, she felt responsible for the care of those staff.

Although only a small permanent team of staff comprising Wilma and one other, Wilma's contribution to that team was demonstrated in the tasks she achieved during my visit and in the task sharing (entering data onto computer) and information sharing ('telnetting not possible at end of week because of microwave hookup') that they were both involved in. Also, the ALT asked Wilma to perform a search for a request which she did. Wilma demonstrated a willingness, in fact a keenness, to accept ideas for change/improvement from the ALT. She stated that they both reflected upon procedures, especially if a problem arose, to assess how a re-occurrence could be prevented. For example, previously Wilma would have been able to see that a book had been returned and the date of return thereby saving time when the client (mentioned above) could not find her book at the circulation desk, however, they had ceased entering that data. On revisiting the issue and reflecting upon same, they decided to re-institute such data entry. Sometimes information sharing between Wilma and the ALT also resulted in decision making and problem solving; this was evidenced while they were both working on data entry in relation to statistics. Wilma and the ALT generally shared the day-to-day tasks, however, if any problems were experienced, for example not enough information in a request, that was referred to Wilma in the first instance because of her higher-level problem solving/analytical ability.

Similar to Sandra, when Wilma checked e-mail she was selective about what she dealt with. This related to what tasks she had decided to do, for example she printed off e-mail requests from academics because she intended to process them immediately.

Another significant task that Wilma was involved in was that of dealing with requests. She down loaded the ILANET requests to the local database and after creating a file of 'requests out' sent them via the modem. She then printed off requests for non-ILANET libraries using the data base and attached them to fax forms which had been printed in one run. Wilma was also involved in searching library holdings and responding to and following up phone requests, which included a fast track. Although searching on ABN was not in Wilma's duty statement, she did it regularly because the work would not have been achieved otherwise. During the process of dealing with requests and of searching, Wilma seemed to be very efficient in many of her actions and particularly knowledgeable and skilled in dealing with the computerised aspects of her work. When Wilma became frustrated by slow access to a network, she commented that she usually found other work to do while she waited and may have occasionally used the time to read an article.

Wilma's willingness to co-operate with other libraries was demonstrated: in her response to a library which wanted to check holdings; in making an effort to provide requested information where possible; in her suggestion that another library fax a request; and in her keenness to offer a responsive service, for example she told an enquirer that their request was sent out less than 24 hours after its receipt.


After considering the observation material, I identified five themes as important for elaboration by the participants during the interview process: their experience of getting into the position; their experience of being in the position; their continuing professional development (CPD); how they viewed the future for themselves and for the position; and the implications of their being in the position. These plus the subthemes identified from the analysis of interview data are outlined in table 1. Duplication of some information previously given may be apparent; this is purposeful in that the interviews revealed what the participants themselves considered important to their being in the position.

Experience of getting into the position

Career path 
Two of the participants referred right back to early career decisions. John spoke of having a very early interest and that work in libraries became 'a firm career option probably when I was at secondary school'. Sandra decided on leaving school that she wanted to work in libraries and was successful in getting a position as a junior library assistant at the University of Melbourne where she was placed in the serials section. John helped out in the school library and his contact with the librarian led to her and her husband's support and mentorship of young John. Her husband, who was also a librarian, offered John his first job as a storeman at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Central Library, then after a couple of years pressured him to move on.

John emphasised that he never had a planned career path, and therefore that he 'arrived by accident' into the Level 6 position; 'I didn't plan to be here, I'm just here'. Wilma said that she 'fell into the position' because no one wanted to be in the acting position and the manager asked if she would take it on. Sandra focused her working life 'more towards the managing - the training and supervision areas' and actually consciously worked out what skills she would require to get into the position.

Work experience 
Work experience was obviously an aspect of their experience of getting into the position for all participants. Sandra progressed to junior library assistant grade two then to library officer and finally to acting serials librarian before actually being appointed to the position. Along the way in addition to developing skills, she demonstrated her capabilities and training and supervisory potential. John spoke of his work at the Institute of Education (formerly the Melbourne College of Advanced Education) particularly in the acquisitions section where he was for five years, and the lending services section where he worked for twelve years. John stated that he ended up being the supervisor of lending services 'by virtue of the fact that I was there for a long time plus I could do that sort of thing - I was very focused on the staff and very good at customer service'. In addition to supervisory experience, John gained planning and project management experience in that position. Wilma spoke of her experience both at Sutherland Public Library where she had worked in many areas and her secondment to the position during which she developed an automated system to facilitate the handling, controlling and reporting of interlibrary loans.

Mentors and role models 
Everyone spoke of the contribution of mentors and role models. Sandra pointed out that the serials librarian knew she had particular interests in training and supervision and supported her to develop skills. This was very important to Sandra who said she 'would have got nowhere' without such encouragement. She also spoke of a very supportive divisional head who 'always made herself available' for advice. Sandra's mentors also supported her creativity, to take risks and to learn from any mistakes. In addition to the contribution of John's early mentors mentioned previously, after John left CSIRO the librarian continued to provide mentorship and was keen to see John develop a career as a librarian. He was very supportive as was the university librarian and it was her support which resulted in John doing the library technician qualification. John believes that the university librarian and the divisional head had both recognised his ability; they certainly had been very encouraging. Wilma spoke more globally about the supportive environment at Sutherland Public Library where the librarians were very positive towards library technicians and where they were offered every opportunity to grow and develop Wilma also mentioned one significant role model with whom she worked closely, a library technician and a very positive person who did the professional qualification not 'to become a librarian but to become a better [library] technician'. John identified that his 'management style has come out of modelling myself on people who present a certain way': there was his first supervisor who always made himself accessible to staff; and there was a youth group leader and his own father from whom he learnt the skills and qualities of leadership. Sandra emphasised the importance to her of the serial librarian's modelling behaviour of encouraging staff, of being calm, of being people oriented and decisive, 'she was empathic but she was tough at times ... and I learnt that from her in that there are some hard decisions that have to be made that people don't like'. By modelling herself on others, Sandra had also developed the ability to consider what she and/or the staff did in relation to the achievement of sectional goals. Sandra could not identify any mentors/role models while doing the library technician course whereas John said he found some teachers were very encouraging and gave very good feedback.

Library technician qualification 
Wilma was emphatic about the importance of the library technician qualification to her appointment, 'I wouldn't have got the [library] technician's position in the first place if I didn't have the qualification'. Also, she spoke of using information that she had gained during the course in assessing the interlibrary loan system which was in place when she was seconded, 'I knew there had to be a better way'. Wilma was able to identify that both she and the ALT who was doing the course had a higher hit rate, when searching, than other staff and that it might have been related to the analytical skills [developed as a result of the course] which they brought to the task: 'looking at whether a mistake had been made in the request'; 'considering other search strategies'. Sandra very definitely thought that doing the library technician course gave her a higher awareness of what was required in improving her work processes and in discussions with other staff, for example knowledge of cataloguing facilitated discussions with serials cataloguers. Sandra believed that the information gained during the course had the potential to empower library technicians. John believed that having the library technician qualification contributed and that it 'best trains staff for processing work ... because the style of teaching and the way of learning is supplemented by practical experience'. He saw the course as being a way of refining and formalising what he'd learnt through his work experience. In the main, however, John did not take the qualification into account when considering his development but related this more to having worked in the culture of the Institute of Education where a person's ability was far more important than their qualifications.

Personal qualities 
Showing herself as being quick to learn when she was doing cataloguing and then being able to develop the ILL service when in the Acting position, Wilma considered to be factors in her getting the HEW5 position. In addition, she identified the importance to career progression of having confidence in one's self and one's abilities. John also talked of the importance of his believing in what he did and of having shared values with his colleagues; of being surrounded by people who supported one another and believed in a cooperative effort. Sandra emphasised her interest in training, which she viewed as 'the crux of an organisation', and in quality service which led her into a managerial role. She also identified the contribution made by library managers in providing her with opportunities for development. Her secondment to the INNOPAC implementation project team was an example of such opportunity.

Pre-appointment events 
Wilma experienced being appointed to the Interlibrary loans position at HEW Level 5 and a re-evaluation of that position which resulted in it becoming a Level 6 position. The re-evaluation process included her completion of a complex form followed by discussion about same with her supervisor; they agreed that the position warranted upgrading to a Level 6. Wilma said that everyone was surprised by this because Level 5 was traditionally seen to be the level for base grade librarians and senior library technicians and anything higher than that was considered to be at librarian level. Sandra experienced being in the acting position where immediately upon appointment she was required to bring the work group together as a team and to appoint people to vacant positions. An essential aspect of her team building skills was Sandra's ability to select the right staff, those who could not only do the work but would fit in with the work group.

Experience of being in the position

Reactions to appointment 
Everyone had different experiences in relation to the reactions of others to their appointment. Wilma said there were a few comments which she could have been offended by but they were fairly general, however, there was one particular comment by someone who said that if they were a supervisor they would fill all Level 6 positions with graduate librarians; they did not, however, have anything against library technicians. Wilma could not give much credence to their comments because she was doing the work at the level it was re- evaluated at, and doing it well; 'that's why the position went up because it developed while I was in it'. John had been warned that there might be some negative reactions to his appointment, however, he only experienced one from a librarian who had previously indicated their non-acceptance of library technicians in the work place. John experienced some negativity from peers who saw him as advancing 'because I knew the right people' which he found annoying. He was also aware of some resistance to his ideas and he believed that colleagues thought that he didn't know what he was talking about and some who thought he was empire building. He was aware of a general lack of confidence in his ability to do the job: 'I had a procession of people who told me that they'd either done the job or been acquisitions librarian somewhere else and if I needed help just to give them a call'. John also experienced some pressure to comply, with people insisting on giving him advice about how things should be done. Despite there being a very public reaction to Sandra's appointment, she was not fussed by same because 'as far as I was concerned I had the [management] skills and they obviously chose the right person' for the position.

Position development 
John spoke about the development of the acquisitions manager's position: he was appointed to the position at Level 6 and after approximately a year, he approached the division head about the fact he was doing the same things as the other section heads who were at Level 7 and that there was a need for equity in salary. She actually supported him but because there was a review of the management structure being carried out a temporary arrangement of a personal loading to the bottom of Level 7 was organised.

Sandra said she had been trained in the INNOPAC circulation module to provide her with a broader overview of the system which was crucial to her work on the implementation team.

Personal qualities 
A number of personal qualities and abilities were identified mainly by John when talking about his experience of being in the position. He spoke about his willingness to take risks, for example telling the divisional head that he wanted to work directly with the other two sectional heads and didn't want her to be involved. This had developed to the point where the divisional head wanted them to work things out at their own level in the first instance. John believed that he was willing to take risks firstly because he was confident in his ability, secondly because he did not have overall responsibility, and thirdly because he had the support of the divisional head. John spoke about his greatest weakness being the lack of professional knowledge in the area of acquisitions; 'there's so much detail [that] I don't know off the top of my head ... it's professional detailed knowledge' that he had to look up such as who certain suppliers were. John referred to such knowledge as 'the professional nuts and bolts of librarianship' and he believed that lack of such knowledge affected his relationships in that he felt very insecure when talking to knowledgeable staff, 'I always feel that I'm about to be found out'; he dealt with this problem usually by being open about gaps in his knowledge. In John's opinion those who had been around for a long time had a lot of historical knowledge and he believed that was seen as 'a way of displaying how good you are at your job'. He also believed that having such knowledge served to prevent repetition of mistakes. Paradoxically, John operated on the basis that he did not have to be expert in all areas; that it was important to acknowledge his limitations and to call on those, often others within the section, who had such expertise. For example, John stated he was limited in his computer knowledge but he was aware of members of staff within the section who were very skilled and would turn to them as required. Such awareness of himself was also evident in John stating that he trusted himself and that his responses to staff would be appropriate; he would not lose his temper when staff made mistakes. John also spoke about his willingness to share problems, to ask for assistance when thinking through a process in order to counteract his tendency to jump essential steps.

All of the participants spoke about reflecting on their practice. Wilma spoke of her need to think about how the work was done in order to achieve the most efficient service, 'to cut corners wherever we possibly can just to get [loans] out'. Sandra spoke of her reflection on the best way of achieving aims and carrying out procedures. John spoke about reflecting upon what was being done and the best way of achieving it and his involvement of staff in the reflective process by getting them to consider other ways of doing things. He saw his ability to reflect as important to service improvement: by considering and recommending changes to work flows, he had been able to facilitate reduced pressure on over-burdened staff.

Also, there was the ability to analyse, for example John spoke of the importance of considering supplier details such as numbers of delivery problems, 'the amount of money spent on fixing problems is inordinate to the amount of time in putting stuff through' and of deciding to pay more money to achieve less problems.

Work relations 
Other work factors which were covered included work relations. The theme of work relationships was only minimally identified as a specific in the experience of being in the job. Wilma did not have many library technician peers and her main interaction outside the Unit was with the supervisor of the Loans staff who allocated support staff to Interlibrary Loans. Wilma described her relationship with the staff in the Unit as very good, 'we've got a good working team'. Wilma also admitted that she had not acted according to the inferred guidelines that one should not have friendships with subordinates. She believed that it was important that 'a supervisor should lead by example' and that this together with her willingness to socialise with them had in fact contributed to the cohesion of the team. John spoke of the fact that most of his working relationships involve 'quite a deal of humour' because he believed that humour facilitated the willingness to consider what one was doing especially 'to look at things you are doing wrong'. He also spoke about the importance of his work relations in terms of his needing 'those personal connections at work' in order to know where he stood and how he should approach issues. John identified cooperation as being an important aspect of his experience especially cooperation with other section heads to develop services and to provide staff in order to get rid of backlogs or to get urgent work done. He seemed to be particularly committed to breaking down the barriers between sections and had been involved in a cooperative multiskilling effort. He was involved with some section heads in ignoring traditional boundaries for example copy cataloguing staff were going to train some of his staff. John and the other section heads were not waiting for the restructuring plan [arising out of a review] but were leading the way. Sandra also identified her involvement in a multiskilling project which required cooperation between divisions and resulted in information services staff working in the serials section.

Values and beliefs 
Although the values and beliefs of the participants implicitly underpinned many of the themes previously described, there were some which were more explicitly articulated. For example, John was worried about the idea of 'being professional for the sake of it' and thought some staff used it as a power issue which could get in the way of relationships. He also believed in the power of language, 'the language of how we work is so important', and spoke of how he negotiated with the self management team not to 'get bogged down in the formality' of meetings when someone suggested the need to have the minutes signed. John said he consciously used language to break down barriers when necessary and sometimes to assert his position as manager and get staff to listen to him because he had to get something moving. I identified other beliefs which were obviously important to John's management style: that section leaders were paid to accept responsibility for a certain amount of independent judgement; that he was 'not better than a pool of 25 people'; that managing upwards was the only way; and that he had to support and nurture his staff, all of which impacted on his leadership of the self management team. Sandra's belief in the importance of training to work practice and staff development impacted not only on her own practice but on the plans for her career.

Management aspects 
It was not surprising that a major theme during the interviews was that of 'management' and was shared by all participants. John expressed interest in human resources management as that aspect of his work that challenged and interested him the most and this was reflected in his having structured his job with a personnel focus. He described that aspect as reactive: 'people come up and ... need to ask ... it may be procedural may be policy, it may be personal' and the importance of his attending to same, 'if people don't have that chance to discuss those issues ... I don't think they'll work the way they need to'. John also acknowledged his skill in judging and understanding people's abilities and that this was important to his allocating the right person to a task, not only for efficiency's sake but because lack of effectiveness may indicate that a person did not like doing a task. The main human resource management issues that Wilma had to address were related to co-ordination and quality control: she had eleven casual staff, from other departments, inputting fourteen hours which of course created enormous training demands and very close monitoring. Wilma also spoke of the supervisory aspects of her work such as staff discipline and in the example she gave she had motivated the person to change by linking the behaviour to her future career 'OK you're bored ... but you want to leave here - how are you going to get a good report' and that staff member had obviously heard Wilma's interest in her future because she returned soon after to discuss same with Wilma. Sandra identified the importance of resource management to the implementation of changes in order to deal with backlogs. She also spoke of the importance of participative management; she very much saw herself as part of the work group who had a leadership role which included facilitation, helping the staff to develop decision making skills, and team building. Sandra demonstrated her effectiveness in this role: 'I think about 90% of our strategic plan' was achieved.

Self management was a major aspect of John's management style demonstrated by the operation of the work group who had mainly taken John out of the daily operational work of the section. John, like Sandra, played a facilitative role such as suggesting to the group that the best way of integrating the orders and BSS sections would be to intermingle the seating. The work group actually adopted this suggestion but John would have accepted if they had not done so. At times he had lobbied the group in order to get the consideration of an idea. Both he and the work group had been involved in communicating and demonstrating the effectiveness of the self management approach to their peers. John described the effect of those negotiations: 'the bibliographic searching staff had to understand that they actually had responsibilities - they had the ability to make decisions - they had the responsibility that goes with that - and they worked very hard in a fairly short period ... to catch up'. The two work groups had reached the stage of not needing their managers at the meetings and had set up a feedback mechanism. Again demonstrating his facilitative role, John had spoken to them about the need to consider whether they were experiencing any problems associated with having two managers and to inform them. The staff had told John that they did not have any problems with having two managers and he expressed his concern to me that the staff believed they did not require a manager and did not completely understand that he was their link with management; he was their advocate and representative with management and with other sections. An example of such representation was his having to clarify protocols in relation to dewey classifications whereby he was able to ascertain what the boundaries were for the staff's contribution to copy cataloguing. In his opinion the self management approach had contributed to making less mistakes; problem sharing with the work group had led to more effective decision making.

Team building was another facet of their work that the participants identified. Wilma spoke of the effort she had to put into developing what she saw as a 'good working team' because not only were there a lot of staff but some of them were difficult. John had spent the first six months in the job focussing on personnel matters, mainly team building. He said that his motivation was his preference to work in a team environment which not only enhanced his abilities but challenged him to do better. In addition to using his team building skills in relation to his own section, John thought he had a responsibility to contribute to the building of the team of Sectional managers. One aspect of team building that all participants were or had been involved in was that related to re-organisation of work flows.

Organisation and planning were also explicitly identified as essential elements of their management by Sandra and John. Sandra had been immediately struck by the need for a strategic plan and had set one in place in order to keep the Section 'moving forward'. She saw achievement of goals as one of the most important positives to being in her position especially because the section's strategic plan was one of the first developed in the Library. John also saw being organised and 'knowing what I've got to do ... the planning side of it' as crucial. Wilma's organisation and planning were implicit in her development of the service; she identified what was required and then planned for and implemented improvements. They were also apparent in her ability to manage, sometimes rapid, change, which she described as 'daunting - I mean there's new systems coming up', and having to decide 'what's the best way to go?'

John's project management expertise seemed to be based on his team building skills especially the ability to gather around him staff who complimented the way he worked. John emphasised his contribution to the management of projects as primarily his ability to select the right people. He also identified an important aspect of his project management skills as his willingness to listen to the problems that staff experience in achieving their tasks and of sometimes accepting responsibility for problem solving. Essentially, John identified his interpersonal skills, especially listening.

Staff development 
Staff development issues were high on the agenda for all participants. Multiskilling was seen as essential: John was very keen on a 'complete task' approach whereby the relevant people could complete all tasks involved in both orders and urgent work. Whilst performing the strategic planning process, Sandra had the staff consider the issue of multiskilling, which she saw not only as a means of developing staff but as a sound resource management principle (more than one person could do a particular task) whereby conflict between the different service points would be dealt with by making all staff aware of the demands placed on same. Such conflict had been evident between those doing reader services work and those doing technical services work who all saw their work as being the most important; Sandra's strategy of multiskilling all staff served to dispel those conflicts.

John saw appraisal as an important aspect of staff development and during same focussed more on communications than on specific and detailed critiques. Also, his staff appraisals were based on self-evaluation and he had found that staff were much harder on themselves. Of course there was a staff development aspect to other themes/subthemes such as cooperation with other sections and subsequent allocation of staff; such allocation not only supported that other section but provided the staff with opportunities for growth.

Service development 
Wilma stated that 'it was part of my job to keep informed' in order to develop the service. To achieve this she read a great deal and she networked with interlibrary loan services in other academic libraries, subscribed to e-mail lists, and attended seminars.

The experience of pressure (stresses and demands) was identified by all participants. Wilma stated that her's was a very demanding job with a very heavy workload and Sandra said that 'serials [work] has always been highly pressured'. John experienced pressure because he had a 'huge learning curve' and there was so many detailed aspects to the job. He also found the personnel aspects of the job 'very tiring' at times. Sandra also spoke of the stress of the serials manager position being that she 'had to constantly motivate certain people' and 'because of the volume of work coming through ... it's a constant stress'.

Wider contribution 
Wilma at one time had been involved in reader education activities and reference desk work, and was disappointed when this ceased because they had provided her with the opportunity to maintain her reader services skills. She had been working on the information desk for at least half a day per week. There had been no parameters for that work therefore she fielded all reference questions and believed that her knowledge of the collection, gained from her work in interlibrary loans, had contributed greatly to her ability to do so. Wilma had often been required to assist clients in their research activities and the librarian on the information desk regularly referred clients to her for assistance with searching. Wilma contributed on a university-wide basis. She was president of the campus branch of the staff association and vice president on the executive of same. Wilma was a grievance advisor for University staff whereby she gave advice in regard to problem solving about grievances with superiors and peers and when required acted as a mediator between the two parties. She was also a member of the staff awards panel which selected nominated individuals or groups who had made outstanding contributions to the university, and allocated grants for projects or professional development activities.

Obviously Sandra's involvement in the INNOPAC implementation team was evidence of the library administration's willingness to acknowledge her ability to contribute beyond the serials section. John's work with the other section heads and his project work evidenced his contribution to the Library and his concern that the divisional head 'missed out on some corridor discussions' [because she was not located in the administrative suite] demonstrated his awareness of and interest in external [to the section] matters. He spoke of his position in the organisation as being analogous to being up a ladder: 'it's not that I'm smarter - I'm just higher up and I can see further' and of how he had 'tried to make the position less focussed on the Section' by working more co-operatively with the other section heads in the division; 'by its very nature that cooperation requires you not to be locked into your own section'.

John stated that his support came from different areas and different levels of the Library, however, primarily the section staff were very supportive; they were immediately responsive when he shared problems with them. He saw other supports outside the section as providing him with a forum for ventilating feelings and discussing issues related to the demands of managing such a large staff group Sandra also primarily identified her support sectional staff who had wanted to achieve the same goals. Wilma did not identify any support systems, however, said that her immediate supervisor had been at one time.

Wilma was the only subject who spoke about the constraints attached to her position. These included being locked into the position: she felt trapped in a very demanding, very specialised job and she was not provided with any opportunities which would in turn provide career alternatives. She was excluded from any project work because she was needed in the Unit; there was never any money for extra staff and the demand for service was increasing to the point where deadlines were not being met. Wilma had difficulty coping with this because it was out of keeping with her personal standards of service but her main reason for leaving was that she needed a new challenge. Wilma felt that the organisation stifled her creativity and that it was not proactive in its dealings with the university as a whole.

Job satisfaction 
I only raised the theme of job satisfaction with Wilma because her leaving was based on frustrations and dissatisfaction. I was keen to check whether she had ever felt satisfied and Wilma identified that at one time she had felt very rewarded and challenged: 'the whole unit had turned around from something that nobody had faith in' to a situation where lecturers sought out the service. She had gained a lot of experience, especially supervisory experience, and skills in relation to computers and had the opportunity to develop a lot of skills such as the development of procedures. It was only her lack of opportunity to further develop herself and the service which had resulted in her moving on.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities identified were reading, current awareness, networking, e-mail lists, seminars, and mentorship. Of course the reading, networking, attendance at seminars and subscribing to e-mail lists that Wilma was involved in with a view to service development also contributed to her CPD. She had been included in the library's current awareness circulations when she began working on the reference desk and continued to receive same.

Despite time constraints within the work and because of family commitments, Sandra tried to keep up with reading in areas of interest (training and staff development) in the circulated journals. She did not subscribe to e-mail lists but had two colleagues who forwarded interesting postings to her. Sandra believed in taking every opportunity to attend workshops and seminars and to provide feedback about same to the Library and to relate what she learnt as much as possible to her practice; for example after attending the conference on library competency standards she decided that they could be incorporated into the position descriptions. Sandra also considered the Divisional Head's mentorship as an important part of her CPD.

John admitted to not reading widely and not being on any e-mail lists. Reading was certainly not his preferred development activity although he thought that he would keep on the library's circulation list for those serials with a human resource management focus. He knew that he would not have time to deal with the postings from e-mail lists. John was interested in attending workshops and seminars on human resource management and tried to attend two a year

Where to from here?

Further study 
Wilma was enrolled in the Charles Sturt Library and Information Services (LIS) degree programme. Sandra was unsure about studying in a professional LIS course and thought she might take up a degree in the area of training and development at a later stage. John had little interest in doing any further formal study, 'I suspect that if I do study it will because of peer group pressure'.

Aspirations and career moves 
John identified the personal limitation of not being tough enough to carry the sort of load attached to higher-level positions. However, he also said that he would find it challenging and might consider applying if something became available in the new structure; the decision to do so would depend on whether he met the criteria. He had expressed interest in being involved in a team building exercise at the sectional head level. In the short term, John believed that only one head of the combined acquisitions and bibliographic searching section was required and he expressed interest in that position because he would be challenged to extend the self management approach. He had thought about other jobs which might arise out of the restructuring but had to wait and see. John also expressed an interest in moving into the personnel area and thought he would be willing to drop a salary level to do so. Basically, John saw himself as remaining at the University of Melbourne Library as long as that was of mutual benefit to himself and to the administration. He had to consider whether he had reached his level of competency, 'is this where I'm best for me and best for the organisation and best for the people around me' or 'whether I'm willing to be challenged and go on'.

Wilma had an impending career move which she saw as challenging. She was returning to the public libraries sector to be in charge of a small branch library where she would be responsible for service delivery. Getting the position had motivated Wilma to complete the professional LIS qualification after which she thought she would be well placed to apply for a librarian's position in the district library.

Sandra did not see herself as returning to the job of serials manager. She thought she needed to move on and was being supported to do so by the divisional head who had organised for her to work in the training and development area.

For the position 
Wilma believed there was a lot of development needed for the interlibrary loans position: an increase in the number of permanent staff was required; and the logical combining of the document delivery (intercampus) and interlibrary loans services which would allow for a more uniform delivery of services to academics, 'lecturers are filling out so many different forms ... we could have just one form and one department handling everything'. She also thought it logical that the library join ABN which would impact on the work of the position.

Implications of being in the position

For library technicians 
Wilma was unsure whether library technicians would continue to occupy the position especially as four library technicians had applied for another position at the same level and it had been offered to a librarian. The interlibrary loans position had been traditionally held by library technicians and she had certainly developed it, however, basically Wilma thought the future of the position would depend on what the administration wanted; essentially it would be the best person who applied irrespective of level of qualification.

John thought that library technicians working in higher-level positions might be trail blazers for others in their discipline. He did not necessarily see himself as such because he had not consciously set out to lead the way, however, he thought that others might well view him as a role model. John thought that his being in the position might contribute to the development of library technicians by making people 'stop and say look we had a picture of a library technician being capable of this and this ... but [what] we've realised here is that a library technician qualification is part of a life experience ... [having the qualification] is only part of the picture'. John also had some problems with the label because people, including library technicians, used the phrase 'just a library technician' and he believed in the importance of promoting library technicians and of inspiring those doing the associate diploma. Conversely, however, he thought there was a danger in highlighting the potential and disenfranchising those people who wanted to focus on process work, of detracting from their pride in their work. John thought there was a need to recognise that individuals would have different aspirations and that they do not always have 'to go onwards and upwards to be the best leaders'.

Sandra hoped that in light of her occupying the position, library technicians might consider their own potential, however, she did not see herself as being a standard or benchmark for library technicians. Sandra thought it important that others knew about her experience and that she would be willing to talk about it.

For the library 
Wilma thought that the library should recognise the need of library technicians to progress, however, from what she had heard from librarians in the organisation she believed the status quo would be maintained and library technicians would compete with librarians for HEW Level 6 positions. John thought that he might be one of a small group who could be considered as a good role model in relation to his management style. He also spoke about the Library administration having taken a risk in appointing him and he hoped they would continue to support the philosophy of appointing the best person for the job. John expressed some anxiety, based on a realisation arrived at during the interview, that if a library technician failed at the HEW6/7 level the administration might then wrongfully arrive at the conclusion that no library technicians were capable. He was concerned that the administration might then move away from appointing the best person. Sandra expressed the hope that the administration would continue to make managerial appointments on the basis that the library degree was not imperative.

For library and information services 
Wilma considered that the interlibrary loans position had the potential as a benchmark for library technicians and certainly demonstrated that the role of library technicians extended beyond the ALIA definition (1994/5) of supporting 'established procedures' (p2) because she had to establish procedures in the absence of policy statements. Wilma, like other library technicians in her library, were working at a higher level than some librarians and she thought there was a need for that to be documented by ALIA. Sandra hoped that the community at large would consider the potential and value of library technicians operating at the higher level. John thought that the community at large should look at the individual and their total experience rather than the qualification and consider that outcomes were the essential performance indicators. John also spoke of the possible implications for the associate diploma with more focus on management. John raised whether one implication may be that it highlighted the question of whether there were too many different courses and that there might be a place for offering one course in which people can select the areas and levels of study.


There were some obvious institutional differences in that the library at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur was much smaller than that at the University of Melbourne, in regards to both collection size and the staffing establishment. The organisational structure in which the participants operated was quite different and whereas the two library technicians at the University of Melbourne were in the information resources division, the library technician at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur worked in client services.

The experience of the participants was somewhat different in that John had worked in libraries for 22 years whereas Sandra and Wilma had both worked in libraries for 12 years. However, Wilma had four years public library experience whereas John had two years as a storeman in a special library and Sandra had purely academic library experience. Before taking on the interlibrary loans co-ordinator's position, Wilma also gained copy cataloguing and bibliographic searching experience. Sandra had gained enormous expertise in serials work by progressing through the ranks from junior library assistant to serials manager. John had gained experience at different levels within reader and technical service areas in academic libraries. Whereas Sandra's appointment had been for approximately three years, John and Wilma had both been working at HEW Level 6 for twelve to eighteen months prior to the study. All participants had studied on a part-time basis and had completed their library technician qualification in 1989/90.

My observation of the participants mainly reflected the different requirements of their respective positions. John, as acquisitions manager, was primarily taken up with managerial functions in relation to personnel and projects, and some detailed aspects of acquisitions work, such as financial matters. Two aspects of John's managerial approach were highlighted: firstly, his determination for the staff to be a self managing group, and secondly the use of his project management skills for cross sectional work. Sandra, as a member of the INNOPAC implementation team, was required to develop the serials and acquisitions modules and I observed her working towards this goal through documentation, committee membership, liaison and information sharing. Sandra's commitment to planning was highlighted in her documentation of the activity plan and subsequent discussions about same. Wilma, as co-ordinator of the interlibrary loans unit, was observed as combining activities associated with interlibrary loans processing work and supervision of staff. Aspects of Wilma's work that were highlighted were her expertise in relation to interlibrary loan processes and her capacity to co-ordinate a number of staff mainly drawn from other areas of the library.

The interviews revealed some common themes, however, in addition to similarities between the individual there were some very evident differences. They all considered that work experience and skills development had contributed significantly to their appointment but whereas there was no conscious effort on the part of John or Wilma, Sandra had deliberately determined her progress to attain the position. John and Sandra emphasised the importance of mentors and role models to their development whereas Wilma identified the importance of the associate diploma. Reactions to their appointments was one aspect of their experience of being in the position and was varied. All participants identified personal qualities used in the position, however, John mainly spoke of these, such as his willingness to take risks in his relations with other section leaders and the division head and his weakness in his 'professional knowledge'. Work relationships were only minimally touched upon. Minimal attention was paid by the participants to values and beliefs as part of their experience of being in the job, however, I did articulate some which I thought were more explicit. All participants identified their ability to reflect on their practice. Of course a major theme, shared by all participants, was that of management particularly as it related to human resources and their different styles of approaching this was evidenced. Other shared aspects were their experiences of the stresses and demands of the positions and their involvement in making contributions to the broader community. Support was part of the experience for all participants but the degree of same was variable. Only Wilma spoke of the constraints attached to her position and she was the only participant with which I raised the issue of job satisfaction; lack of opportunity had contributed to her developing dissatisfaction.

All participants had been and were involved in some continuing professional development but the focus of further (formal) study differed greatly. This latter was clearly related to their individual aspirations: Wilma moving back into the public library sector in charge of a small library but with the aim of applying for a librarian's position once she had qualified; Sandra interested in the possibility of a degree in adult education; and John more interested in seminars and workshops linked to his focus on human resource management, rather than a degree.

The participants had varied opinions about the implications of their being in the position. The implications for library technicians were viewed against the 'best person for the job' principle held by all participants. Wilma expressed some pessimism about the future for library technicians in the position. Sandra hoped that library technicians would consider their potential and although she did not see herself as a benchmark, expressed a willingness to share her experience with other library technicians. John thought there was a possibility that he might be viewed as a role model but this was expressed hesitantly because of his concern about disenfranchising those library technicians who were more interested in process work rather than promotion.

In the main, the participants held similar views about the implications for the respective libraries of their holding the positions. Wilma thought that library technicians would continue to have to compete with librarians for the position and Sandra hoped that the administration would continue to make appointments on the basis that the librarian qualification was not imperative. John hoped the administration would continue to appoint the best person.

Their views about the implications for library and information services generally were varied. Whereas John thought that total experience and performance outcomes warranted greater consideration than qualifications, Sandra hoped that the potential and value of library technicians operating at a higher level would be acknowledged, and Wilma considered that the interlibrary loans co-ordinator's position had the potential as a benchmark for library technicians. In addition, Wilma believed that it had demonstrated an extension of the role of library technicians beyond the ALIA definition, and John spoke of the implications in relation to the education of library workers: were there too many different courses?

Discussion and conclusion

The observation and interview data and the background of the participants in this study evidenced a higher level of functioning than had previously been described. The supervisory/management role of library technicians has certainly extended in the past fourteen years since the task analysis reported by Smeaton (1984, p34) which was compiled as a basis for curriculum decisions for some library technician courses.

The evidence of this study could clearly be used as an argument for the potential of library technicians, particularly in the technical services areas of academic libraries (and I do view interlibrary loans processes as technical). It can also be used to counter the underutilisation arguments, however, this must be done against the context within which the participants operated. Wilma remained in a position which had been reclassified according to award restructuring requirements, and both Sandra and John had gained their positions in an organisation that selected staff on the basis of merit rather than qualification. Their positions had not been defined as 'library technician positions' and there was no indication that this would be reconsidered in future; in fact the interlibrary loans position was advertised as requiring either the professional or the paraprofessional qualification. I therefore agree with Kreitz and Ogden (1990) that the profession will continue to be faced with the problems of 'trying to define what it is that each class of library employee does that makes it unique and thus rewarded differentially' (p301).

In light of the linking between practice and education, and the contribution competency standards can make, suggested by Doyle (1995) and Williamson and White (1996), one needs to ask what does this mean for library technicians when considering the current, higher level of functioning of the participants in this case study? Much can be learnt from the Curtin Library and Information Service (LIS) application of the national library competency standards as a management tool. Curtin University of Technology had identified twelve core competencies:

  1. Communication
  2. Financial management
  3. Information management
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Leadership
  6. Organisational understanding
  7. Outcomes management
  8. Quality client service
  9. Self management
  10. Situation solving/decision making
  11. Specialised or technical knowledge and abilities
  12. Team management (Williamson & White, 1996, p17)

These competencies were certainly evidenced in the case study, however, linking of competencies to such exemplars of higher-level functioning in isolation would serve no purpose according to the Curtin experience. Where the Curtin competencies above were used 'where relevant to extend, develop or enhance the library industry competencies' (Williamson and White, 1996, p37), linking of competencies to HEW levels in order to accumulate competency profiles warrants a very comprehensive approach. They can then be used 'in establishing the climate and context for industrial reform' (p37) in regard to career development and training and thereby benefit library personnel and the industry. It would certainly provide individuals, whether they be library technicians or not, with the opportunity to realise their potential.

When considering how graduates would develop the expertise to be able to practice at the level of the case study participants one must firstly consider their educational input and whether it has been related to outcomes and the assessment of the graduate's level of competency. What assessment methods are used? Have the graduates been adequately assessed in order to demonstrate that their level of competence will allow them to cope at Level 3 or Level 5 within the Australian Standards Framework (ASF). ASF3 requires competence in order to accept 'responsibility for co-ordination of a work area and/or group, and/or of a small budget', and the ASF5 demands a level of competence to accept 'responsibility for organising and leading in a work area' (Arts Training Australia, 1995, p[10]).

The case study data suggests that the participants have all gained an enormous amount of skills, knowledge and expertise in the six or seven years since graduating and it is this that has mainly contributed to their effective functioning at the higher level. Undergraduate courses for library technicians cannot be expected to provide the required input and therefore consideration might be given to what postgraduate courses may be required. Bowden and Masters stated that they 'have found it useful to develop a conceptual model of the relationship between observable practice and underlying capacities which make competent practice possible' (1993, p155). Therefore what library technicians operating at the higher level do and what skills, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs are essential to that doing could be useful information in determining the requirements for further education, training and development of library technicians. This case study provides at least some of that information with enough evidence to indicate that the role of library technicians does extend beyond the ALIA definition in the work level guidelines for librarians and library technicians. At the date of writing this report, the ALIA guidelines are being extensively revised and hopefully will reflect some of the changes inherent in the practice of higher-level library technicians.

Additionally, considerations about competence which as previously mentioned Quirk (1994) defined as 'a stage of development of learning leading to expertise' (p15) would require investigations about the operational differences on the career path between the novice and the expert. The findings of such action based research could underpin future courses specifically targeting library technicians in management/supervisory positions, such as the AIMA institute for library technicians.

Rider (1996) suggested that 'to meet the needs of the 21st century, libraries will want to maximise the potential of all library staff to develop new roles and contribute successfully to the mission and goals of the future library' (p31). It would seem that the library administration at the Universities of Melbourne and University of Western Sydney, Macarthur have taken this maxim to heart and may contribute to library technicians getting what they want which according to Oberg (1992) is 'respect, trust, collegiality, just compensation, and a future - in short, a career and not just a job' (p107).

Appendix A

Chief responsibilities of manager, serials position 
Under the broad direction of the director, technical services division [later to become director, information resources] and liaising with other branches and divisions as required -

1. Maintain an efficient, fully operational serials section by:-

·         Ensuring that section procedures manual is kept up to date on the policies and procedures of the section.

·         Handling or delegating problems as they arise, assisting with routine serials section operations as necessary.

·         Ensuring equipment in section is performing at its maximum capacity, seeking to improve the efficiency of work flow with other equipment options and services available.

·         Set sectional plans and goals in conjunction with staff of the section, and relating to divisional and Library Strategic plans. Most complex problems

·         Continuing to maintain a labour intensive outdated manual system while attempting to improve efficiency.

·         Balancing the priorities of the Section when the demands are greater than staff time availability.

2. Managing the budgetary responsibilities of the serials allocation by:

·         Evaluating supplier performance, selecting best suppliers, negotiating terms and service conditions.

·         Ensuring ordering procedure is efficient and up to date.

·         Ensuring invoices are correct before authorisation for payment.

·         Liaising with accounts payable section on payment issues and adapting procedures where appropriate. Most complex problems

·         Finding staff time to deal with big invoices as an additional task at a specific time of year when all the usual daily demands still exist.

·         Maintaining up to date knowledge of suppliers performance, new technical solutions etc. when we have only cumbersome manual methods of assessing supplier performance.

·         Minimising the effect of time delay and double handling of invoices which is a result of lack of system links to finance branch.

3. Maximise the personnel resources available in the section by:-

·         Ensuring staff training and development within the section is effective, making best use of all resources.

·         Supervise, counsel, coach staff. Completer regular staff performance appraisals.

·         Handle staff related matters within the section, consulting with the division head and director, management services or library office staff as appropriate.

·         Conduct and participate in staff development and performance planning program.

·         Be aware of legislation relating to occupational health and safety, affirmative action and equal opportunity. Report potential/existing problems. Most complex problems

·         Maintain morale of staff in the face of inherited backlogs, decision making outside Section control, limited career opportunities for staff.

4. Assist in communication within the division and the library by:-

·         Providing information on section activities to the division head and other section heads.

·         Holding regular sectional meetings for serials staff reporting on library developments.

·         Producing a written report on the activities of the section annually as required on specific issues.

·         Providing statistical information on a regular basis and as required for specific purposes. Most complex problems

·         Keeping informed of developments in other sections, being aware of impact on serials section and initiating any action needed.

·         Establishing appropriate decision making capacity in a climate used to hierarchical management.

5. Assist in the provision of direct service to users by:-

·         Managing the serials counter and phone enquiry service efficiently.

·         Ensuring that staff involved in this service are adequately trained and kept up to date.

·         Liaising with reader services to ensure that serials are kept informed of changes which affect their service delivery.

·         Co-operating with reader services division to assist in matters relating to shelving, signage, relocation of periodicals. Most complex problems

·         Balance the demands of the users directly with the routine serials work which has to be done to meet the user needs mor long term and indirectly.

6. Contribute to library service objectives by:-

·         Taking part in planning and policy discussions within the division.

·         Becoming involved in library-wide activities personally and ensuring the section is also involved. Most complex problems

·         Balancing all the priorities in the position.

·         Maintaining a knowledge of library and university policy issues.

Appendix B

Chief responsibilities of the manager, orders position 
Under the broad direction of the director, information resources division and liaising with other sections of the IRD, branches and divisions as required:

1. Maintain an efficient, fully operational orders section by:-

·         Managing the personnel and work flow of the section.

·         Set sectional plans and goals in conjunction with staff of the section, and relating to divisional and library strategic plans. Most complex problems

·         Developing and maintaining effective procedures and applying changes on information technology to achieve the goals of the library's strategic plan.

2. Managing the budgetary responsibilities of the monograph allocation by:-

·         Evaluating supplier performance and selecting the best suppliers, negotiating terms and service conditions.

·         Ensuring ordering procedures are efficient and up to date, and meet the university's statutory requirements.

·         Liaising with accounts payable section on payment issues and adapting procedures where appropriate. Most complex problems

·         Committing and spending the monograph budget within required time frame, despite the lack of quality library IT management reports.

3. Maximise the personnel resources available in the Section by:-

·         Effectively and efficiently managing the Section staff. This would include regular staff performance appraisals, counselling, coaching and continuing leadership.

·         Participation in staff selection to build the optimum team.

·         Handle staff related matters within the section, consulting with the division head and director, management services or administrative services staff as appropriate. Most complex problems

·         Team building and motivation, change management, deployment of staff in face of conflicting requirements.

4. Assist in communication within the division and the library by:-

·         Providing information on section activities to the division head and other section heads.

·         Holding regular sectional meetings for orders staff reporting on library developments.

·         Producing written reports on the activities of the section annually and as required on specific issues.

·         Providing statistical information on a regular basis and as require for specific purposes.

·         Liaising with staff of other library divisions to help relate existing policies to work assignments. Most complex problems

·         Keeping informed of developments in other sections, being aware of impact on orders section and initiating any action needed.

·         Communicating section developments to other sections and divisions.

5. Contribute to library mission and service goals by:-

·         Providing clear and productive leadership.

·         Taking part in divisional planning and policy discussions.

·         Being aware of the interrelationships between sections and divisions of the Library. Assessing, relating, adapting and implementing procedure and policy to ensure the continuing development and carrying forward of the library's strategic plan.

Involving all section staff in Library-wide activities.

On-going innovation to ensure best practice is achieved in a timely manner.

Balancing priorities and applying a flexible approach to achieve section goals relating to the wider divisional and library perspective.


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