The Evolving Role of Librarians on the 21st Century Campus – Part One

Librarians have always played an essential role in research and information services, providing scientists with essential information and helping students find what they need. However, the modern librarian’s role has evolved into one of the most multifaceted jobs on a university campus. Scientific librarians, in particular, are tasked with engaging their patrons with the latest resources and technological developments, which is not an easy feat given how quickly technology changes. To gain some insight into this brave new library world, we reached out to four ACS-affiliated chemistry librarians. We asked them: What does it take to be a librarian in the 21st century?

Luti Salisbury is a Distinguished Professor and Librarian at the University of Arkansas. She is the head of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Library and is responsible for liaison, instruction, and collection development for the university’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

How has your job changed over the years? What is it like being a 21st-century librarian, compared to the more traditional image most people have in their minds?

Luti Salisbury: Librarians are more embedded with their faculty, researchers, and students. We actively seek out opportunities to understand their needs and to connect them with the subscription and other appropriate resources. We assist patrons to understand the scholarly communication ecosystem and the issues surrounding open access and open educational resources. Librarians play an integral role in keeping up with the federal requirements for open access and data management and provide just-in time support to help faculty and researchers manage them. We also play an important role in helping faculty and researchers showcase their research activities in a variety of ways. These include creating researcher IDs and/or ORCID profiles on their behalf and helping build our institutional repositories.

What skills are absolutely necessary for the modern scientific librarian?

Luti Salisbury: Being knowledgeable in subject resources, being able to adapt to varying situations easily, using technology to help patrons, and an excellent understanding of the scholarly communications ecosystem.

What are some emerging trends in the library world?

Luti Salisbury: Some new trends include open access and open educational resources publishing, scholarly communication, federal requirements regarding data management and open access, institutional repositories, discovery systems, e-book variations, altmetrics, and research analytics.

How do the changing needs of researchers and students impact your work?

Luti Salisbury: Librarians are more involved with helping students and researchers satisfying granting requirements, showcasing the institutional research impact, and assessing and evaluating the use of resources to provide the resources faculty, researchers, and students need to be productive.

Where do you see your profession going over the next 20 years? 50 years?

Luti Salisbury: The physical space of a library will become a place for study and social networking. The future impact of the library will not necessarily depend on the physical presence of the library, because the resources (databases, journals, books, etc.) to support the information needs of most disciplines will be available from anywhere, at any time, on any device. The information will be in real time, easily accessible, and easily shared and synced.

What five terms would you use to describe your work?

Luti Salisbury: Engaging users, collection assessment, scholarly communication ecosystem, research analytics, integrated scholar.

What organizations and/or associations have you found most valuable as a member and as a participant?

Luti Salisbury: The Special Libraries Association (SLA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Science & Technology Section (STS), and the United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN).