We are proud to announce that the research phase of the BIBLIO project has come to an end, and we are now moving into the VET curriculum and MOOC development. As we proceed into the next phase of our activities for this project, we want to summarize the results of our research activities.

Desk research

To start us off, our desk research showed a varied landscape across the project countries. On the whole, basic digital skills for work were expected of librarians in order to fulfill their responsibilities, however, there was a notable lower level of digital skills in Bulgarian librarians. Despite this, they are motivated to learn the digital skills needed for their work. This part of our research also highlighted issues around funding awarded to the sector. As a result, many librarians will have to work in several roles without having a distinction drawn in their tasks. Finally, our research showed that public libraries across the project countries had an educational objective and thus would need to have pedagogical skills to fulfill this role. However, when we looked at job vacancies and formal training opportunities, we did not see that being reflected.

Training needs survey

As we moved into the next activities, we launched the training needs survey and conducted the in-depth interviews at the same time. We managed to get over 300 responses from librarians across the EU

Most of the respondents expressed a desire to focus on community facilitation as well as event management and communications – both online and offline. Additionally, we noted that exploring the changes in the technological sector was of interest for the respondents as it would allow them to see where innovations could fit in the library sector. 

Part of our survey asked the respondents to self-evaluate themselves in accordance with the DigComp 2.1 Framework to better understand if any digital skills need to be emphasized. Almost 50% of respondents said they were “Basic users” when it came to the “Safety” area of competence, and around 36% of respondents evaluated themselves as “Basic users” when it came to the “Digital content creation” and the “Problem solving” areas of competence. While we want all librarians to have a strong foundation in the digital skills needed for their work, based on this result we knew we had to focus on these areas and boost the skill levels there.

Not wanting to lose the opportunity to understand what was happening on the ground in libraries, we made sure to ask librarians about the digital services they offer already as well as how an average week goes for them.

Based on the responses we got, we could see that libraries from all four project countries offered, for the most part, WiFi, public access computers, and self-service printing as well as basic digital skills workshops. Respondents noted that they would be interested in implementing new activities such as FabLabs and Makerspaces to bring digital making closer to their communities. Despite most respondents indicating they organised workshops, we noted that most of them felt that they offered ad hoc help rather than structured activities. Additionally, the group requesting assistance the most was the elderly followed closely by youths and migrants. 

As we aimed to understand how librarians spent their average weeks, most expressed that they spent time working on collection management, event management or administration. Additionally, we wanted our respondents to think about what the future of libraries was and how this would impact their work. Of the skills we listed, most were identified as immediate needs. Only programming and digitisation were listed as possible future tasks of libraries and by less than 5% of respondents.

In-depth interviews

While we waited for the survey responses to come in, we launched into the next research activity, the in-depth interviews. We had made a decision as a consortium to change from the initial coaching circles we were to conduct to in-depth interviews that could be conducted from a distance. With these we wanted to reach a range of people in the library from the staff working there to the users. The goal of these interviews was to understand the emotions linked to the library evolving.

These proved to be full of insights about the future of libraries from users and library staff alike. Our interviewees indicated both optimism and excitement at creating new digital activities as well as fear and apprehension. This fear and apprehension stemmed from not fully understanding how to incorporate new digital activities into the library as well as being afraid of not being able to provide a good service to users. However, with practice, librarians gained confidence and felt they were able to truly integrate this into the library. Additionally, we noted that some users felt that the library was mainly about the collection it had rather than the purpose it served the community. These interviews told us that communicating the values of the library needed to be strengthened as well as making sure librarians actively engaged with their users and established relationships with them.

VET best practice interviews

As we drew towards the end of our research, we wanted to find out if there are any VET best practices already in the library sector that we could learn from. One stood out in particular, the My.Latvia Do it Digital project where 1,500 librarians were trained to be “digital agents” and support their communities in digital upskilling efforts. Alongside this, we noted that blended learning was the preferred format for various reasons, one of which being that a global pandemic may hinder the in-person activities but learning could be sustained. Additionally, in-person activities helped foster encouraging group dynamics that supported learning between each other and building a support network which we hope to be able to create as well during the BIBLIO specialised training.

Emerging job profiles

All this research led us to create two emerging job profiles from the data we had. Based on what we knew, we developed the “community engagement and communications officer” and the “digital transformation facilitator”. These were built in response to the need for greater community engagement and communication skills as well as the research showing that a technical profile was needed to help make the transition into the digital smoother for libraries and library staff alike. 

The full report will be going up soon, make sure to check it out as well as the Executive Summary to have a more in-depth exploration of our research results.