18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstract: Unpacking the emerging and alternative LIS roles and functions of the 21st century academic librarian

Unpacking the emerging and alternative LIS roles and functions of the 21st century academic librarian

Zina Sapula

Librarianship existed since ancient times but it has evolved throughout the years. Librarian’s role is now essentially contested because of the multiplicity of images used to represent profession and the practice. Traditionally, the librarian’s role was to collect, organize, disseminate and preserve information. Over the years, academic librarians have been known as support staff rather than research enablers. However, technology has changed how information is disseminated and accessed. The e-research paradigm has now changed the stereotypes surrounding the librarianship discourse. Through embracing current and new technological advancements the research process is more efficient. Academic libraries have added new emerging services such as research data management, digital humanities, and scholarly communication in support of digital scholarship. It is on this basis that this presentation will seek to unpack the new and alternative roles of the 21st century librarian in this new environment.

In the 21st century, the academic librarian is both at the centre and the periphery of the researcher or user. Given the new and evolving terrain of LIS, the 21st librarian exhibits among other things skills related to data curation, data analysis, programming, scholarly communication, digital literacy, and social media. In this new environment, librarians are regarded as active partners in every step of the research process. This implies that academic librarians have to acquire new competencies and skills and enhance the existing ones in order to become relevant in e-research environment and to enable research.