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Digital leadership skills

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Now, more than ever, libraries offer something unique in an increasingly digital world: a ‘safe’ community space where children and adults can learn about and use technology they might not otherwise have access to.

The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has just published Shared Intelligence’s report on digital leadership skills. The report is the result of a four-month study that has engaged more than 200 existing heads of libraries and future library leaders. The study looked in-depth at the digital trends that were affecting the library sector, and the skills that library service managers will need in order to effectively respond to the future challenges and opportunities. The report will now guide SCL’s work in helping heads of libraries prepare for and adapt to digital trends.

To establish the digital trends that will affect libraries over the next five to ten years, we carried out an intensive horizon-scanning exercise, which included a literature review, social media analysis, and a survey of library heads of service views on key future trends.

We identified a series of challenges for libraries in terms of: supporting those who will remain digitally excluded, adjusting the service offer given the decline in printed media, taking advantages of new developments in computerisation to better manage the service, and ensuring that libraries provide an e-book service which is fit for purpose.

We also noted some significant opportunities for libraries in terms of: supporting local study of massively open online courses (MOOCs), new forms of hardware (e.g. 3D printing, consumer robotics, etc.), and using technology to better share information and best practice across the country.

As part of this work we carried out a large series of webinars, providing library managers from across the country with the opportunity to exchange views on the major leadership challenges for the service. We heard some excellent examples of how libraries are already rising to the challenges of a digital future: in providing 3D printing facilities within libraries, providing community wi-fi, and libraries showcasing the use of technology in the community. We also developed recommendations for how libraries could better share this experience and expertise nationally, so that good ideas can scale and spread.

We also carried out a skills audit of the current heads of library services as well as staff considered to be future leaders. We found enormous enthusiasm for the opportunities which new digital technology affords, though there was a clear need to ensure that the potential of new technologies is being properly communicated and shared across the library service.

We look forward to working with library services across the country to address this opportunity and are currently working with the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) to help them understand how children are using digital technology for learning and creativity.

Shared Intelligence is a policy consultancy that works across the UK. We have a strong track record in working with libraries to develop new ways of shared working, and new delivery models. We are also specialists in horizon-scanning and foresight, and regularly work with clients to help them understand how future trends will affect their organisations and strategic objectives.

To find out how we can support your library service, please contact: Ben Lee

To find out how we can support your organisation with horizon-scanning, please contact: Kevin Fenning

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