Posted by: bluesyemre | November 13, 2017

The many hats of the #DigitalLibrarian by #EmilyKolvitz


The Renaissance woman/man is proficient in a variety of things. In a way, the modern digital librarian is a true renaissance role because we can (and do) wear many hats.  We don’t have to be good at just one thing or specialise in just one area.

This is true for librarians working in all sorts of institutions: GLAM organisations, (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), public libraries, and corporations.  Digital librarians are tasked with managing information systems, processes and people. This might include being a marketer or a knowledge manager; a data scientist or a digital curator. Or some (or all) of these things at the same time. Let’s take a look at just some of the roles for the modern-day digital librarian – and the skillsets we need to take on these roles.

Digital asset manager or content manager

Librarians in corporations may be tasked with managing digital content for their organisation, especially inside marketing departments. Think product shots, editorial photography, brand logos, design materials, or even corporate headshots.  Librarians help manage all this content in a variety of systems, namely digital asset management systems, but could also be involved in helping to manage digital content in CMS systems (Content Management systems) or even PIM systems (Product Information Management systems.)

In Who Needs a DAM Librarian Deb Faslow writes:

As newly minted librarians and archivists continue to face the reality of an oversaturated market within traditional cultural heritage organisations – despite the continuing prediction of librarian shortages – the word has gotten out. Academic Library and Information Science (LIS) departments are now increasingly promoting “alternative” careers outside of libraries, museums, and archives.

If you’re curious to see what kinds of companies and verticals are hiring for this type of role, look no further than the DAM Guru Jobs board.  Recent jobs for digital asset managers have been posted by Netflix, Chobani, and Footlocker.

Internal communications manager

The librarian has always been keen on connecting people with information, and that includes internal communication within organisations.  This aspect of internal communications lends itself nicely to the role of digital librarian.

Internal communications issues are a common problem across many organisations.  Some librarians use project management methodologies to help improve communications such as doing standup meetings.  The digital librarian can help with efforts to centralise content across an organisation to increase the quality of communications; they can help with sales enablement, and can even help employees decide which information resources are most important to them. 

Knowledge manager

It’s tough to stay in your bubble as a librarian.  While you may be tasked with managing a particular system or team within a company, it’s tough not to see glaring opportunities for improvements in knowledge management across your organisation, whether it’s records management, internal wikis or something else.

In many companies, KM is a formalised role, but in other companies, the digital librarian may find themselves taking on KM initiatives in an effort to streamline company communications and improve knowledge sharing to improve the company’s competitive edge.

The DKM protects a company by making certain its digital knowledge is developed and deployed in the best ways possible — both internally and externally — to serve the business.


Information governance and compliance officer

A librarian can also be a key member of an enterprise information governance council.  Gartner defines information governance as: “The specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behaviour in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information,” and explains that it’s “the processes, roles and policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organisation to achieve its goals.”

A librarian can be a key player in helping an organisation put in place policies that help to mitigate risks and control information resources.  In this skillset, the librarian must carefully balance information sharing initiatives with protecting security of information resources.  Issues the librarian must deal with in this type of role include copyright, licensing and privacy.

Taxonomist / metadata analyst

Think of the all the digital systems and tools you use at your – and any – organisation.  Chances are most of them use metadata and possibly a taxonomy in some capacity.  Librarians can help organisations craft and implement controlled vocabularies and normalise business nomenclature across systems, people and processes.  They can build out product taxonomies for ecommerce businesses, such as the army of digital librarians building out search and browse capabilities for the ecommerce giant Amazon.  These digital librarians may also build out metadata schemas for digital asset management systems or content management systems.  Heather Hedden suggests that digital librarians are often creating both taxonomies and metadata in tandem, especially when working with digital asset management systems.

Competitive intelligence researcher

Competitive intelligence (CI) is the ethical gathering, analysis and presentation of information in the process of monitoring business rivals.” Librarians are expert researchers. The research experience they gained during their graduate studies can be built on to conduct competitive intelligence research for organisations. You can find competitive intelligence roles in organisations such as law firms or corporations.


Institutional memory and the preservation of important company documents is paramount to the archivist, but also extremely relevant to the librarian. Especially for librarians who have specialised in an archival track during their graduate study, nowhere is the need for the archivist more obvious that the implications of unmanaged corporate memory.

Scholar, writer, or content producer

From editing websites, wikis and writing training manuals, librarians are adept at creating relevant and up-to-date content to share knowledge and connect others with information resources.


Librarians also need to train end users on how to use systems, document processes and share best practice on things like metadata application, company policies, or even how to approach managing company intellectual property.   This needs to be done in a way that is engaging, collaborative and exciting for people.  For example, engaging in playful learning activities can help people come away from a workshop with an understanding that is more tangible and meaningful.


The librarian has always had to advocate for their role within non-GLAM institutions. Communicating their work and keeping track of their projects is also an important factor. Despite these efforts, sometimes information professionals are faced with budgetary cuts, such as in the case of the archives department at the retailer Target. The librarian must display advocacy for the importance of their role in an organisation.

Putting all the hats on

As librarians, we are wearing all the hats, and doing so quite adeptly.  There are many other hats for us to wear. Info Space, at Syracuse University iSchool, has a whopping list of sixty-one non-traditional library and information science gigs.

In the age of digital, organisations need people who can wear a variety of hats. The full range of capabilities for the librarian in the age of digital is both diverse and stereotype-shattering.

Remember, we librarians are adaptable, and while there are many roles and skills that we could pursue, it’s the unique combination of many of these different roles and skills that can have an even greater impact on an organisation’s information and knowledge-sharing culture.

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