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Culture or Collections? Navigating the Next Chapter in Libraries

View of Baltimore Maryland Harbor

Skilltype Founder & CEO Tony Zanders presents as a Alta Annual 2022 Plenary speaker on the topic Culture or Collections? Navigating the Next Chapter in Libraries.

Watch the full talk here.

Change has never been as rapid or as all-encompassing as it is today, especially in the world of libraries. From the ever-evolving landscape of technology to the changing demographics of both library staff and patrons, we find ourselves navigating a complex, exciting, and sometimes, daunting reality. So how can libraries prepare for what comes next? In this blog post, we’ll explore practical steps to future-proof your library’s workforce in an age of digital transformation and shifting demographics.

Embrace the Digital Shift

The first step toward future-proofing is embracing the digital shift. Gone are the days when libraries solely functioned as repositories for print collections. Today, digital content, cloud-based systems, and even AI-powered chatbots are becoming part of the library experience. So, if you haven’t already, consider training your staff in digital competencies. From understanding e-resources to troubleshooting common tech issues, digital skills are no longer optional; they’re essential.

Assess and Update Skill Sets

The move to digital isn’t just a technology shift; it’s a skill shift. Many tasks that once required manual effort now need technological expertise. To prepare for this, carry out a skills inventory among your staff. Identify gaps and invest in training programs that will equip your team with the necessary skills for a digital future. Don’t forget about soft skills like adaptability and problem-solving, which will always be valuable, regardless of how technology evolves.

Build Diverse Teams

Diversity is not just a buzzword; it’s a business imperative. As the communities we serve become more diverse, our teams should reflect that diversity. Diverse teams bring a range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches, which is invaluable in a rapidly changing environment. Make diversity and inclusion a strategic priority for hiring and retention.

Adapt to New Budget Realities

Libraries are now sharing financial resources with other departments like IT and research. To secure adequate funding, it’s crucial to articulate the library’s unique value proposition. Can your library serve as a hub for digital literacy? Could you offer unique services like data management for research projects? Think beyond the traditional boundaries of library services to identify where you can provide unique value.

Prepare for Leadership Transition

With many professionals in the library sector approaching retirement age, leadership transition is a looming challenge. A proactive approach to succession planning ensures a smooth transition. Identify potential leaders early on and give them opportunities for growth and leadership training.


The winds of change may be strong, but with strategic planning and an agile mindset, libraries can not only weather the storm but also thrive in it. By embracing the digital shift, upskilling staff, fostering diversity, adapting to new budget realities, and preparing for leadership transition, we can future-proof our libraries and continue to serve our communities effectively, no matter what the future holds.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and get ready to navigate the next chapter in libraries together!

Tony Zanders' headshot smiling in a suit with the quote from Alta Annual 2022 Plenary speaker on the topic Culture or Collections? that says "The future-proofed library doesn't just have empowered organizations. It also has empowered workers.

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