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IMLS Study on the Future of the Library Workforce

Issues - Revised

The following issues are to be addressed when relevant for a specific type of library and should include librarians (MLS), other professionals and support staff


  • How will libraries be staffed – full time, part time; will there a move toward using more part time employees - to avoid benefit costs?What positions will be most likely to exist/change and what are the salaries/benefits of positions likely to be?What will be the appropriate balance between MLS and non-MLS for professional positions?
  • How important will intergenerational differences be in libraries – e.g., position expectations, learning style, etc?

Recruitment & Retention

  • What will be the factors that drive recruitment – degree requirements, salary, benefits, and library culture, culture of specific library?
  • How will libraries of all kinds compete with the business world as they also are losing large numbers of employees to retirement?How will geographic location affect recruitment and retention?
  • How will family considerations place limitations on individuals responding to job and/or career opportunities?
  • How will the profession attract younger people to the profession out of college?  (e.g., age of MLS students is now in 30s)?How will/should the profession attract people seeking a “second” career? 
  • How will union, civil service and academic “rules” affect recruitment and retention of library professionals? To what extent is “burnout” likely to affect retention of people?
  • How will limitations on upward mobility (e.g., salary scales and assignments) contribute to individuals remaining in the library – professionals and support staff?

Staff Development & Training

  • What will be the critical staff training/development challenges in the future?
  • What will be the primary barriers to supporting currency in staff knowledge and skills?
  • Will new ways to deliver training and learning be important in the future?
  • How important will distance education be for both the professional degree and for staff training? 

Career Paths

  • What will be the opportunities for professionals & support staff to have a career in a library?
  • How will degree and other requirements promote or limit a career?
  • What will the MLS degree represent for professional positions? Why will it be required, when should it be required?
  • Should there be alternatives to the MLS for some positions – either “equivalent” experience and/or degrees, or different approaches to provide the “librarian” values, etc.  such as certification program?
  • Will there be a need for combined degrees – e.g., MLS/MBA (similar to public health, hospital administration, etc.)?
  • How important will it be to market “management” as a career in the large libraries?
  • What will jobs look like in the future – content, activities and requirements?


  • How important will it be to promote an understanding of the role, value, importance of culture in an organization and its affect on individuals and change and the future?
  • How important will it be to promote the positive culture/values of the library profession to potential recruits to the profession?
  • How important will it be to promote the positive culture/values of an individual library?
  • How central will it be to create a culture that is attractive – for the profession, for a library?
  • How important will it be to change perceptions of the library profession to attract more people & people with diverse backgrounds?


  • What will  “leadership” in the library mean?
  • To what extent will it be important to generate leadership capacity/development on a much larger scale and throughout the library profession? 


  • What will be the desirable characteristics of the library organization so that it will be able to respond to a changing environment?
  • How should libraries define their “business” – and who are their competitors?
  • How important will governance of a library be in recruitment, retention, developing new services, etc.?
  • How important will administration of a library be in recruitment, retention, developing new services, etc.?

Changing Constituencies or Communities

  • How likely is it that libraries will be faced with continuing changes in the primary clients they serve – e.g., larger senior populations, more diverse immigrant populations, etc.?
  • Are expectations among communities served likely to change in the future and in what way?

Innovation and Collaboration

  • How important will generating innovation in ideas, planning and implementation be in the future for libraries?
  • What will be ways to encourage innovation, what will be the barriers to innovation?
  • How important should collaboration be viewed in the future of libraries?
  • What will be barriers to exploring new ways for libraries to collaborate or merge services with other libraries, and to work with the business community? 


  • How might virtual reference be affected in a more global environment?Might virtual reference be seen as an “off shore” service?
  • What will be the future for study abroad programs?       
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