What are the competences needed for the heritage librarians of the future, and how can these competences be taught at different levels of library education?
Those questions will be discussed during an international conference at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), on 1 and 2 February 2012.
During two days, librarians and people in charge of library teaching programmes will confront their ideas. Presentations of best practices will serve as inspiring models of new programmes in the future, and it is hoped that some consensus may be reached about the range of competences needed. The conference draws together some 20 speakers from 8 countries.
It seems trivial, these days, to state that libraries have been challenged by recent technological, social and economic developments. On the other hand, these developments have not minimized the library’s mission as a memory institution, quite the contrary.
Among the many roles that libraries will continue to play in the 21st century and beyond, their responsibility for the preservation of the written heritage is perhaps the one that is questioned least.
This role of libraries, ancient as it may be, implies that library staff be trained adequately to meet the specific requirements of heritage collections in libraries. These requirements are multiple. Expertise in preservation and conservation is a major one, but it certainly has to be supplemented – and perhaps even preceded – by other competences, such as:
- an insight into heritage policies
- a profound knowledge of the management of collections and acquisitions
- a familiarity with the material aspects of books and manuscripts
- a knowledge of the history of libraries and book collecting
- the ability to apply techniques of bibliographical description
- an awareness of the need to open the collections to the public and of the challenges of digitisation
- an understanding of the marketing of heritage collections
Will heritage librarians who are equipped with such diverse qualities be able to serve as the future Ambassadors of the Book?