January 17, 2022

Duke University: “Role of Librarians Changes in Digital Age”

From the Duke Chronicle (School Newspaper):

The main function of the library, however, is no longer to just house books—much of its selection now resides digitally—and those who work within the halls of Perkins, Lilly and the five other branches of Duke Libraries are adapting to the times as well.

“The role of librarian is rapidly changing,” said Jean Ferguson, head of research and reference services.


“We have many library staff who work in specific areas—such as data, digitization, copyright and publishing and digital scholarship—who are blurring the lines of the traditional role of librarians,” Ferguson said.

At their core, librarians are still performing the same job, but with a new and expansive set of resources, said Ernest Zitser, librarian for Slavic and Eastern European studies.

“Librarians are trained professionals who help to connect researchers to the information they need when they need it,” Zitser said.


Librarians are increasingly becoming information consultants, said Kevin Smith, director of copyright and scholarly communication. Because they spend so much time familiarizing themselves with the resources they work with, librarians are being asked to serve a role as a distributor of knowledge.


According to research published by Duke Libraries, 14,410 questions were asked by students at the library desks between June 2012 and May 2013. An additional 14,725 questions were submitted via email, text message and instant messaging. Over 4,338 individual research consultations were completed by librarians as well.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.