Implications of Our Graying Profession

Today, on the College Libraries Discussion List, a email firestorm erupted over a simple survey request. A librarian requested that his fellow colleagues take the survey: The Mature Librarian: Over 55. The survey is intended to ascertain mature librarians’ feelings about technology, staying relevant in their field, and working with younger librarians. Droves of emails have been pouring in with library professionals wanting to voice their opinions (here is a link to the archive of responses). Many have stated that the survey is ageist, others have voiced that they are offended that these questions were proposed, and some have facetiously thrown in their two cents. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the poor guy who wrote survey. I thought that if he had just worded the survey differently he wouldn’t be in this pickle (which def goes to show you how far a well crafted survey can go).

In the midst of my musings on how I felt about the survey, I started to think about older librarians I’ve worked with. Being a younger librarian in a graying profession (which includes librarians working past retirement and not enough younger librarians available to take their place (SLJ, ALA, Charleston Advisor), I have encountered many individuals who don’t want to learn new technology, but it has all been related to one’s personality, not their age. I have encountered friends who don’t want to learn how to program, individuals who balk at using PowerPoint, and others who panic over system upgrades, but these instances have been from people who cover a broad span of ages.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that older librarians have a harder time learning new technology and staying relevant in their field? Do you think a profession with the majority of professionals being over 40 years old, implies that they have a harder time learning technology?


  1. I agree, it is about personality not age. Mastering the latest tech trend is not fun for anybody (well, many people) but simply requires patience and willingness to research. Interesting post.

  2. In my experience, as yours, it’s about mindset, and that mindset is guided by organizational culture. At the first library I worked at, there was not a culture of adapting cutting-edge technology skills, and most librarians did not push themselves to use tech tools to their fullest extent. Where I work now, they fix things until they’re broken.
    One things all librarians have in common is that we like to know things, but as technology moves so fast, and drives many other changes as well, librarians old and young are going to have to accept that there are a lot of things they don’t know, and invest time professional development to keep that list from getting to long.

    1. I totally agree with you Allison, it’s definitely mindset. I think it can become cumbersome to keep up with new tech tools b/c the tech industry is so rapidly evolving, but as information professionals it’s vital that we do so. As you said, professional development is a very effective way to keep up with these changes. I think it’s super important that libraries financially support staff for conference attendance and continuing education courses. It seems like sometimes funding for these activities gets put on the back burner but I think it’s essential.