The role of librarians working in the higher education sector changes continuously, as it should. There was a time when academic Iibrarians needed to be just digitally literate, that is have “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills” (American Library Association). Being digitally literate alone is no longer enough.
Librarians are now being urged to become digitally dexterous. The concept of digital dexterity first emerged in the business world, defined as the “cognitive ability and social practice needed to leverage and employ various types of media, information and technology for advantage in unique and highly innovative ways that optimise personal and business values” (Gartner 2015).
In Australia, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) has taken it on board and noted, “digital dexterity is a fundamental aspect of the mission of university libraries … and is a critical component in the success of digital societies”. CAUL is the peak leadership body for the 39 university libraries in Australia, but also represents eight university libraries in New Zealand; and seeks to makes a significant contribution to higher education strategy, policy and outcomes in the representative countries.
In relation to digital dexterity, CAUL has developed five principles:
- Society is transformed through the power of research, teaching and learning, all of which occur in a digital context. University libraries are instrumental in building society’s capacity for digital dexterity, transforming how people experience knowledge through discovery, use and sharing.
- University libraries are essential elements of digital knowledge and information infrastructures, enabling student achievement and research excellence.
- Australian graduates have access to resources that will enable them to develop the digital skills to thrive in a global work context and to become effective global citizens.
- A proactive approach to lifelong learning is a key component of digital dexterity, and businesses should facilitate employee learning in partnership with education institutions, including libraries.
- CAUL supports the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, including the importance of digital inclusion and citizenship in achieving those goals (CAUL, 2020).
In 2019, CAUL established the Digital Dexterity Program: Digital Dexterity – the new skills for learning and research excellence, recognising the need for library professionals working in academic libraries, to be digitally dexterous, than being digitally literate, and able to better support the students of the future. It released a position statement on ‘digital dexterity’ describing it as being “a fundamental aspect of the mission of university libraries, now and for the foreseeable future”; and that it is more than digital literacy, and that it enables “active participation in all aspects of work and life in a digital world”.
To help members better familarise themselves with digital dexterity, CAUL has developed a range of initiatives to help its members:
- a position statement on digital dexterity outlining principles and goals.
- a Digital Dexterity Framework for library professional setting out the capabilities which make up digital dexterity.
- a “champions network” which include a “champion” within each member university library who can work within a community of practice to develop skills, share resources and provide feedback to other champions.
- See the Champions Framework (PDF) and Role Description (PDF)
- an Advocacy Toolkit that provides a structured way to approach advocating for and engaging with conversations about digital dexterity at an institution.
- a Digital Dexterity Community of Practice.
Read more about CAUL’s Digital Dexterity Program here: https://www.caul.edu.au/programs-projects/digital-dexterity-new-skills-learning-and-research-excellence
Scholarly Communications Librarian
James Cook University