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Tony TallentTony Tallent
Director of Libraries & Arts for the City of Boulder, Colorado.
Tony blogs at and you can explore more of his insights there.

Library 101 = Soft Skills Gone Wild!

When was the last time you heard anyone say something like this: ďWhat I need to help move this project forward is the most tech savvy person in the organizationóthe teamwork skills really donít matter.Ē Or ďShe puts the most incredibly intricate and complex work schedules together. Sure, her staff canít stand her and her manners are terribleóbut boy, those schedule matrixes are marvelous!Ē

Likely, such phrases are more nightmarish than normal. Right? OK, there is perhaps a strange grain of familiarity to these made-up quotations for most of us. We remember how people treat us. We respond (or donít respond) to the quality of communication that is shared with us.

Yes, weíre talking soft skills here. Soft skills are those little things that encourage groups to build rapport, keep staff feeling supported or help build much needed partnerships. These days soft skills arenít so soft. They are immensely important. They are often called people skills, and as trite as it may sound, people skills are a must for people who work with and for people.

People are our business. This is perhaps the most basic tenet that librarians (anyone who works in libraries) today and the future must embrace. Our mad technology, bibliographic or other hard skills bring building-block value to the work that we do in the library. Iíd like to propose that it is our soft skills that leave the thumbprint of remarkableness and excellence on what we do in libraries. I think our community craves the remarkable and the excellent. The creative and social. The visionary, well-dreamed and well-stated.† Are all these high-minded ideals addressed in this broad arena of soft skills? I think so. Letís learn to define soft skills and their importance in the library world, make them expectable and celebrate-able.

The ability to communicate well, to teach others, to take responsibility and leadership are all attached to the broad category of soft skills. Again, they donít seem so soft when they are defined. Going wild with such skills will help librarians drive programs and services deep in the community. That is a pretty firm and meaningful thing to consider. So, letís consider it (with wild commitment).

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