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One of the ongoing challenges LIS students and professionals face is trying to figure out what skills, experience, and attitudes will enable us to make a viable contribution in the evolving workplace, be it traditional facilities-based librarianship, special librarianship, or some type of alternative LIS work.

In an effort to nail down some (any!) answers to this tough question, I tend to read as much as I can about the future of work in organizations, and recently came across an interesting publication published March 10, 2011, by the Aspen Institute, “The Future of Work: What It Means for Individuals, Businesses, Markets and Governments,” by David Bollier.

It’s a fascinating read, interpreting how emerging trends may materialize in the workplace. But from my perspective, the title’s real value is the opportunity it offers LIS pros to practice identifying and articulating their value proposition in this “new normal” organization.

I read the report, and have perused others, with these questions in mind:

• Where could LIS skills support this type of rapidly moving organization?
• How would I disseminate information so that it was “just in time” rather than “just in case?”
• What would I need to do to be included in project teams, which may become the operational unit preferred over standing departments?
• What technology skills would I need to know as the cost of entry to participate and contribute?
• What soft skills would I need to master in order to be able to deploy my information skills effectively?
• What professional branding would I need to do to be perceived as an in-demand “impact player?”

When it comes to LIS careers and the chaotic nature of every LIS career path, it really is true that the best defense is a good offense. And one of the best ways to go on the offensive is to continually be thinking about where new opportunities will open up, even as others are closing down.

Reading “The Future of Work” and similar reports, articles, and books provides a good exercise in brainstorming where those opportunities may lie. Or equally important, where you may be able to create them.