A GLAM worker’s guide to surviving the 21st century GLAM landscape

Natalia Fibrich is one of our presenters at NLS8 and the General Manager of Library Training Services Australia. We asked our presenters if they’d like to write a blog post, and we’re delighted to be sharing Natalia’s take on how to survive the GLAM landscape . . .


The skills required by new librarians or GLAM workers has changed drastically in the last few decades. As a GLAM sector, we have been significantly disrupted by new technologies, and changing expectations of what is required out of our libraries. The changes have placed immense pressure on GLAM professionals, as they work to navigate their galleries, libraries, archives or museum (GLAM) through changing times, changing environments, and changing expectations.

However, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the GLAM sector. Yes, these changes have disrupted our modus operandi, but they offer infinite possibilities and exciting opportunities to those who wish to adapt and harness the opportunities that this presents. As a result, you can either embrace the exciting changes that are taking place, and adapt accordingly, or you can fear the changes, and shrink into your comfort zone.

Here’s the problem with comfort zones – according to Madisyn Taylor, at one stage in your life your current comfort zone did serve a purpose in your life. But it is representative of behaviours and patterns of thought that empowered you to cope with challenges of days past. Now, in our present context, this comfort zone does little to facilitate the growth you wish to achieve, or importantly need to achieve in the present, to facilitate the growth and success of a 21st Century GLAM.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there” – Unknown

The survival and success of 21st century GLAMs rely on GLAM professionals and graduates to do a number of things:

  • Firstly, to believe wholeheartedly in the infinite power, impact and continued relevance of GLAMs in a 21st century context. This includes embodying an attitude of positivity and hope when considering the future and our place in it as a 21st century GLAM professional or graduate, as opposed to an attitude of negativity, scarcity, or passivity.
  • Secondly, to commit to constantly pushing through our comfort zones. Change and disruption are unrelenting – they will never end. 21st century GLAMs will only continue to exist, be relevant and solve meaningful problems if the people who run them, and the people who work in them, continue to push through their own limitations and fears.

The important thing to note here, is that we don’t need to be experts in the minutiae of disruptive technology and 21st century trends. Rather, we need to be willing to try to continuously learn what we can (continuously disrupting ourselves), create partnerships with those who are experts where the scope of what we need to know is beyond us, and connect our customers with services that continue to solve meaningful problems for them, and empower them in a 21st century context.

  • Thirdly, GLAM professionals and graduates need to take responsibility for their careers and their own lifelong learning. To neglect one’s own professional development and learning, is to effectively sign your own cease and desist letter. Not only will your career suffer, but your GLAM will too. It is time to get in the driving seat of your career, map out where you want to go, identify what impact you want to have, identify what skills and knowledge you may need development in, identify what you do well and how you can use that better, and get started. No one else is going to do this for you. Your career and effectiveness as a GLAM professional is your responsibility, not anyone else’s.

It is important to note that transformations and disruption can be uncomfortable. However temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the evolution and growth of us as professionals, and for the progression and growth of our GLAM. We learn so much, and gain so much as a result. As Madisyn Taylor from DailyOM states:

“As we continue to expand our comfort zone to include new ideas, activities, goals and experiences, we will see that we are capable of stimulating change and coping with the fresh challenges that accompany it.”

Developing the 21st century skills and knowledge required to navigate a 21st century GLAM through constant disruption, combined with pushing through your comfort zone, and understanding the needs and problems of your customer, are the three most important things you can do for your own career, for your GLAM, and importantly, for your customer and community – who are the ultimate beneficiaries of everything we do.

The question we then need to ask is… “who do we need to be as people, as GLAM graduates or professionals, in order to achieve the best outcomes for our careers, our customers and our 21st century GLAM?” Let’s go be that person.

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