From Dewey to Digital: Unpacking the Roles of Blended and Traditional Librarians

From Dewey to Digital: Unpacking the Roles of Blended and Traditional Librarians

Sigy George

Librarians have long been considered the custodians of knowledge, playing a pivotal role in connecting individuals with information resources. With the evolving landscape of technology and education, the role of librarians has undergone significant transformations. Two prominent models have emerged in recent years—the traditional librarian and the blended librarian. This article aims to provide a detailed comparison between these two approaches, highlighting their characteristics, responsibilities, and the impact they have on the library profession.

A blended librarian is a term used to describe a librarian who has blended their traditional library skills with technology and digital skills to effectively serve the needs of patrons in today’s digital age. On the other hand, a traditional librarian refers to a librarian who has a more traditional role in a library setting, which may involve tasks such as cataloging books, maintaining collections, and providing reference services to patrons. Blended librarians possess unique skills that enable them to serve patrons in a digital age. They know library science, information technology, and digital media and can leverage technology to enhance the delivery of library services. They are proficient in using digital tools and technologies to manage and disseminate information and are skilled in teaching and training others on how to use these tools effectively. Traditional librarians, on the other hand, may have a narrower skill set focused more on traditional library tasks, such as cataloging, collection development, and reference services. They may not have the same level of proficiency in technology and digital media as blended librarians. Both blended and traditional librarians are essential in today’s library settings. Like one can read in Asad Abbas and Ali Faiz article where they talk how both digital and traditional are needed in higher education, traditional librarians play a vital role in maintaining library collections and providing reference services. In contrast, blended librarians bring unique skills that enable them to enhance library services and effectively serve patrons in a digital age.

—Both blended and traditional librarians are essential in today’s library settings—

Defining Traditional Librarians

Traditional librarianship is deeply rooted in the conventional model of library services. Historically, traditional librarians have been associated with physical spaces, managing collections of print materials, and offering reference services to patrons. These librarians often possess expertise in cataloging, classification, and information organization, and they play a crucial role in maintaining order within the library.

Characteristics of Traditional Librarians:

  1. Focus on Physical Collections: Traditional librarians primarily work with physical collections of books, journals, and other print materials. They are responsible for acquiring, organizing, and maintaining these resources.
  2. Reference Services: Traditional librarians excel in providing reference services, assisting patrons in locating information within the library’s physical collection or helping them navigate reference materials.
  3. Cataloging and Classification: Proficiency in cataloging and classification systems, such as Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress Classification, is a hallmark of traditional librarians. They ensure that materials are organized in a systematic and accessible manner.
  4. Limited Technology Integration: While traditional librarians may use technology for cataloging and managing information, their role is less technology-centric compared to blended librarians.

Defining Blended Librarians

The concept of blended librarianship emerged in response to the digital age and the integration of technology into library services. Blended librarians combine traditional library skills with technological expertise, creating a dynamic and multifaceted approach to information management.

Characteristics of Blended Librarians:

  1. Technology Integration: Blended librarians are adept at integrating technology into library services. They utilize digital tools for cataloging, resource discovery, and online information retrieval.
  2. Information Literacy Instruction: In addition to managing collections, blended librarians often play a crucial role in providing information literacy instruction. They educate patrons on effective search strategies, evaluation of online sources, and ethical use of information.
  3. Digital Resource Management: Blended librarians are responsible for managing digital collections, electronic databases, and online resources. They ensure that patrons have access to a diverse range of materials beyond traditional print formats.
  4. Collaboration with Faculty: Blended librarians collaborate with faculty to integrate information literacy into academic curricula. They work closely with educators to support students in developing research and critical thinking skills.


  1. Scope of Responsibilities: Traditional librarians focus primarily on physical collections and reference services, while blended librarians have a broader scope that includes digital resource management, technology integration, and information literacy instruction.
  2. Skill Sets: Traditional librarians excel in cataloging and classification, whereas blended librarians possess a diverse skill set that includes technological proficiency, digital resource management, and instructional capabilities.
  3. Library Environment: Traditional librarians thrive in physical library spaces, while blended librarians are well-suited for both physical and virtual library environments, adapting to the changing needs of patrons in the digital age.
  4. Educational Collaboration: Blended librarians actively collaborate with educators to integrate information literacy into academic programs, fostering a more integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning.
  5. Adaptability to Change: Traditional librarians may face challenges when adapting to rapid technological changes. The traditional model, rooted in physical collections, may require more effort to incorporate digital resources seamlessly. Whereas Blended librarians, on the other hand, demonstrate a high level of adaptability. Their familiarity with evolving technologies allows them to stay ahead of changes, ensuring that libraries remain dynamic and responsive to the needs of the digital age.
  6. User-Centered Services: Traditional librarians excel in providing in-person assistance and cultivating a sense of community within the physical library space. They may prioritize face-to-face interactions with patrons. Blended librarians, while valuing in-person interactions, also prioritize virtual engagement. They leverage online platforms, social media, and virtual reference services to enhance accessibility and reach a broader audience.
  7. Professional Development: Traditional librarians often engage in professional development related to library science, cataloging, and classification systems. Blended librarians engage in continuous learning that extends beyond traditional library skills. They actively seek professional development opportunities related to emerging technologies, digital literacy, and online pedagogy.
  8. Library Advocacy: Traditional librarians may focus on advocating for the importance of physical libraries, emphasizing the value of tangible collections and the traditional role of librarians as guardians of knowledge. Blended librarians advocate for the relevance of libraries in the digital age. They emphasize the importance of digital literacy, open access to information, and the role of libraries as hubs for both physical and virtual resources.
  9. Data Management: Traditional librarians manage data related to physical collections, circulation statistics, and usage of print materials. Blended librarians are involved in more extensive data management, including analytics related to digital resource usage, user behavior in online platforms, and assessment of information literacy initiatives.
  10. Community Engagement: Traditional librarians foster community engagement through events, book clubs, and physical exhibitions. Blended librarians extend community engagement to online platforms, hosting virtual events, webinars, and participating in social media discussions to connect with a broader and more diverse audience.
  11. Accessibility and Inclusivity: Traditional librarians ensure physical spaces are accessible, focusing on aspects like wheelchair ramps and signage. Blended librarians prioritize both physical and digital accessibility, advocating for inclusive design in online platforms, digital resources, and electronic services to cater to a diverse user base.

In summary, the comparison between blended librarians and traditional librarians reveals a nuanced landscape within the library profession. While traditional librarians continue to uphold the fundamental values of libraries, blended librarians navigate the complexities of the digital age, ensuring libraries remain vibrant, accessible, and integral to the information needs of diverse communities. The future of librarianship may require a synthesis of the strengths inherent in both models, fostering a balanced and responsive approach to the evolving needs of patrons in a rapidly changing world.

Cite this article in APA as: George, S. From Dewey to digital: Unpacking the roles of blended and traditional librarians(2023, December 4). Information Matters, Vol. 3, Issue 12.


  • Sigy George

    I am a high school librarian with over 10 years experience in several school in Delhi. I have worked across boards like International Baccalaureate, IGCSE, and CBSE. My passion is writing and research about academic library, mainly school library.

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Sigy George

I am a high school librarian with over 10 years experience in several school in Delhi. I have worked across boards like International Baccalaureate, IGCSE, and CBSE. My passion is writing and research about academic library, mainly school library.