Ireland, Information Work & the Age of Analytics

I’ve long been interested in studying the content of recruitment advertisements, because I believe that they give the best possible picture of what employers want from new graduates. Such information is not only relevant to people who are preparing to enter the market place (such as our wonderful students at the School of Business NUIM), but also provides the most reliable form of data for theorising how work changes over time.

When I first began doing this form of research, I started out small: I analysed how library and information management work was advertised in two, national broadsheet newspapers in Ireland. Shortly after I received a research award which allowed me to analyse all library / information science / information management positions advertised in Ireland. At the time there was a huge amount of interest in the field of knowledge management / knowledge work, and this emerging trend was doubtlessly influencing change in the profession. In some ways, knowledge management was creating new opportunities for librarians and information service workers, and in others it was changing the traditional foundations of the profession.

More recently, the idea of information as a key resource for gaining strategic competitive advantage has re-emerged in the form of Big Data / Data Analytics. The School of Business I work for has always been very keen on educating students so they can create or find work that is personally sustainable (as well as creating social value), which is why we offer a module on data analytics as part of our degrees.

Interest in data analytics is certainly growing in Ireland. Last December the Irish Government (through Science Foundation Ireland) made a huge investment in establishing the INSIGHT data analytics centre, and some educational institutions have begun to offer dedicated, industry focused qualifications in the field. Just a the advent of knowledge management was based on Professor’s Thomas Davenport in his co-authored book Working Knowledge, his text Competing on Analytics is similarly responsible for much of the upsurge of interest in data analytics and big data. The knowledge management revolution was changed by librarians, and in turn it appeared to change much of the work that librarian’s did; particularly in corporate or organisational contexts. Over 2013 I noticed that many job postings in the library field began to stress ‘analytics’ as an area of required expertise or experience: ‘bibliometrics’, ‘scientometrics’ and even ‘cybermetrics’ began to appear in various job advertisements.

However, as an academic I have to ensure that I do not engage with hyperbole about the growth potential of this field, and to make sure than any assertions I make are based on solid evidence. I’ve just completed collecting data on LIS & IM postings contributed to a group of selected websites and a newspapers over the month of January. I prefer to wait until I have analysed a full years worth of data until I share my overall findings, but as a research-active, teaching academic I have to ensure that whatever I can contribute publicly is shared as soon as possible.

With this in mind (and for what it’s worth!), last month (January 2014) there were 12 positions library or information management-related positions advertised in the Republic of Ireland last month, which ranged from internships to directorships. A third of these positions (n=4) were for ‘traditional’ library or archival roles as opposed to ‘emerging’ information roles. The vast majority (9) were for positions in, or related to, higher education institutions. This small amount of data required a significant amount of ‘sifting’ so I hope to post a technical note on my approach soon.

What do these numbers mean in comparative terms? Not surprisingly, they follow the general recruitment and trends over Ireland’s economic cylce over the past decade and a half. From my previous research, in 1999 10 advertisements were posted per month. In January 2002, 17 posts were advertised. The most recent piece of recruitment research was completed on this sector in Ireland (which I conducted with Alison Kavanagh, a DIT library colleague) found that by 2005, this amount had dropped to 8 posts on average each month.

These are just headline figures of course. More analysis will be posted as it becomes available. If you use Twitter, you could follow me to make sure you receive updates when they become available.