How does technological change impact occupational identity when robots, software, and hardware can replace people? Countless clerical, factory, and textile jobs have been lost to automation. Some professions cannot adapt to new technologies, so they disappear. Other professions can adapt, find new focus, embrace technology, and redefine their profession.
In their research, Nelson and Irwin* focus specifically on how librarians reconciled their roles with Internet search engines. Initially, librarians dismissed search engines as something that was not going to catch on or be widely used. The authors refer to this as a “paradox of expertise” – librarians, the information experts, failed to recognize emerging information technology.
Eventually, librarians embraced the new search engine technology, even designing and helping to develop scholarly-based search engines. Librarians reacted and helped shape the path of new technology. Nelson and Irwin conclude that librarians made a successful transition by accommodating a new technology into a new role identity. The librarian transition model serves as a good example for other professionals who face new technology challenges.
How new technology affects work and society is a huge and complex issue. Nelson and Irwin conclude that librarians have successfully merged traditional and new information seeking strategies into their occupational identity.
*Source: Nelson, A., & Irwin, J. (2013). Defining what we do – all over again: Occupational identity, technological change, and the librarian/Internet-search relationship. Academy of Management Journal. doi:10.5465/amj.2012.0201
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