Skilltype was created for the library and information science community to analyze, grow, and share expertise. Last week, we announced our partnership with LYRASIS to help distribute, develop, and support Skilltype moving forward. As a new company and software platform, we get questions every day about both our product and business. In this guest post, I’d like to share more about who we are and what we’re up to.

What does the Skilltype platform do?

Skilltype can be best described as a multi-sided marketplace. The primary function is centered around transactions as opposed to interactions. Different from social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook, Skilltype is a “single-player experience” on one side, helping individual professionals manage their growth and development, and a “multi-player experience” on the other, where teams can collaborate to get work done. Below explains the different “sides” of our marketplace.

Skilltype for Professionals: The core Skilltype platform offers personalized professional development for anyone in library and information science. While COVID-19 made increased the value and need for these tools, this free service was launched last year for people seeking to prepare for the future of work.

Skilltype for Teams: As people begin creating their profiles and managing professional development, Skilltype allows them to share this data and activity with an organization. In March, we released a subscription offering that allows organizations to offer Skilltype for Professionals to all of their employees and view data their community shares with them to make data-informed talent management decisions. A part of this suite of tools includes creating training pathways for everyone across their organization interested in being reskilled or upskilled both during a hiring freeze and beyond. 

Skilltype for Training Providers: While most organizations would use Skilltype for professional development and talent management among their workforce, some organizations also want to manage training resources and opportunities to share with the community. This third offering allows conference organizers, professional associations, and other training providers to adjust to life without in-person events to rethink the future of delivering high quality learning experiences.

What makes Skilltype’s approach unique?

Similar to Google, Slack, or Netflix, it has never been difficult to explain what Skilltype does. But behind the scenes, several challenges have to be addressed to ensure “it just works” as our community expects software should work in 2020. Our research and development with libraries and their workforce has identified more complex issues that need to be resolved around privacy, data ownership, algorithmic ethics, diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and more. 

Here are a few places where we’re innovating that have mostly seen iteration to date.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Professional development is limited to people who can afford to have the privilege to travel to conferences. Skilltype makes professional development available to all library workers. This improves the diversity of both learners and trainers. By broadening access to training, we are creating a more equitable community. Our vision is for anyone to gain the skills they need to advance their careers. By enabling anyone to share expertise, we are creating a more inclusive community.

Usability and accessibility: Professional development, when archived, is spread across hundreds of Drupal or WordPress websites, many with logins, some optimized for mobile, and even fewer compliant with WCAG. Skilltype improves the usability and accessibility of training by aggregating these resources globally, packaging them into an API, and improving the viewing experience for all users. Learn more about our accessibility work from one of our lead developers here.

Search, algorithms and privacy: Over the past decade of evolution of discovery systems in libraries, the primary factors when developing a search experience have been relevancy and recency. At Skilltype, above relevancy and recency are privacy and algorithmic bias. Skilltype uses the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation as the standard for our user’s privacy expectations, providing them the right to be forgotten coupled with the transparent use of their personal data. We also ask ourselves about the ability returning a particular result set back has to create unfair outcomes in the library community, such as privileging one group over another. To discuss our approach to search, Johnny Boursiquot introduced some key concepts to the NISO community in this presentation.

Who’s behind Skilltype?

To the layperson, a founder usually gets all of the credit. But in reality many people are responsible for bringing Skilltype to life. Rather than take on venture capital, or structure as a non-profit to receive grant funding, I recruited several institutions over a two year period to fund the research and development of this new platform. Each institution appointed a project owner to participate. Aside from testing new versions of the product each month, these development partners helped shape our strategy around product, policy, and also pricing. With the craziness 2020 has bestowed upon us, we’ve never had a formal opportunity to thank them for their contributions. So as not to let more time pass by, I want to acknowledge our founding community, in order of participation:

  • Brandeis Library
  • Gonzaga University’s Foley Library
  • Wayne State University Library System
  • Oberlin College Libraries
  • University of Rhode Island Libraries
  • UNC Chapel Hill Libraries
  • Tulane University Libraries
  • University of Cincinnati Libraries
  • Michigan State University Libraries

The funds and community validation enabled us to build a diverse team of professionals from world-class organizations such as Amazon, Workday, Salesforce, and Facebook to help reimagine one of society’s most important professions. We’ve been studying the history of librarianship that got us here, along with the current issues stymying us from reaching our potential, in order to design future directions to preserve our values.

To see Skilltype in action, you can register here for a free demo for LYRASIS members on October 1, 1pm ET.