What type of technical skills do you need to be a librarian? A tough question to answer. Specific skills will vary depending on type of library one works in, will vary by departments within a library, will also vary from library to library – and will most definitely change rapidly. Most libraries do not have a tech support person in the building during all hours they are open – many do not have one in the building at all. This often requires that everyone have a good sense of basic computer troubleshooting skills. Some technical skills that I think everyone who works in a library should have are as follows:
- Basic knowledge of a personal computer – knowledge of file folder structure – how to save and retrieve documents (including how to organize) – how to navigate between folders – knowledge of network folders vs. local folders – how to add a network drive – how to add printers – difference between local printers vs. network printers – knowledge of how to delete items and empty trash – knowledge of different file formats & ability to recognize virus files
- Internet knowledge- how to search the web – what the internet is vs. what the world wide web is – good searching habits – knowledge of spyware and how it can disable a computer – how to use various browsers including IE, Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Netscape and others – what a URL is – what the format of a URL is – knowledge of domain name structure – knowledge about pop-up blockers & how to disable them – idea of what can and cannot be found on the internet – what the notion of precision vs. recall is
- Software knowledge- Microsoft Office products and other alternatives, anti-virus software, personal firewall software – ftp – telnet – HTML editors – basic ability to understand your operating system (os) – knowledge of what (os) you have on your computer – knowledge of how to figure out what (os) others have – ability to test & learn new software (librarians are often asked to troubleshoot any program installed on library computers), in depth knowledge of email software – understanding of POP3 vs. imap
- Networking knowledge- what is the network? – what do you need to put a computer on a network? (network interface card & data cable) – wireless networks – how to connect to wireless on PCs with various operating systems & on a mac – how to determine if internet connectivity problems are network problems, computer problems or web site failures – what is an IP address? – some knowledge of the following concepts: DNS (internal & external), NAT (network address translation), VPN (virtual private network) – what is a proxy server & the basics of how it works
- Hardware knowledge- familiarity with your cpu – understanding where your USB/Firewire port is – understanding of into where your mouse, keyboard & monitor & possibly barcode scanner plug- familiarity with laptops, tablets & PDAs – knowledge of mp3 players & iPods – familiarity with printers & how to troubleshoot printing problems – knowledge of thumb drives/flash drives – knowledge of projectors
- Other Computer Concepts – Ability to troubleshoot basic computer problems – primary computer user is the first line of defense for their own computer – knowledge of how to reboot, soft and hard boots, and when to use them – ability to clearly articulate and define computer problems
Ultimately, it is extremely important for everyone to have enough technical knowledge to know when to escalate a problem and to whom to escalate the problem.
Other blog post on technology requirements for librarians:
- 20 Technology Skills Every Librarian Should Have – A post from The Shifted Librarian, dated July 21, 2005, who borrows from an article by Laura Turner from June 2005 issue of T.H.E. Journal entitled 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have.
- Technology Skills For Academic Librarians- A post by StevenB from February 13, 2006) on the ACRL blog referencing the 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have from T.H.E. Journal. StevenB has some great thoughts and observations.
- The “kept-up” distance learning librarian- A post from July 21, 2005 in which Meredith Farkas talks about some technical skills that she believes are important for an “tech-savvy kept-up librarian.”
- Technical skills of librarianship- An August 7, 2005 post in which Eric Lease Morgan lists 5 technologies with which librarians who want to work in systems or a systems-related area should be familiar – from the LITA blog.
- You Only Need To Know 5 Things To Be A Library Geek- Blake posted this piece on August 29, 2005 on LISNews.org.
- Why librarians need to be fluent in IT- The Filipina Teacher-Librarian summarizes a lecture presented in April 2006 in which she discusses why librarians need to understand IT – posted on May 3, 2006.
- Must-Have Technology Skills for Library Staff – A list of 10 skills that the Library Supporter suggests for library paraprofessionals – from July 26, 2005.
- Technology Core Competencies- A post from the Kansas Tech Consultants Blog with suggested core competencies for Kansas library workers – from July 27, 2005.