Technical Skills & the Librarian

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:

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