This morning a library science graduate student from Simmons interviewed me for a technology class that she is taking this semester. She needed to interview a systems librarian/head of a systems department. It was really an interesting experience for me – especially since I was just in her position last week. She emailed me the questions that she planned to ask at the end of last week. It was great to get a chance to prepare. The interview itself lasted for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and was glad to be able to help.
- What do you do on a daily basis? This is a complicated question. I mentioned first that I troubleshoot staff problems and issues. There are times that I don’t get calls from library staff for several days – and conversely, there are days that I never get a chance to sit down because of all the problem calls that I receive. Supporting the technical needs of the library staff is one of my primary job responsibilities. Next, I am the system administrator for our ILS. This often corresponds with my responsibility to support library staff, since a large percentage of my support calls deal with ILS issues. The third job responsibility that I discussed is being responsible for the library web presence – this included a variety of web sites, web applications and back end systems. I also spend a great deal of time working with our electronic resources – testing and troubleshooting new databases, existing one and evaluating potential acquisitions. I also felt compelled to add that as part of the library administration and as a liaison to the IT department, I attend meetings (and more meetings and more meetings).
- What hardware, networks and workstation configurations have you set up? My department is responsible for the set up and configuration of all new computer hardware (printers may or may not be included depending on many factors). I support about 120 computers – (PCs, no Macs), several scanners, several printers and barcode readers. The college maintains the network. However, I do manage most of the network equipment in the building. I patch all of ports into the patch panels, have enough knowledge about our network configuration and switches to be able to diagnose in-house problems, have my own internal class C IP address schema that I assign and keep track of and troubleshoot network problems within the library.
- What kinds of software do you use (for administrators and consumers)? Our college in a NT shop that favors the PC user with Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office. In the library, we use OCLC’s Connexion for cataloging, Ariel, Clio and our ILS software. For consumers, we provide a host of electronic resources. Software used by consumers (undergraduate students) is primarily provided (or decided upon) by the IT department in consultation with faculty).
- What are your biggest security issues and how do you address them? Our biggest concern is protecting patron privacy. Fortunately, use of personal firewall services, anti-virus software, anti-spyware programs, and security programs like Deep Freeze has really cut down on problems on individual computers. I am more concerned with global security issues.
- What was your most recent technology advancement or addition? We recently purchased a new server for our ILS. This has allowed us to purchase some additional modules, including an LDAP plugin which will allow users to authenticate to our library system with their college username and password rather than their barcode number. I am in the middle of this project – one that is quite complicated. However, I think it will be a great enhancement for our users. The use of the barcode is a confusing issue for our patrons.
- What have been your biggest technology challenges? The biggest challenge has been that it is difficult to get a handle on what our patrons need and want. It is tremendously challenging to be the primary person who is responsible for forging the direction of technology. So ultimately, managing technology in the library is my greatest challenge.
- What have your been your biggest technology successes? Implementing a proxy server to allow off-campus access to our electronic resources has been the biggest technology success. Despite the fact that users must create a PIN and use their barcode numbers to authenticate, they use this service. It is important to them – and they have been happy that we finally instituted it.
- What is on your technology wish list? One system that does everything – that integrates all of our content – or at least one interface that does.
- What is the future of technology and libraries? This is a fascinating time for libraries. I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for libraries in a technological sense. Obviously, social software is currently the big thing. There are some great debates going on right now about the future of libraries, the future of library catalogs, etc. – and I’m watching it all with avid interest.
- What three technology things/areas should be known by every librarian? I believe that every librarian should have a good understanding of MARC and how it relates to their library systems. In order to effectively be able to search library catalogs, it is critical to understand how bibliographic data is indexed – and these indexes are based upon MARC fields. It is also important to note that indexing rules change from catalog to catalog, from system to system. Learning about how data in one’s specific library system is indexed can help one make the most of their library system. The second thing that every librarian needs to know is how a computer works. Librarians, especially those in public service, will be asked to troubleshoot problems that patrons have on library computers (and may actually get questions from people at home). This has become part of helping patrons use the library. Third, I think that all librarians need to understand security issues and concerns – this includes being able to spot virus emails, SPAM, phishing schemes, etc.
Many of my answers here are brief overviews of the answers that I gave to the student today. The answers are a bit simplistic, but accurate.