With Dorothea Salo’s recent TechEssence.Info post on Hiring a systems librarian and recent conversation about the lack of good systems managers on one of the listservs that I subscribe to, I’ve been thinking giving some thought the the life of a systems librarian. I find this job to be an incredibly rewarding one. It is both challenging and frustrating; fulfilling and stressful. It isn’t a library job that everyone would want, but being a systems librarian is a unique way to contribute to the overall mission of a library. I absolutely love my job – but can tell you honestly that I’m having a good week if I only threaten to quit once.
So, many people ask me “What exactly do you do?” First and foremost, I manage our library’s integrated library system. This is our mission critical application – so is the most important service in terms of up time and support from the library staff perspective. If the system is down or unresponsive, I need to resolve the issue ASAP. Like many libraries, we have a vendor that supports the software and the hardware. I am listed as the primary contact with the vendor – and am usually the only one to call for support – exceptions only happen if I am away and unreachable. There are often less critical issues with the ILS. These include questions about the system and how it works, software updates and training staff on new features (generally not formalized). Like most systems, our ILS has a web interface which requires endless editing and tweaking (web pages are never a finished product, right?). This is pretty much a long slow process on which I should always be spending time (and definitely don’t spend enough). We often purchase additional products from our vendor, and I am responsible for configuring and implementing them.
Being the ILS administrator takes about 50% of my time. If I didn’t have anything else to do, it could take all of my time. However, due the fact that I have several other job responsibilities, I can only spend so much time working with the library system. This is one of the difficulties with which I must deal. Time is short and work abounds. Every week, I have to assess the work load, prioritize based on some schema that resides in my head and decide what I need to do first. But ultimately, ILS administration is the most important part of my job, since it is our most important system.