A Day In The Life Of A Systems Librarian – ILS Administrator

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.


4 Responses to A Day In The Life Of A Systems Librarian – ILS Administrator

  1. Corey says:

    I just recently became a Systems Librarian after spending the last three years involved in various systems projects in the Library. One thing I want to do is further my formal education in the area of Library information systems. Having a look at the courses avilable here in Australia, only one has strong subjects in the areas of systems and information technology.

    As you’re an MILS student I’m interested in your thoughts on the idea of further education and if you’ve experienced similar issues. Essentially I’m looking for post graduate studies that will train me to be a better Systems Librarian, not a course that will try to train me to be a better reference / research / liason librarian as that’s not who I want to be.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Jennifer says:

    Corey, this is tough. Reference and research seem to be deeply tied into MLS education. I understand the reasoning, but not everybody needs some of this stuff. I think the focus on reference and research creates a real problem for people looking to be systems librarians. The core librarianship courses take up a great deal of the number of courses that one must take. This doesn’t leave much room for classes that would deal specifically with systems. I think that classes that look deeply at the structure of integrated library systems and how they work would be very useful. Classes that really examine information systems, databases, etc. could be extremely helpful. So far, the most useful of my classes (keeping in mind that with the classes I am currently taking, I am only half way done), has been library management – since systems librarians generally manage a department.

    I hadn’t really thought about the course selection from this angle. I do think some of the material from my reference class was useful – people skills are critical for systems librarianship. However, overall, it wasn’t the most useful class that I have taken. I guess because systems librarianship is so new LIS education hasn’t really dealt with this new discipline in the best manner.

  3. […] Do you feel like a librarian? What makes you feel like one? With a recent blog post on the subject (Joy Weese Moll’s Feeling like a librarian from Wanderings of a Student Librarian) and a comment left on one of my posts (from Corey of the Tech Explorerblog), I have been thinking about how one comes to identify oneself as a “librarian.” Joy Weese Moll discusses teaching in her post and concludes that “I feel more like a librarian when I’m working on those prep assignments than I do at any other time.” I would imagine that this is true for many librarians. But Corey’s recent comments are making me think about systems people and how they come to identify themselves as librarians or if they even do. Corey has recently become a systems librarian and is interested in furthering his systems education. He writes that “Essentially I’m looking for post graduate studies that will train me to be a better Systems Librarian, not a course that will train be to be a better reference / research / liason librarian as that’s not who I want to be.” I can admit to feeling the same way that Corey does – I’m not really looking to be a reference / research / liason librarian – good or otherwise. […]

  4. […] In addition to ILS administration and web site management, desktop support is another one of my major job responsibilities as a systems librarian. We have approximately 120 computers in our library, 12 printers, several scanners and other assorted pieces of hardware. I am responsible for their configuration, their regular maintenance and troubleshooting hardware and software problems. Our public computers are included in the college’s general lab rotation – with replacement scheduled for, hopefully, every four years. I generally need to remind those in the IT department about our three lab areas in order to make sure that the computers get replaced when necessary. The software configurations for our lab machines are similar to those of other college lab machines. I usually take an image created by the IT department and use that as a base and make some minor modifications – especially for the lab in the library that is used for library instruction. We use Deep Freeze software in order to keep the machines in decent shape throughout the year – this means that we only need to re-image the computers once a year – generally in August before the start of the fall semester. Deep Freeze has been a made computer maintenance a much easier and less time-consuming process. Of course, the image is never quite right, and one of the biggest projects in September is to do last minute installs and make last minute configuration changes. […]

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