A Day In The Life Of A Systems Librarian – Webmaster

As a systems librarian, there are several major parts of my job description – being the ILS administrator is only one job responsibility. When I’m not masquerading as an ILS superhero (I often feel like I have to fly to the rescue), I wear my webmaster hat. While wearing this hat, I am responsible for designing, managing and maintaining our library’s web site. Of course, there are some caveats. The college has a department that manages the look and feel of the entire web site. They generally contract a design firm to provide templates and the like for all of the major departments. In the past, I have taken the templates that the firm provided and modified them heavily. I have found that the designs suggested or provided haven’t provided enough independence for the library web site. I am a proponent of a consistent look and feel across an institution’s web presence, but I do believe that some autonomy of design is important when different departments have different goals and objectives for their web presence. Our library web page needs to have the look of a home page, but yet needs to tie-in to the college site. Once a design is set and the remaining 300 pages that make up the library’s web site have been converted, it is a matter of management and maintenance.

Managing the web site is a daunting task that could take up almost all of my work hours. We have a somewhat decentralized system where some departments within the library edit and create their own pages. They generally work on local copies of pages that I keep on a file server – and send me an email with the name of the file they edited. I check and double check the new pages (and compare them to the old) before uploading the web server. There are of course many issues with this system. One problem that I have with this is the fact that the local copies of the web pages don’t point correctly to the stylesheets and server side includes. People often want to try and fix this by changing links. If they do, I have to make sure that everything points to the correct files again. Additionally, people enjoy adding new content, but don’t really enjoy checking for expired and/or out of date links. The same can be said for new pages and services. We are often charged with a task for which we need to get new web pages up; and yet, don’t visit old pages nearly often enough. This is especially problematic since we do not have dynamic content for subject bibliographies, etc. This is something I need to get in place, but have to implement on my own servers, etc. This means it isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. It won’t happen in the near future – much to my dismay. Hopefully, the college will be moving to a content management system which will make my life easier. Managing a web site is not an easy task, and frustrates me to no end some time.

Web page management and design is one of the areas where I feel least confident. I often try to take classes on CSS, XHTML, DHTML, other languages, new technologies, Dreamweaver, database design, etc. However, there is so much to learn. When necessary, I can usually teach myself what I need to know. This approach works in pieces though – and doesn’t give me the luxury of being able to see the state of our web site and developing a plan for where we need to be. It is also an area where we often decide that what we have is good enough for now. The obvious problem with this rationale is that now extends far beyond the original time frame (ie has it been five years already??). Despite my lack of confidence, I enjoy web page creation and management. I often which I had more time to devote to it, but like many things in library systems, there are times when I feel like my whole life revolves around our web site and times that I have to remind myself that I need to get back to it.

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