Basic technology skills for new librarians
- Computer operating system
- Downloading and installing programs
- Connecting an auxiliary device to a computer such as a printer, scanner, etc.
- Understanding the system settings
- How to troubleshoot anything
- Knowing what to ask a library user who reports a technology-related problem whether it’s a hardware or software issue
- Knowing how to replicate a problem
- Knowing how to research a solution on the Web
- How electronic resources work
- Understanding what a persistent URL is and being able to tell a URL is persistent or not
- Knowing what authentication and proxy means in the library setting
- Understanding how an electronic resource is set up for access from a trial to the link placed in different library systems such as OPAC (Open Public Access Catalog), ERMS (Electronic Resources Management System), Open URL Link Resolver, and the library web site
- Knowing how to troubleshoot remote access issues to electronic resources
- Knowing what different library systems do and how they work together to provide users with access to information resources. (e.g. Integrated Library System (ILS), OPAC, discovery service, openURL link resolver, ERMS, digital repository system, content management system, proxy server, etc.)
- Proficiency in research tools available on the Web
- Knowing how to properly use the WYSWYG editor in a blog or any content management system
- Understanding the difference between HTML and MS Word document
- Understanding what a web browser does
- Knowing how to make screencasts (video tutorials) and podcasts
- Knowing how to create and edit images and video for the Web
- Knowing what usability is and how it applies to a library
- Knowing how to write for the Web
- Knowing how to utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter
- Understanding the mobile devices and related technology that are applicable to a library
For those more adventurous:
Here is a random selection of cool technology skills one may want to check out:
(NB. Don’t be overwhelmed. This is by no means a list of required skills)
- Markup languages such as HTML, CSS, and XML, XSLT, etc.
- Relational database and SQL
- Open source CMS (e.g. Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, etc.) installation, customization, upkeep, etc.
- Proprietary ILS systems
- Open source digital repository and indexing systems
- APIs and Mash-ups
- Semantic Web and linked data
- Web analytics and statistics
- Data mining and data visualization
- And many more as you see the need for problem-solving…
- Dan Chudnov, “Advice to a library school student,” One Big Library, October 21st, 2010. http://onebiglibrary.net/story/advice-to-a-library-school-student.
- Karin Dalziel, Why Every Library Science Student Should Learn Programming. Nirak.net. December 12, 2009. http://nirak.net/2008/12/why-every-library-science-student-should-learn-programming/.
(See also the comments to this post : Bohyun Kim, “Why Not Grow Coders from the Inside of Libraries?” Library Hat. February 21, 2011. http://www.bohyunkim.net/blog/archives/1099. )
- Meredith Farkas, “Skills for the 21st Century Librarian,” Information Wants to be Free, July 17, 2006. http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2006/07/17/skills-for-the-21st-century-librarian/.
- Eric Lease Morgan, “Technical Skills of Librarianship,” LITA Blog. August 7, 2005. http://litablog.org/2005/08/technical-skills-of-librarianship/
- Ned Potter, “Everything You Need to Know about Technology to Work in Libraries,” theWikiman, December 6, 2010. http://thewikiman.org/blog/?p=1168.
- Kate Sheehan, “You know, I know, Don’t know,” ALA TechSource, February 28, 2011. http://www.alatechsource.org/blog/2011/02/you-know-i-know-dont-know.html .
Then vs. Now – some thoughts:
When I was a LIS student a while ago, I couldn’t wait to learn whatever new skills and to apply what I learned to work. I volunteered for all sorts of work to just test things at a real library setting: I made a foreign newspaper database after taking a relational database course, worked on the library’s digital repository system after taking the Digital Library course in which the whole class built a small digital library on the Web from the scratch, made podcasts and video tutorials, etc, etc. Back then, I was interested in finding out what I needed to learn more. I was never too concerned about what I will do with what I learn. I assumed that I would use whatever I learn. (Well, that isn’t always the case. And when you have little time to spare, picking what to learn becomes a very important matter. )
Now that I have been a librarian for close to three years being the technology manager of my small library, I realize that my wide-eyed enthusiasm of this kind has somewhat died down. Not because I do no longer love to learn new things but simply because the time I can spare for pure learning has become increasingly scarce. I have learned that often the technology you want (for the reasons of elegance, power, etc.) cannot simply be brought into your environment because of many local conditions that cannot be changed. I also have learned that one has to be very strategic in managing time that one invests in learning.
One of the many mistakes I made and still make is to pick up random stuff I want to learn and invest time in doing so for a few weeks. All is good up to that point. But the problem occurs when the work gets very busy or some life changes happen. I get completely swamped by other things. Unless there is a related project at work or an immediate need either personal or work-related, my learning takes a back seat and when I get back to it later on, I find myself starting all over again from the beginning. And of course, as a librarian, my technology-related work can be not-so-hands-on. Imagine writing reports, applying for grants, making inventories, supervising students, etc. Unused skills get rusty fast.
I still haven’t found any good way to deal with this problem. Information and resources for learning new stuff are almost abundant. Finding out what new coll tech stuff is out there to learn is not so difficult either. But setting up priorities and effectively managing my time is now on top of my To-Master Skills list above any particular technology. Many cite Google Time and say to invest at least 20 % of work time to a pet project. But in practice, this is easier said than done.
Should I be worried about my enthusiasm dissipating? How do you manage to keep learning new things that are not directly related to your work? How do you keep your self-learning and pet project going continuously and persistently?