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Everything you need to know about technology and working in libraries
Ned Potteron 6 July 2011
Transcript of Everything you need to know about technology and working in libraries
This presentation contains very specific information on technologies, hardware, software
and platforms, supplied to me in many cases by peers who currently occupy the roles
in question. As well as the specific stuff, it's worth remembering some general principles
about technology and library & information services: Now, you have two options. You can keep pressing the 'Play' arrow and the Prezi will take you through the different rooms in the Library. But if you're feeling adventurous, just click wherever you want to go! As you run the curser over different areas of the map, they will briefly become highlighted - anything that lights up in this way can be clicked. So click on a room to go that room, then click on the information sheet on the desk in that room, to read all about the echnological know-how required to work in that part of the library. To zoom back out again, click off to the side, or use your mouse-wheel. Click the map to get
started... Eventually, ALL library roles require some kind of technological proficiency. So if
you get the chance to acquire expertise, take it: even if your next role doesn't need it,
the one after that may do Librarianship is a profession which changes very quickly - this presentation offers a snapshot of the kinds of expertise needed in late 2010, but, as glib as it may sound, your professional development never really stops, and you have to be prepared to learn something new all the time Interpersonal relationships are just as important as your technological skills. The myth of the computer whizz who sits in the basement, non-communicative and arrogant but indespensible because he or she is so damn good, is just that: a myth. In reality the vast majority of work of any kind in libraries is collaborative, so if you're going to work with technology, you need to be able to work with PEOPLE, too... Welcome to this presentation about technology in libraries, by NED POTTER,
for CILIP's New Professionals Information Days 2010. The full title is Technogeek? What you need to know about
technology to be an Information Professional We’re going to navigate through each area of the library
and see exactly what you need to know to work there.
First though, let’s have a look at how much tech knowledge
most information professionals need in their jobs overall. Conservator Customer Services Working in Customer Services (or as a Library Assistant or
whatever you want to call it) usually involves a mixture of
frontline work - serving on the front desk, issuing books and
so on - and some non-customer facing duties, such as
processing books which have been reserved over the phone
To work in this field you'll definitely need:
to use the library's management system, whatever that
may be (examples include Heritage and Millenium) -
this is effectively the 'back end' of the catalogue
deals with circulation, holds, fines and so on.
You may also need:
knowledge of Excel or other basic statistical software,
word processing skills, and of course the ability to use Outlook
properly. In some institutions, Customer Services provides
the first line of support for users' IT problems. e-Resources Team VLE Team Digtisation Suite Cataloguing
& Classification Digital Repositories Team Human Resources / Admin Office Subject Librarians Trainers Technician + Computer Room Insert Area of the
Library I've forgotten,
here. The systems team is something of a grey area... This part takes on the assumption that if, for example, the library is part of a University, there
is a seperate IT department that takes care of the really big stuff across the institution as a whole.
Obviously every systems team is going to be slightly different, but they all deal with the high-level
stuff that makes everything else work. This could be briefly summarised as: servers, databases,
programming languages, user interfaces, machine interfaces, code versioning, performance scaling
& bug tracking, and the back-end of pretty much everything. I asked one systems guru to list his current skills-set - here's what he said
(and I have no idea what any of this means): My current skillset consists of something like this:
Solaris, RedHat, Ubuntu, Windows, MySQL, MS-stuff (e.g. Access), Apache,
IIS, Perl (and mod_perl), PHP, ASP, HTML, XML, XSL, Shell scripting,
useful), and probably a whole host of other stuff (catalogue is a whole [painful]
world in itself!). Oh and then there's the protocols - OAI-PMH, DC, Z39.50.
Oh, and the editors/code management - Eclipse (free!), vi/vim (commandline),
I don't do Java.
I do do Object Oriented
I heart jQuery.
Does that make any sense whatsoever? Many academic libraries employ staff specifically to train They train other members of staff, academics, and students. An example of the skills-set needed for this would be:
Microsoft Office, especially Word & Excel
Presentation software, including advanced PowerPoint skills
EndNote and other reference management software
Web 2.0 technolgies such as wikis, blogs, microblogs, social bookmarking, RSS feeds
Online search tools including academic subject gateways, Google Scholar etc
Some web editing skills
e-learning tools such as Articulate and Adobe Captivate
Potentially screen-casting, podcasting,
videos etc Thank you to all the Information Professionals who gave up their time (and trade secrets!) to tell me about the technological know-how they need for their library roles.
For more presentations, guides, and ideas about information, go to
twitter: @theREALwikiman I asked a VLE Support Officer to describe his work on
a daily basis; here's what he said. •Building web pages in Dreamweaver
•Creating video demonstrations with narration using software like Articulate and Camtasia
•Blogging and sending updates by email on the latest news from the VLE Service
•Supporting staff and students with the use of the VLE (too many things to list) including desk-side bespoke consultations on any aspect of using the VLE to facilitate e-learning
•Support with third party integrated tools such as Questionmark, Turnitin, Wimba Voice Tools, and the Learning Objects Campus pack (LX).
•Knowledge of and ability to use third party software to support staff/students i.e. the helpdesk call management system
•Planning for and delivery of staff training
"Although not technical interpersonal skills are very important, building relationships with colleagues across the institution and with external contacts has helped greatly in finding solutions to issues and communicating information to a wider audience." The reference (or enquries) desk requires all of the knowledge and expertise needed for Customer Services, and much more besides. Specifically with regard to technology, you may need:
Knowledge or, and the ability to trouble-shoot, access to subject databases, and other e-Resources
Ability to use more advanced modules of the Library Management System (e.g registering patrons, using online
inter-library loan requests etc)
Some understanding of IT hardware - e.g if you loan laptops you may need to assist patrons with set up
Advanced level search of online resources and an understanding of how information is accessed Subject Librarian / Academic Liaison Basics include the Library catalogue – OPAC, and different versions of the library management system, plus publishers’ websites, and e- books and e-journals and their associated platforms
Databases – depends on your subject as to just how many. I asked a Science Librarian about this, and he said: "I have to know how to use Web of Science, FSTA, SciFinder, Reaxys, Inspec and others – some of these are chemical information databases, rather than bibliographic databases – you can search by chemical drawing, chemical reaction, substance code, etc."
Reference management software such as EndNote X4
Search engines, subject gateways, e.g. Intute, as well as blogs, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools
Microsoft Office software – Word, Excel, Access in particular, plus
Graphics software, e.g. Paintshop Pro
VLE and its associated tools
Jadu or other Content Management Systems, and Dreamweaver, for website creation / management
Articulate, Engage, Informs and other software for creating interactive online tutorials and resources; interwrite Response software for e- voting
NetSupportSchool software for classroom management, plus intereractive whiteboard software Shelving is perhaps the one library role which unequivically requires no technology... For now. Even though Conservator's work mostly with their hands, physically restoring and preserving books and manuscripts, they still require technological expertise. This can range from using advanced Excel skills to collate and cost a treatment programme for a collection, to using bespoke protective box manufactoring software and hardware. I asked one Conservation Officer about the use of technology in her role, and this is what she said in full: The e-Resources Team can cover a whole load of things, but the main function is to provide and maintain access to e-journals, e-books and databases. Skills required can include:
- Library Management Software, specifically Electronic Resource Module and Acquisitions Module at an advanced level
- Explorer / Firefox at an advanced level plus knowledge of other browsers such as Opera
- Excel, Outlook, Word and PowerPoint at a good level
- Various media players such as WMA, iTunes, VLC at a good level
- Web software such as Dreamweaver at a good level
- Perl at a very basic level
- Access at an advanced level Cataloguing and classification can be undemanding in terms of technology, for the moment, although this is changing- and you do need in depth expertise regarding the Library Management System's cataloguing module. It helps to have a decent understanding of Excel, Outlook, Word and sometimes Access, too.
One cataloguer I spoke to added: "...if you're someone who's happy using a range of software, you're going to find cataloguing programmes fairly easy to pick up. If you're not, then you might struggle at first. Cataloguing does require specialist skills, but they're usually ones that are acquired on the job. Once you've learned them, though, you tend to find that they take you beyond your specialism." Technology in libraries is everywhere, and as if to prove it, even Special Collections requires a lengthy list of know-how: - Scanning images for patrons is routine, so the ability to use a scanner and scanning software such as Epson scan is required
- Many Special Collections departments have photographers working with high-end SLR digital cameras to capture images
- Photoshop or Corel for processing images.
- Blackwell Idealist or similar for cataloguing manuscripts and archival materials
- Dreamweaver or equivalent to update the website with new finding aids etc
- Data loggers for environmental monitoring Conservators are indeed, more than mere technicians! Within the wider conservation community all sorts of technologies underpin the needs of heritage research and help conservators manage material change. For me, apart from using the usual e-resources to search the professional literature or exchange information, mostly I use IT for the purposes of collections management activities (e.g. conservation documentation - which records the condition/treatment information; collections surveys; integrated pest management; emergency planning and management; risk analysis; capturing environmental data; preservation planning) and communication/training.
Here's a list of what I tend to use:
-Conservation documentation and analysis/record-keeping/surveys/planning - Microsoft Word, Excel and Access; digital photography with image editing software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop); some libraries and archives store their conservation documentation within a collections management system but we don't have that capability yet.
-Environmental monitoring - employs data loggers (for recording temperature, relative humidity and other environmental parameters e.g. light, vibration) with dedicated software programmes (we use Tiny tag and the Gallery uses a Hanwell radio telemetry system)
-Communication/training - the same as professional Librarians e.g. Microsoft Word and Powerpoint; appropriate platforms for online training programmes Generally it wouldn't fall to regular library staff to maintain the computers, but if you work on the library floor you need to know enough about them to assist patrons with their use.
Similarly an understanding of whatever audio / visual equipment you have, such as TVs + DVD players etc, will be something patrons expect you to have. The library computer technician (sometimes attached to the Systems Team, found elsewhere on the map) is probably the most unsung-hero role in the entire organisation. They make the entire organisation keep working, and as such require a very broad range of technological expertise, often quite particular to their own insitution.
Perhaps more than anyone else, library technicians need an understanding of HARDWARE - they often literally set-up, take down and maintain PCs and other technology throughout the library. They're also the first port of call for trouble-shooting on almost anything tech-related - catalogue, software, network, library management system etc. Patience is as important a skill as knowledge of bytes, cables, and websites... To work in Admin or HR you need to be extremely proficient
with Outlook, Word and Excel, and may need knowledge of records management software, statistical software, and even specialist financial software.
There are various roles perfomed in this area which occur across all sorts of companies, and don't actually require any kind of library experience to perform in a library environment. The usual office IT skills are needed for these.
In addition, people in these roles often handle publicity, so need an understanding of web-authoring software, graphics programmes, desktop publishing, and presentation software. The field of digitisation can be quite diverse. Providing digitised marterial for students requires an understanding of scanners and scanning software, and may require the skills of post-production (for example using Photoshop to tidy up and process scans, and using something like OmniPage to add Optical Character Recognition to PDFs to ensure they can be read by assistive software for Visually Impaired users.) In addition to this, statistics are always important - so an advanced knowlegde of Excel to produce these, and PowerPoint or similar to present these. Access or an external database may be used to store information about the items digitised.
By contrast, digitisation for the purposes of preservation is a completely different area. You may need to know about SLA cameras (see the Special Collections area of the map); you'll need to understand DPI, monitor calibration, and image management / processing. And that's just to digitise from print.
Digitising audio / visual materials requires knowledge of a whole new range of platforms, software and hardware - the list is literally too long to go into here. But an understanding of video capture and editing, and audio capture and editing, using software such as Adobe Premier and Audacity, would be essential. The most important thing to remember about every Director of a Library, is that he or she will have done at least one of the more advanced jobs listed elsewhere on this map, on the way up. So whatever the particulars of the role, you can't even get far enough to apply without a good understanding of technology - there simply aren't jobs high-up enough that don't use it.
It's also worth noting that, in academia at least, the Head Librarian is often so involved with the management side of things, and liaising with the wider institution, that it's the Deputy Librarian who runs the library day to day. And to that, they have to know about EVERYTHING... including a basic understanding of, essentially, all the technology at work under the library roof. To work in the area of Digital Repositories, a high level of technical expertise is required. Programming skills or at least a basic understanding of how networked information works, data mapping/crosswalking skills, and knowledge of the ingest, storage, access and presentation of digital materials are a must.
Interoperability is a big buzzword in this area (designing programmes that can interface with oneanother, speak to each other).
To manage a Digital Repository, you need most of the expertise described in the Digitisation Suite section, as well as what's listed here, and of course many, many non-technical skills too - not least inter-personal and communication skills. However another cataloguer thought this wasn't representative of all cataloguing, and gave these examples:
" - Batch processing of records that have been triggered for purchase through our patron driven acquisitions program. I have set up a python script to harvest information from the trigger report given by the vendor, extract the MARC records that have been triggered for purchase from our database, add and change the appropriate codes to the MARC record, and import the changed records back into our system, creating order records in the importing process.
· Extracting and organizing metadata from transcripts stemming from our university’s oral history project using OpenCalais and Drupal.
The above paragraphs are specific examples of my cataloging duties, but here are some of the skills and knowledge that I have found that I needed in my time as a cataloger:
· Knowledge of data formats, including MARC21, MARCXML, and a healthy portion of metadata standards (most using XML for syntax)
o Related to above, the current rules, guidelines, and/or schema that are used to input information in the above formats so I know what to look out for when building applications or batch processing records
· Programming skills
o At a minimum, have an idea about programming basics and logic
· Knowledge of storage and retrieval methods for different data formats
· Knowledge of the ILS: how it stores information, processes diacritics, how or if it reads MARC records, how to export/import information, indexing
· Character encoding: what types of encoding are out there, if the ILS/software can only handle one type of encoding, how to switch from one encoding from another