Wednesday, May 16

What is a Systems Librarian?

The systems librarian's mission is to work with constantly changing technology. Users too (both library staff and patrons) have rapidly changing information needs and technology skills; librarians must seek and help design systems to serve such a diverse population.

During the course of a day, a systems librarian might supervise or administer any number of tasks, including: project planning including budgeting,
selecting hardware, software, and/or vendors, purchasing equipment or services including contract negotiations with vendors or service providers, installing hardware (including networking cables and devices) and/or software, maintaining, upgrading or repairing hardware, configuring, upgrading and/or "tweaking"/customizing software, troubleshooting user problems with hardware and/or software, training/teaching library staff or end users about hardware, software, networking, database management, Internet searching and/or any other number of subjects, researching and/or evaluating new technologies, consulting with other computing/technology personnel, upgrading his/her own skills and abilities, documenting and/or inventorying current technologies in use in the library, preparing reports, attending meetings and/or conferences.

The manager of the information systems in a library needs to have a solid understanding of basic librarianship, have a particularly good understanding of how all departments within his/her library function, have an understanding of how various technologies work and can best be harnessed to optimize the performance of his/her library, be a good listener, be an excellent communicator and patient teacher, possess excellent skills in managing people as well as resources, exhibit curiosity and tenacity, and be a top-notch problem solver .

Professional organizations of interest to systems librarians
The American Library Association (ALA) is a resource for all librarians; one division, Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), is of particular interest to systems librarians, providing up-to-date information through both the LITA Newsletter and the more scholarly journal, Information Technology and Libraries (selected articles and full contents are available online). LITA's "Jobs in Library and Information Technology" web pages feature listings from both employers and job seekers.

Another ALA division of interest to systems librarians is the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) which has committees on "Catalog Form and Function," "Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information," and sections focusing on "Collection Management and Development," "Preservation and Reformatting," and "Serials." The American Society of Information Science (ASIS) is considering a name change to reflect its members' interest in and substantial use of technology (the change: to become the "American Society of Information and Technology [ASIST]"). Members are kept up-to-date through its Bulletin and its Journal of the American Society of Information Science (contents are available online). Its web site also features "Jobline" pages. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) supports a number of special interest groups that might be of interest to systems librarians: Computer-Human Interactions, Computer Uses in Education, Information Retrieval, Management of Information Systems, and University & College Computing Services.

The systems librarian employed in an academic library might also be a member of the ALA's Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Association for the Management of Information Technology in Higher Education (AMITHE), or of the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT). Membership in the AECT might also appeal to school media specialists, who in turn may also be interested in the ALA's American Association of School Librarians. Similarly, there are professional organizations for medical librarians, law librarians, public librarians, special librarians, etc., which would be useful to systems librarians in those areas.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), the Technology Resource Consortium (TRC), and the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) are other groups of potential interest to the systems librarian. Benefits of membership in many of these groups includes subscriptions to newsletters and other publications, listservs, and reduced rates for conferences and publications.
Journals and periodicals of interest to the systems librarian
About librarianship in general:
American Libraries
Annual Review of Information Science and Technology
Educause: Tranforming education through information technologies
Computers in Libraries
Information Today
Integrated Library Systems Reports Journal of Library Services for Distance Education Journal of the American Society of Information Science Library Computing (was Library Software Review)
Library Hi-Tech
Library Journal
Library Quarterly
Library Trends
Public-Access Computer Systems Review

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