Margaret Donovan from the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, MA, Edward McDermott of Goddard Library at Clark University, Don Richardson from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Laurie Welling, Assumption College Library, all in Worcester, MA, discuss their experiences, good and bad, taking on the positions of System Librarian at public and academic libraries. Find out how they deal with the many day-to-day varied situations of their jobs, and who they need to involve to keep the systems functioning smoothly.
Everything is technology, so SysLibs end up working with all departments and all tools
Everyone (staff, Trustees, patrons), etc., like to see evident results – new tools, statistics, and working computers
Technology Culture is important in the library – staff should understand available tools. Libraries also have staff-only tools (mp3 players, digital cameras, etc.), to borrow, use and learn. The best way to create a technology culture is to rewrite job descriptions to include tech skills, and make sure new employees are qualified and comfortable in all aspects of librarianship.
What software do you use for statistics?
Voyager ILSs’ software into MSAccess database, database stats from vendors (trying to migrate to the “counter” standard with vendors – there is also the “sushi” standard, which is an automated stat system that gets pushed to you)
What about tracking PC maintenance
- Most PCs are on a regular replacement cycle (3-4 year cycle), with funding coming from Town (they have to know how much this costs and that is important)
- Use a spreadsheet to keep service records and IP address and service phone numbers, to make service calls easier
- Use a spreadsheet to keep track during the year of all stats (usage, circ, etc) to make compiling at the end of the year easier
How do you manage unfreezing to do updates?
DeepFreeze and CleanSlate are both used. All computer stay on all night, and updates are scheduled for night (DeepFreeze is great for automating)
DeepFreeze should work on Vista no problem
Do you create and update websites?
- WPI: Originally we created websites (in the 1990s), but maintenance and updating is shared throughout the library staff (4-5 people). But soon WPI is going to a CMS (Red Dot), so all existing models will change
- Assuption: work more with OPAC than website – Electronic Resources Librarian does website
- CML: There is a web team (2 people) who do most of the content, but there is supposed to be more. I do mostly thr tech support.
How is a good number for a web team?
WPI: We found 9 is too many, so pared it back to 6. Everyone knows basic HTML and has different areas of the site they maintain.
Do you implement technology competencies?
CML: We had a checklist, which made people nervous because they saw it as a test. Most people are getting better, and some have strengths in areas where others don’t (also use less-tech savvy people to troubleshoot and proofread handouts, because if they can do it, anyone can do it)
How about patron training at different skill levels?
CML: We do schedule classes in our training room, but there hasn’t been a lot of interest. Mostly it is on-the-spot, one-on-one
How does network tech support work with individual libraries?
CML: We learn a lot from each other (Minuteman), and they are great for responding
What about tech support coverage when you’re not there, and how many hours a week are you open?
CML: We have almost complete coverage, but there is always plan B: hang an “out of order” sign, and it can wait until tomorrow. But we do get calls/emails at home.
Hours: CML: 68 hours/week, WPI: 105 hours/week, Assumption: 100 hours/week
Do you circ laptops?
WPI: It is popular, and we check them out as normal but with a special “laptop use” agreement
Assumption: We use a lojack on the laptops
What about your professional development?
Assumption: Lots of on the job training, but have taken classes or self-taught: Oracle, php, MySQL
WPI: Haven’t learned as much as I’d like to, but comfortable with learning new things
CML: Was sent to Microsoft Server school, but since then it is just learning as software evolves (no one else in the library has to learn so much as quickly)
How do you document your job for your replacement?
CML: A collection of binders with manuals, etc. Also keep a “day book” of daily tasks and problems (which I also use to refer back on myself)
Assumption: Our documentation is out of date
WPI: We document the Voyager ILS well, and regularly update job descriptions, but we could do a better job with the details
Do you have digital microfilm equipment (scan to pdf, email, etc)?
CML: We had one, but it got stolen, and then we found that people were happy just printing right from the microfilm. You never know what the public wants until they start to use things
Assumption: We have assistive technologies, but not all staff can know everything. We want them to be familiar, but not experts, and let patrons (the users) be the experts
Best and Worst Experiences
WPI: Best – after 25 years, I got my own office. Worst – can’t think of one
Assumption: Best – tape backups don’t run on weekends because no one is there to change the tapes. I wrote an export script that ftp the backup to an external server. It took months, but it was worth it. Worst – not having an office, because I can’t concentrate
CML: Still waiting for best and worst. Bad – two different floods (which both came from the ceiling, not from below). Good – you always know you’re helping to make the whole library work
How much time do you spend helping patrons with computer questions?
CML: Maybe six times a week. Staff is good at calling me only in real emergencies. Also have to manage expectations, and not go above and beyond in every single situation.
What elevel of access do staff have to their machines?
CML: Most are powerusers (web people are local admins), and no one knows admin passwords on public computers. To do this, you need authority from above, and also the credibility for staff and patrons to believe you. We crack down a bit on non-work use (changing wallpaper, online shopping, etc), because these aren’t the staffs personal computers, they are the library’s computer (those are the people that usually end up with spyware and slow computers).
WPI: Staff have admin rights on the PC they use, and they are responsible for it
Assumption: Mostly same as WPI, because staff is busy and work hard, so it is important for them to stay connected (especially for those that work extra)