I want to begin a series of posts detailing the many, many skills and knowledge sets that I have learned since entering the LIS field. I loved getting my degree, and I learned SO MUCH doing it, but the biggest reason that I chose Library Science for my degree is that the job field allows me to keep learning new things every day for pretty much the rest of my life. Before I had a job outside of school, I mistakenly believed this learning would mainly come from researching reference questions for patrons. Oh, how wrong I was…
Think back to the last time you walked into a grocery store, convenience station, bookstore, or any other retail or service location. There were computers at each register, perhaps searching stations for you to look for your own materials, or a touch screen for you to create your own order for submission. Have you ever thought about who maintains those computers, and ensures that they are always working? There never seems to be a person assigned that job, but they are usually fixed pretty quickly. However, in the public library setting, especially smaller libraries without the budget to support full tech staff, this job falls to someone in the library field.
I was hired in my current position as the Adult Services Librarian, with the basic expectation of being responsible for collection development and management, programming, and advertising. However, the very first project I was assigned involved making use of the 20 or so odd computers that were littered around the back room of the main library. Scarily enough, I had never even opened a computer casing before then; I managed to combine the memory from multiple machines and make them usable as public access computers at each of our branches.
From there, I was the project manager ad general IT contact for electricians in three library building moves. I think I made some electricians REALLY nervous when they asked me if they should put the RJ45 ends on the Cat5 cable, and I looked at them with wide, panicked eyes. (As I found out, these are just what the plug ends on ethernet cabling are called. I know how to terminate ethernet cabling now!)
I’ve worked with a team of technology assistants, and learned so much about networking, programming, general computer maintenance, and many other technology elements. I often felt panicked and overworked, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. If I hadn’t said, “Yes!” every time someone asked if I knew how to do something, then I never would have learned the technology skill set that I have today, and it was FUN even when it was terrifying. My job has morphed into a much different position than it was when I first began, and I know that my own learning experiences have heavily shaped this trend. I am glad that by exploiting my own interests in order to learn more about the job, I am able to help predict where both my library and myself will move toward in the future.
So, my advice to you? Always try to keep learning, you will love it and it will only add to your excitement about your profession! Bring emerging technologies to future libraries!
PS – as a bonus, here is my favorite model for tech support:
(image from http://xkcd.com/627/)