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The Accidental Systems Librarian

As presented at SLA 2013

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The Accidental Systems Librarian

  1. 1. USING OUR LIBRARIAN COMPETENCIESIN MANAGING SYSTEMSPresented by Nicole C. EngardVP of Education, ByWater Solutions2nd Edition Author w/ Rachel Singer GordonContact: nengard@gmail.comThe book: http://tasl.web2learning.netSaturday, June 8, 13
  2. 2. OutlineIntroductionsWhat is a Systems Librarian?Who is the Systems Librarian?What does the Systems Librarian do?CompetenciesTips for TrainingNetworks and LearningSystems Librarian ToolsSaturday, June 8, 13
  3. 3. Who am I?Nicole EngardByWater SolutionsVP of EducationI love sharing knowledgewith colleaguesRight now my favorite softwaretool is Zotero ( am a dog lover!Saturday, June 8, 13
  4. 4. Who Are You?NameLibrary/OrganizationJob titleAre you a systems librarian (regardless of your title)?Reason for attending todayCurrent favorite software (doesn’t have to be library related)Are you a Dog or Cat person? (or any other animal?)Saturday, June 8, 13
  5. 5. SYSTEMS LIBRARIANSWhat makes a librarian a systems librarian?Saturday, June 8, 13
  6. 6. What is a Systems Librarian?The systems librarian is a unique breed. The positionrequires someone who no only understands libraries andcomputers but someone who can put both fields intocontext.Ingersoll, Patricia, and John Culshaw. 2004. Managing information technology: ahandbook for systems librarians. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.All you need is the ability to read books, the desire to learn,and the time to do it.Morgan, Eric Lease. “Technical skills of librarianship.” LITA Blog, August 7, 2005., June 8, 13
  7. 7. Possible Job TitlesInformation systems librarianLibrary webmasterDigital services librarianManager of library systemsLead library systems analystE-services librarianHead of information technologyInstruction and liaison librarianLibrary systems and digitalcollections administratorSystems manager/referencelibrarianVirtual branch and innovativetech managerMetadata librarianAssistant director of technicalservices for library systemsSystems managerInformatics librarianWeb services librarianIntegrated digital systems librarianHead of application developmentand managementLibrary systems liaison officerSaturday, June 8, 13
  8. 8. What Does the SystemsLibrarian do?Regardless of how the systems librarian came to behe/she manages any one or more of the library’ssystemsWeb siteILS / OPACPublic and Staff PCsLibrary content applicationsLibrary HardwareSaturday, June 8, 13
  9. 9. “The systems librarian is responsible for emerging technologies,website development, and systems maintenance.”“Responsible for the support and assessment of the library’s expanding web-based services. As part of the Library Technology Services team, work withweb development, desktop support and other staff to continually maintainand improve these services, now the primary points of patron contact withthe library. Manage the core resource discovery and integrated librarysystems as well as innovative open source and locally developed services inorder to maximize access to academic information for students, faculty andstaff. Lead user testing and other assessment of technology services toensure that they meet current patron needs and usability expectations.Recent graduates are encouraged to apply.”Systems Librarian Job AdsSaturday, June 8, 13
  10. 10. Systems Librarian Job Ads“[A]n Information Systems Librarian to perform in-houseinstallation, maintenance, testing and troubleshooting oflibrary’s information technology infrastructure.”“The Technical Services and Systems Librarian manages allaspects of acquisitions, cataloging, and library systems. Thisincludes but is not limited to acquiring needed resources in atimely and economic manner, performing cataloging for a varietyof formats and serving as the database administrator for thelibrary’s Innovative Interfaces Inc. Millennium software.”Saturday, June 8, 13
  11. 11. “Coordinates, the effective delivery of library services andapplications by overseeing the design, installation, maintenance,documentation, security, upgrading, and troubleshooting oflibrary application platforms, servers, and databases.”“Serves as the lead administrator for major library applicationplatforms, such as the Library’s Integrated Library System,mobile app, and other major application platforms. Worksclosely with the Public Services and Collections to ensureplanning, implementation, and coordination of Library servicesand applications.”Systems Librarian Job AdsSaturday, June 8, 13
  12. 12. “The individual selected will plan, direct, and evaluate theimplementation and administration of all library hardware andsoftware. This position will also include research and promotionof emerging technologies that will enhance awareness of mobiledevices and applications for both staff and the public.”“Implement and manage our e-resources, Integrated LibrarySystem (ILS), and web 2.0 based projects. We are looking for anindividual up to date with the rapidly changing digitalenvironment with excellent teamwork and communicationskills.”Systems Librarian Job AdsSaturday, June 8, 13
  13. 13. What’s Your Job Ad?If you are a systems librarian what did you jobad - or what does your job description - say?Saturday, June 8, 13
  14. 14. Who is the Systems Librarian?The Accidental Systems Librarian is the one who appliedto work in Technical Services/Cataloging (just as anexample) and was good with computers (either designingwebsites or just troubleshooting issues) so they wereasked to help with the new ILS and then the librarywebsite and then ....The Systems Librarian is someone who studied (or hasspecific experience with) libraries and systems. This personapplied for the role and manages the library’s systems as achosen career.Saturday, June 8, 13
  15. 15. Which Are You?If you currently work in systems - how did youget there? Did you apply? or get there‘accidentally’?Saturday, June 8, 13
  16. 16. COMPETENCIESUsing existing knowledge in managing systems & what you should learnSaturday, June 8, 13
  17. 17. Communication“[Y]ou most likely will be the only one doing anything relatedto technology, and your biggest asset will be an ability totranslate techno-speak to library-speak.”Eileen Lutzow, Charleston Southern University“I use reference interview skills all the time to get moreinformation out of the folks who are truly geeky, and to helppeople troubleshoot the problems they are reporting. I alsouse my web-searching skills often to find answers to thornyproblems.”Margaret Hazel, Eugene Public LibrarySaturday, June 8, 13
  18. 18. ResearchUse the ability to find the more reliable research resource inpicking the right softwareEvaluate the softwareTest the softwareResearch what others are saying about the softwareChoosing the most comfortable software solution is like going toGoogle for all of your answersSaturday, June 8, 13
  19. 19. OrganizationCataloging skills can be translated in toorganizing systems dataBibliography skills can be used to documentand organize systemsInformation literacy can help with finding andorganizing information regarding systemsSaturday, June 8, 13
  20. 20. TrainingReference or public services competencies will assist intraining your staff and your patronsUse the skills you learned while helping people use yourlibrary databases when training them to use othertechnologiesDocument commonly asked questions for later use withskills learned in making subject guidesSaturday, June 8, 13
  21. 21. Systems CompetenciesThings to learn to understand systems better:Database languages like MySQL or PostgreSQL go a long wayProgramming languages like PHP or Perl can help if youmanage an open source CMS or ILSNetwork basics can help with understanding how computerscommunication with and connect to each otherLinux server management basics help with the understandingof servers and basic troubleshooting actionsSaturday, June 8, 13
  22. 22. Systems/DatabasesA system is just a set of instructionsAdvanced searching skills assist inunderstanding database structuresTraditional cataloging skills give us a uniqueinsight in to deciphering confusing looking dataKnowledge of the various types of metadataschemas helps with the organization of dataSaturday, June 8, 13
  23. 23. Database Example: MySQLCREATE TABLE branches (branchcode varchar(10) NOT NULL default ‘’,branchname mediumtext NOT NULL,branchaddress1 mediumtext,branchaddress2 mediumtext,branchaddress3 mediumtext,branchphone mediumtext,branchfax mediumtext,branchemail mediumtext,UNIQUE KEY branchcode (branchcode));Saturday, June 8, 13
  24. 24. Reading MySQLThis table’s name is ‘branches’ and it stores the informationabout libraries or branches in the Koha ILSEach field is easy to identify because of its name (ex. branchnameis the library name)A field with a number in parens after it is a field that is limited insizeFor example varchar(10) means the field can have no morethan 10 characters in itLastly, we see that ‘branchcode’ is the unique key or uniqueidentifier in the tableSaturday, June 8, 13
  25. 25. Inserting Data in MySQLUsing the branches table enter a branch’s infoINSERT INTO branches (branchcode,branchname, branchaddress1, branchaddress2,branchphone, branchemail) VALUES (‘LIB’, ‘ MyLibrary’, ‘ 123 Library Road’, ‘ San Diego, CA’,‘ 555.555.1234’, ‘’);Saturday, June 8, 13
  26. 26. Querying MySQLTo query a single table you will structure your query like this:SELECT column_namesFROM table_name[WHERE ...conditions][ORDER BY ...conditions];Statements in brackets are optionalYou can also select everything in a table by using an * in place ofcolumn_namesSaturday, June 8, 13
  27. 27. Querying MySQLUsing the branches table let’s query the dataThis query will pull out only the Branch Names and Emails andput them in ascending order by nameSELECT branchname, branchemailFROM branchesORDER BY branchname ASC;Saturday, June 8, 13
  28. 28. Never Stop LearningWebJunction ( is an online community thatfocuses in part on training librarians.SLA Click University ( offers courses to SLAmembers on all topics related to our libraries.MIT OpenCourseWare ( offers freely accessible coursematerials from MIT, covering topics from Management, to Computer Science, toLiterature, to ( offers online software training videos formembers. TechSoup for Libraries ( offers agrowing collection of resources, articles, and webinars for librarians interested innew technologies.W3Schools Online ( is the place to go for free tutorials andquizzes on web development topics.Saturday, June 8, 13
  29. 29. OPEN SOURCE SOFTWAREWhat it means to libraries and library systemsSaturday, June 8, 13
  30. 30. Open Source SoftwareOpen source software is software that users have the ability torun, distribute, study and modify for any purpose.Often comes with a built in support system in the form of thedevelopment and user community.No vendor lock inNo license feesRelease early/Release oftenPeer reviewBetter securityMore transparencyCommunity/CollaborationFreedom to innovateSaturday, June 8, 13
  31. 31. Open Source FUDFUD = Fear, Uncertainty and DoubtOpen source is insecureI need too much staff to use/support open sourceI have to be a developer to use open sourceThere isn’t an open source application to do thatSaturday, June 8, 13
  32. 32. Considering Open SourceEvaluate software equally - Proprietary and OpenSource side by sideGet reviews from trusted colleaguesAlways demo the software by performing theoperations you’ll need to do in a productionenvironmentDo not write off open source just because of FUDSaturday, June 8, 13
  33. 33. NETWORKING & LEARNINGKeeping up is the key to staying sane as a systems librarianSaturday, June 8, 13
  34. 34. Networks and NetworksSystems & Technical Services librarians often get caught up inmanaging data, library systems and networks that they forget tocommunicate with their outside networksUse social and professional networks for assistance, tips or justto share storiesKeep up to date with what other libraries are doing bywatching what systems librarians are sharing online and inprint.Join systems related mailing list & online groups.Saturday, June 8, 13
  35. 35. Mailing ListsCode4Lib (also on IRC) IT Division - Systems Section, June 8, 13
  36. 36. Information SourcesTechRepublic ( includes technology news,tutorials, articles and software suggestions that can be very handy.O’Reilly Media’s ( solid print titles and thoroughtechnical information mean that it has useful offerings for all librarytechnical personnel.Popular technology blogs like Lifehacker ( andEngadget ( are good resources for finding tips and newsoftware applications.Library Technology Guides ( and Lib-Web-Cats ( are great sources for librarysystems information and news. The annual reports on automation systemsare very helpful when considering migrating to a new system.Saturday, June 8, 13
  37. 37. EVALUATING SOFTWAREEffective software evaluation techniquesSaturday, June 8, 13
  38. 38. RFPsIf an RFP is necessary keep in mind these tips:Do not reuse the RFP you used 3-5 years ago and just add newlinesA RFP for an ILS that asks for a web-based OPAC showsthat you didn’t take the time to update your RFPKeep it simple/descriptiveDon’t ask if the ILS has a reserves module without definingwhat you mean by ‘reserves’ and what you want it to doSaturday, June 8, 13
  39. 39. DemoGet a demo by the vendor or an expert with the product (if thereis no support vendor)Also ask for a way for you to test drive the software without thevendorVendors can manipulate the demo by showing you just whatthey know looks impressive, your tests will be more thoroughand relevant to your librarySaturday, June 8, 13
  40. 40. Pros & ConsCreate a spreadsheet or a checklist of sorts so you can comparethe software side by sideAlways always talk to others using the software - for an ILSspecifically use Lib-Web-Cats to find others using the software -don’t depend solely on the references shared by the vendorDo not depend on feature lists in marketing materials or on theweb, create your own list based on what you’ve seen and heardfrom others in your network and realize that different softwaredoesn’t always have a parallel feature listSaturday, June 8, 13
  41. 41. SYSTEMS LIBRARIAN TOOLSResources for an efficient Systems LibrarianSaturday, June 8, 13
  42. 42. Operating SystemTroubleshootingWindows: Source:http://planet.ubuntu.com, June 8, 13
  43. 43. Finding SoftwareTechSoup for Libraries ( software, training, articles and more to help withtechnology in librariesMicrosoft for Non Profits ( free and discounted software for non profitsFOSS4Lib ( is a place to find opensource software specific to libraries and documentation onreleases and who’s using whatSaturday, June 8, 13
  44. 44. SYSTEMS SOFTWARESoftware every systems librarian should know aboutSaturday, June 8, 13
  45. 45. Virtual MachineVirtualBox ( is an open sourcevirtual machine application that will work on anyoperating system. It will allow you to try out newoperating systems or demo software without installingit on your primary machine. It also allows you to easilysupport a multi-operating system environment withouthaving multiple physical machines.Saturday, June 8, 13
  46. 46. Help DesksRequest Tracker ( is an opensource web-based help desk that will allow your staff andpatrons to submit help tickets so you can easily track issues inthe library and keep a knowledgebase for future reference.osTicket ( is another open sourceticketing system for your help desk.Spark ( is an opensource live chat/support solution that you can add to yourlibrary website/intranet.Saturday, June 8, 13
  47. 47. Screensharing / Remote LoginTeamviewer ( free application forremote log in to another PC and screen sharing.PcAnywhere ( remotedesktop access for help desk/troubleshooting.LogMeIn ( suite of tools for logging in toremote devices.RealVNC ( is remotecontrol software which allows you to view and fully interact with onecomputer desktop using a simple program on another computerdesktop anywhere on the Internet.Saturday, June 8, 13
  48. 48. SecurityClean Slate from Fortres ( protects public computer disk drives byclearing them of unwanted files (as well as other securitymeasures).Deep Freeze ( “freezes” your computer’s configuration.Clonezilla ( is an open source computercloning application.Saturday, June 8, 13
  49. 49. FirefoxFirefox is arguably the most secure web browser, throw in some plugins andsettings and you can make it even better on your public machines:Private Browsing ( Plus ( ( (, June 8, 13
  50. 50. Day-to-DayScribus ( is an opensource desktop publishing application for publication of signsand handouts.Jing ( is a free tool forscreenshots and screencasting.SpiceWorks ( is a PC inventory tool to help you keep upwith software that is installed in the library.Saturday, June 8, 13
  51. 51. General Web BasedLimeSurvey ( host surveys on yourown web server and query you staff and patrons about newtechnologies (or any library service).Moodle ( is an open source coursemanagement system for hosting technical training materials foryour staff and patrons.Google Analytics ( keeps track ofweb access statistics so you can gauge the use of your onlineservices.Saturday, June 8, 13
  52. 52. Content ManagementWordPress ( ( Librarians ( ( ( ( (, June 8, 13
  53. 53. Public PC ManagementLibki ( is an open source kiosk managementapplication. Install it on your server and on the client machines tomanage patron access to public machines. Designed specifically withlibraries in mind.Cybera ( is an opensource cyber cafe application that can be (and has been) manipulated tomanage PCs in a library setting.Epoptes ( is an open source computer labmanagement and monitoring tool. It allows for screen broadcasting andmonitoring, remote command execution, message sending, imposingrestrictions like screen locking and/or sound muting the clients.Saturday, June 8, 13
  54. 54. Resource Sharing/StoringDelicious ( is a great way to share (or savefor later) articles, tools, applications and more. You can alsocreate a network of trusted colleagues to learn from.Zotero ( is a useful tool for creatingbibliographies for your training workshops, for yourself or foradministration when you’re arguing for new types of software.Evernote ( is a handy way to keep, organizeand share (if you want to) your local knowledge and commoncommands you need to run on your library systems.Saturday, June 8, 13
  55. 55. ScreencastingVideo tutorials are a great way to train to employees and thepublic:Screencast-o-matic: http://screencast-o-matic.comCamstudio: http://camstudio.orgCamtasia:, June 8, 13
  56. 56. FINAL TIPSTips and things to rememberSaturday, June 8, 13
  57. 57. Never ForgetIt’s okay to ask for help!Use social networksUse presentation and video sharing sites to find answersYou’re not aloneDelegate tasks amongst your staffTrain colleagues to handle the simple issues (changing printertoner)Saturday, June 8, 13
  58. 58. Take Time to LearnDon’t get stuck in a rut!Take time each week to learn something newPlan for free time to try playing with new technologiesJust because it works doesn’t mean it’s the best solutionDon’t stop looking to see what else is out thereNew things are always releasedSaturday, June 8, 13
  59. 59. To ReadEngard, Nicole C., and Rachel Singer-Gordon. The Accidental SystemsLibrarian. 2nd ed. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2012., Patricia. Managing Information Technology : a Handbook for SystemsLibrarians. Westport Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.Mathews, Janie M., and Harold Pardue. “The Presence of IT Skill Sets inLibrarian Position Announcements.” College & Research Libraries 70, no. 3(May 2009): 250 –257.Patton, Stephen. “The Deliberate Systems Librarian.” Info Career Trends,November 3, 2008., Taryn, Ana Ugaz, and Nancy Burford. “E-resource Helpdesk intoVirtual Reference: Identifying Core Competencies.” Reference Services Review38, no. 3 (2010): 347–359.Saturday, June 8, 13
  60. 60. AVAILABLE IN THE SLA BOOKSTOREBuy it today for 30% off, June 8, 13
  61. 61. Presented by Nicole C. EngardVP of Education, ByWater Solutions2nd Edition Author w/ Rachel Singer GordonContact: nengard@gmail.comThe book: http://tasl.web2learning.netUSING OUR LIBRARIAN COMPETENCIESIN MANAGING SYSTEMSSaturday, June 8, 13