Friday, June 22, 2012

Every librarian is a technologist

I have been talking with practitioners recently about their expectations of new library and information science graduates.  One thing is clear - they expect graduates to be able to use, learn, adopt, integrate, and teach technology.  Every library uses or is impacted by technology.  Yes, libraries are implementing digitization programs, installing general use databases, relying on integrated library systems, and circulating ebooks (and other digital media). matter where you work in a library, you will need to use technology.  Technology isn't compartmentalized.

Jill Hurst-Wahl using technologyHistorically as a profession, we have attracted people that are interested in books and reading.  Look at your library?  Are the books multiplying before your eyes or is the technology multiplying?  I would argue that technology is dominating libraries and so if you are interested in the profession because of books, I hope you're interested in ebooks, audio books, etc., because those are where important conversations and innovations are happening.

As for reading, yes, it is important, but so is information that comes in forms other than text, including audio, graphics, etc.  Our users don't just want to read and our librarian-technologist need to be comfortable helping them find what they want, no matter the format.

While every librarian-technologist does not need to be a programmer, each should understand how to communicate with programmers as well as library users.  The librarian-technologist needs to be able to talk about specifications, user needs, project requirements, etc. can't just push this responsibility off on someone else!  You...YOU...need to be an equal partner in the conversation and to do that, you need to be a technologist.

If you're a library science student, consider taking classes that will help you understand and use technology, including a good class on creating databases.  Do you need to learn a programming language?  I think the answer is "yes".  Does it matter which one?  No.  Part of learning a programming language is learning how programmers think and why.  Also, once you learn one programming language, it is easy to learn another.  (And you know, they keep changing!)

If you're entering a library science program and your interest is in books and reading, please be willing to expand your horizons.  That is the only way you will have the impact on the profession (and its users) that you desire.

1 comment:

Matt Gorzalski said...

Good post. My graduate education at a top archival school was insufficient in teaching the "how tos" of technology. In a course review I emphasized the need for thorough database education and website management if nothing else.

I've wondered about how tech savvy archives students need to be. Archival education would need a complete overhaul if the focus were intense enough to teach programming. And I don't know of any programs that allow the credit wiggle room to take such classes.