10 things I learnt as a tech librarian

I recently finished up a role as a tech librarian. Here’s 10 things I learnt.

I don’t love technology, I love problem solving
I like fixing things, working out how stuff works and making it work, I like analytic thinking and trial and error testing for a solution. Technology to me is something that needs to be useful, I try to look at things from a customer standpoint – are our systems easy to use and understand. Sure I get excited by the bright and shiny possibilities we could adopt but the thing I liked most about my job was problem solving.

You don’t need an IT degree to be a tech librarian
This is a bit of a shout out to all the women who love technology, digital literacy and it’s possibilities in libraries but think they couldn’t possibly do a tech job. I’m living proof you can. There’s no great mystery to branch tech in public libraries, despite what it might appear. My best three tech tips are: turn it off/turn it on, google to find out what it’s doing, call IT/systems/technicians. Still not convinced – how about ask questions even if you think you should know the answer, seek jargon-free explanations, do your own research to build knowledge and apply it. As long your willing to learn you’ll be alright – it’s just problem solving with stuff that plugs in and given that everything is just about locked down it’s very hard to break things.

Digital literacy is my thing
I love teaching digital literacy to the community. There’s something pretty special about watching them start to develop skills and grow in confidence. The people, who are generally older, who come to classes are so brave and I really admire them. One of the things I’d love to do is research into best practice for digital literacy teaching to inform my practice.

We need to tech people how to be literate with the technology they use 
A question I asked a lot last year was why are we still teaching people how to use desktop computers in the age of the mobile device. At one point someone told me it’s so they can use a computer when they come to the library. A response that confused me because it’s so not the right answer. Instead of teaching people how to use a computer we need to teach them how to manage, understand and be literate in the technology in their lives, rather than us imposing our understanding of the skills they need.

Working with men
I had never worked with a lot of men before even in my pre-library career… It was a different experience.

I can login to a server and reset a SIP connection without breaking stuff 
The first time I logged into the server to reset the SIP connections, I just about had a panic attack. But I did it and didn’t break things.

Libraries are behind on their technology and we need to do better
I’ve seen so many people struggle to use the library catalogue. They might be able to find the item (win) but then they can’t interpret the information on where the item is (lose). Or some other system barrier that means they don’t get what they want. Library catalogues are stupidly complex and need to be simplified or made into smart catalogues that actually assist people in the age of Google to find the material they want. Other library systems have to be designed for users in mind, computers need to have the latest software versions.

What you say to people matters
When I got the job I was told I was hired for my people and change management skills (soft skills) and could be taught the tech skills needed. I’m still not clear on what that those skills are or in what ways I don’t have them. But it’s not a great confidence booster to start position being told you don’t really have the skill set. Words have a massive influence on your confidence and attitude. I will try to remember the affect those words had on me and chose mine carefully in the future.

I wanted to know more
I was curious about how system and network settings made what you saw as a user work. During the LMS transition project I worked on the HLS module, I feed the setting needs to the project manager who set it up but I would have loved the opportunity to sit with them and work through the settings so I could have gotten the whole picture. For me not getting that deeper understanding and skills was a missed opportunity.

I’m still not sure whether tech is really for me
I always wanted to work in tech and systems in libraries but now I’m not so sure whether it’s the best use of my skills. I’m great with people but felt most of the year like there was something I was supposed to know that I just didn’t get. Maybe it was the environment, maybe tech isn’t for me. These are questions I continue to ask myself. I do know if I was offered that sort of position again, I’d ask a lot more questions before accepting the job. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a situation again where I’m the only librarian and only woman on the team. It was just way too challenging emotionally.

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