Systems Librarian Faces the Innovation Challenge

The library has begun a discussion about excellence in relation to innovation. Forty years ago, simply automating manual processes was innovative! Handling textual data was cutting edge.

As libraries began to adopt this new technology, a new breed of librarian emerged – the “systems librarian.”  Keeping the “library catalog” (a euphemism for the integrated system that supports circulation, acquisition, and discovery of library resources) and the equipment to access the catalog up and running was the systems librarian’s core business.  Disruption in library systems from ever changing design, security, networking, and equipment demands has moved this core business to other experts.  The integrated system is cloud based, maintained outside of the college. Coordinating with experts on campus for computing infrastructure provides robust, secure, standard and dependable service.  Homegrown applications, such as our first automated reserves system, are replaced by commercial and open source tools.

From a systems perspective, technological innovation is a cornerstone of excellence.  As the technology ocean rises, so too does the expertise of the library staff.  “Systems” work is fundamental for every job.  Now systems work is collaborative – sharing and learning with others to identify and configure tools, migrate data, troubleshoot problems.

From the mundane – How do I recover email lost when moving it from the inbox to a folder in Outlook?

Through the perplexing – Why does the Fujitsu scanner create color pdfs with layers which cannot be printed by HP printers?

To the sublime – What can data visualization add to information literacy?

As one who learns best in partnership with others, being a sole systems librarian has its challenges – such as finding colleagues whose interests and abilities complement my own and who have time to get “dirty” in the details.  Yet it has its rewards!  Each project is an opportunity to learn, to build a relationship, and fuel enthusiasm.  Excellence encourages us to take care of essentials, keep exploring, and share in the discovery, modeling our mission to promote lifelong learning.  Supporting library systems has never been more exciting.