Coming to the end of my MLIS program, I’ve been trying to feel out the “profession” for the issues, topics and needs existing that I may be able to contribute to. I truly believe that the digitization of archival materials, the smoothing of the ebook transition and library as community space are all current and future trends that cannot be ignored. However, a less prevalent and perhaps more pressing topic has been on my mind lately. The line between Librarians and IT is a significant one, as I have seen this far, and one that must be dealt with if technology continues to become integral to the library’s relevance.
The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Tech Therapy podcast took on this very topic last week, and inspired a lot of my thoughts for this post. The segment featured an interview with Sue Stroyan, an information-services librarian for Illinois Wesleyan University. Basically, the topic boils down to the fact that behind the scenes IT and Librarianship are and have been at odds, which has put all of us in an awkward place especially as “Information Technologies” are evolving to include many of the so-called web 2.0 tools that librarians love, engage and use. The Tech Therapy podcast focuses on this issue in Higher Ed institutions but I think many of us could agree that it exists across the spectrum of information institutions. IT departments own the architecture and systems and Info Pros provide the content.
This has spurred some interesting thoughts in my mind: Why the division? What IT competencies should Information Professionals have? Are these areas more closely related as Librarianship becomes a tech-focused profession? Should we all be required to take a basic computer science course? I was further challenged, and really just plain frustrated this week, when in my Intro to Information Technology course we spent the day on Wikis, and it appears next week we’ll be discussing social media. I know there are still many Info Pros and librarians who aren’t as tech savvy as I am, but what I expected when signing up for an IT course was much more than wikis and Twitter.
Closing argument: I’d like to stake a claim right now – Librarianship is a Technology Profession. Information Technology (IT) is what we do now. Maybe a reference librarian will not ever have to set up a virtual machine for a patron, but having a basic understanding of different operating systems, web apps, and some software troubleshooting shouldn’t be too much to ask. I lump myself in here also; we must pursue continued knowledge and skills in new and emerging technologies on our own.
My post-graduation plans now include: learn Ruby, spend time with a variety of mobile platforms, experiment with more open source software, understand cloud hosting solutions, develop a working knowledge of LAMP, get more hands-on with Drupal, Omeka and WordPress, get better acquainted with data-wrangling tools and apps, work toward transliteracy, get involved in the Semantic Web – RDA/RDF conversation and ask more questions of the IT teams I have the opportunity to work with.
Oh, and write a book on IT competencies they don’t teach in library school that you should know in order to actually get a good and interesting job. Any publishers interested? (I’m only interested in publishing in ebook or web-reader format, as all the details, skills and concepts will change by this time next year.)
PS. I’m totally inspired and jealous of my friend Natalie Binder in her getting ahead of me here by Learning Ruby in 13 Days.