Thursday, February 4, 2010

Librarian Tech Support

(pine cone surrounded by snow)

I keep returning to the thought that in the current information environment, which is enriched by computers and technology, librarians are responsible for more rather than less.

Digital objects and the machines connecting to them seem to require as much attention and maintenance as any physical object in the library. On some days, a substantial portion of what I do involves making sure computers work properly: Computer hardware appears to have a shorter shelf-life (ha!) than a book.

In library school, I did not imagine that technical support would be such a major component of my job as a professional librarian, but I am slowly accepting it. Sometimes I feel spread thin trying to learn what seems to be expected from tech support -- digital devices, audio visual formats and standards, digital objects, etc. But often we compose the immediate assistance for the myriad computer applications and programs and systems. If there are computers and patrons needing help, they look to us -- not necessarily because we are equipped or qualified, but because we are present.

As someone with first-hand experience teaching how to print a document ten different times in a morning (yesterday), I am not surprised by librarian resentment over this state of affairs. But whether we like it or not we are at least partially responsible for an array of fallible machines & associated technology. In addition to books, we are now nominally in charge of maintaining and preserving digital devices and objects.

Librarianship has always been about information, but most of us do not have much control over the directions it takes. We are facing increased responsibility, and we can respond in two ways: Cover our ears and hum to ourselves, or roll up our sleeves, do what we can, and try and embrace the new roles we find ourselves in, adding tech support to teaching and research assistance. I'm for the latter.

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