Demonstrate proficiency in the use of current information and communication technologies, and other related technologies, as they affect the resources and uses of libraries and other types of information providing entities.
It is a truism to say that the contemporary librarian’s vocation is married to information and communication technology. While in the recent past it was enough for a librarian to know the theory of library science, and to involve him or herself in analog matters, this is no longer possible. The advent of Web 2.0, and the earlier explosive growth and widespread proliferation of Internet access has fundamentally changed the information landscape. The vast majority of patrons conduct their initial queries online, often by means of a search engine, and those too poor to do so often now visit libraries to perform the same task. Today a librarian is just as likely to conduct a reference interview by email or through Meebo as he is in the flesh. Libraries which do not offer Internet access and Web 2.0 services and features fall by the wayside, have their funding cut or otherwise become irrelevant. Many libraries in the past few years have been threatened with extinction in the face of a new generation of patron who demand interactive, decentralized information structures which otherwise invoke the pillars of Web 2.0 development. Luckily the profession has been able to, at least for now, adapt to the changing tide: combining age old wisdom and methodology with emergent technologies to produce systems and standards such as EAD, PREMIS, Dublin Core, ContentDM, OCLC and WorldCat, to name a few amongst a legion.
The personnel who make such efforts possible are a new breed of librarian more computer programmer than book warden, and more techie than liberal arts aficionado. The idea is to combine the science of information with that of technology to cater to the patron’s (and our) new preferences for information retrieval systems while simultaneously ensuring the robustness, extensibility and quality that we know can exist within such structures as librarians. What is true is that the introduction of new technologies has caused for a complete reworking of the library concept in recent years: it is not longer a repository of records, but a living and flexible structure for learning, combining digital resources, librarian assistance and media to create an interactive, Web 2.0 experience. At least, this is what we like to tell ourselves, and brace for the next wave. In a sense the contemporary librarian is hostage more so in the contemporary than ever to popular technology: libraries must adapt to accommodate itself to technologies which might otherwise be labeled as recreational in order to keep their user base. Even so, the statistically typical patron still prefers to use the library as a secondary or tertiary resource when in the information search, as I explore in “The Web 2.0 Paradigm: Impacts on Library Science Methodology and Professionalism”.
Information literacy and the digital divide are the two mountains to which the contemporary librarian must struggle up over and beyond. The former concerns a sizable mass of citizens who are unable to use digital information retrieval properly and the latter concerns a myriad of socioeconomic issues which keep the user away from such systems. As with the former privilege and wealth is not enough to absolve us from misuse and misapplication of the new strain of information resources. The literature shows that a significant number of relatively affluent young students are unable to properly locate information and differentiate what is flimflam from what is quality. More alarmingly, as economic woes loom, the digital divide widens. More and more patrons are unable to purchase Internet access and computer systems, as job growth stagnates and wages remain the same. Beyond economics, the elderly are a constant factor: as digital systems become the norm, they often are left behind and cannot actualize their lives by accessing resources and communicating in the same way the younger generation is savvy to. Librarians must be capable and willing to fight in the trenches (so to speak) on these issues: they are central to promoting intellectual freedom in the current age. I have written extensively on the digital divide elsewhere in this portfolio, notably in competency III.
The aforementioned speaks to the contemporary librarian’s need to be an effective educator. Librarians, although overworked and underfunded, are often one of the few resources new students have access to in order to properly learn how to navigate a world of information saturated with falsity and an abundance of the lukewarm. Accordingly the librarian must be passionate about, in defiance of the scorn and scowls of young people, teaching information literacy and being an activist against the digital divide. Whether this includes training, seminars or lobbying is situational. Regardless of situation however is the neccesity in perpetuity of these services: the librarian is perhaps the only solid bulwark standing between incoherence, oblivion and irrelevance and solid and good information. Yet it is not enough for the librarian to mete out this goodly information – instead the librarian should be a guide who teaches a the patron to catch rather than eat fish.
Lastly this competency speaks to a much more pedestrian and functional but nevertheless essential skill of the contemporary librarian: digital communication. Today’s library science world is one of fluid telecommunication, conferencing and collaboration. A librarian unable to coherently come up with a plan to work with twenty colleagues from around the planet, asynchronously AND synchronously, is probably going to be unable to perform his job. Shared cloud services, collaborative editing, “wikified” websites, internet chat, video conferencing and screen casting are all essential, not optional. As technology and Internet has transformed the greater society, it has also transformed the nature of library work. The library profession is now more “flat” (to mime Friedman) than ever before. It is not out of the question to digitally manage a collection 3000 miles away (as I did at Dubai Women’s College), or to telecommute to important conferences and meetings. Rather: not only is it not unreasonable, but often is essential to the professional development, networking and project work of a librarian.
Much of the work in this portfolio at large is in support of this competency. For one, merely being a successful student at SJSU SLIS requires competency in current information and communication technologies. Live classroom environments, discussion boards, email newsletters, digital registration and management, Skype conferences, Elluminate sessions, Google Docs work and video conferencing are the bread and butter of the SLIS program, to say nothing of the coursework itself which largely focuses at least in part on cutting edge information technology matters. In addition I am of a strange stock of nerd who was online before there was an Internet and has for the entirety of his life dedicated time to engineering information systems and studying the technical science of electronics. These pursuits were for recreation, and I am not merely proficient with current information and communication technologies, but am actually involved in the innovation and creation of such technologies. I am a programmer who is interested in the pursuit of knowledge and the freeing of information for the sake of it, not for sake of receiving an honor (this degree) or a paycheck. It follows then that I can modestly claim to understand this competency as redundant, especially when considering the other work I have provided throughout the broader portfolio. That being said, there are some particular items which may convince the reader of the merits of my claims.
My first piece of work is a recording of a virtual conference I partook in using the software GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is a business-grade conference software which allows for collaboration and screen casting. The conference involved my work at Credo Reference and included myself, a colleague, our boss and the heads of a client library we are developing services for. Within is a discussion of services Credo can provide in consideration of the client’s educational goals for the patrons, followed by a proposal by myself on how Credo might accomplish those services. This is one meeting of dozens that I have been involved in at Credo Reference and speaks to my ability to use professional communication software to perform library science-related duties. It also demonstrates my ability to use screen and audio capture software, to encode/edit video (using Adobe Premier) and upload it to online services.
The second piece of work also derives from my work at Credo Reference. I was asked by my supervisor to prepare a report reviewing the corporate website and looking for issues with it. The report is a technical analysis of the major flaws with the website, as well as accessibility considerations. The report clearly indicates that the website is deeply flawed and does not meet professionally acknowledged web standards. This demonstrates a mastery of current information technology as the following were necessary skills in furnishing such a report:
- An awareness of the technical composition of websites including HTML, CSS and Java Script
- The existence of web standards, validation schemas and their importance regarding access and quality of service
- Experience in web design fundamentals
- A knowledge of how search engines access, query and sort websites; search engine optimization (SEO)
- An understanding of browser compatibility, screen resolution, user model and the technical aspect of web browsing
The third work I would like to present is a benchmarking assignment I was asked to produce for a Seminar in Archives and Records Management class focused on issues of digitization. The assignment was two fold: an exam on the technical nature of various digital file media, and a practical exercise involving batch editing files, restoring damage and converting file formats. These are the same duties a digital archivist might have to perform on a daily basis and require a knowledge of the viability of digital file formats, obsolescence, how to use Photoshop, restoring a record without fundamentally changing it and considering a data plan. Thus this work reveals two aspects of my expertise: a knowledge of digital media, and the technical expertise to use current information technology tools to manipulate the former correctly. There are two elements to the work: a document which includes exam answers and instructions, and a zip file archive which includes the images I was asked to restore, convert or otherwise process.
The fourth work I submit is an oral history recording I engineered of an interview I conducted with Sharon O’Malley for Nancy MacKay’s oral history class. The oral history focused on the interviewee’s experience with library institutions and her own information seeking behaviors. While I have submitted companions to the oral history project elsewhere in this portfolio, I submit the recording here as evidence of my ability to record and engineer audio professionally, a critical component of current library information technology, especially as it applies to archivists of audio repositories or those preparing media for a variety of library related events.
The story of the recording begins with research into necessary equipment. I conducted research on what other oral historians and archivists had used professionally to record interviews and wound up purchasing a Zoom H2 recorder, a somewhat expensive portable area microphone system. After securing a meeting place at my alma mater’s library to conduct the interview, I secured the space and proofed it for the recording. After performing sound checks I then conducted the interview, brought the record to my office and transferred it to my computer where I processed it with Audacity, a open source and professional grade audio engineering software. I also made a conscious effort to provide archival treatment of the record, including selecting a format which would not become prone in the foreseeable future to digital obsolescence or corruption. The final product is a high fidelity copy of the original raw audio. I also produced an accompanying metadata sheet, including finding aid and catalog information (in MARC). This process demonstrates another facet of my ability to use and master current information technology tools.
My fifth piece of evidence are the digital systems which power this portfolio. I host the portfolio website myself, configured the MySQL database which powers it, installed the WordPress software, templated it, customized the codebase to fit my vision, designed it, coded custom widgets and menus for navigation, and integrated it with my web host. As websites are often a library’s bridge between communication and information technology, this portfolio represents a culmination and apex of this competency.
Credo Reference GoToMeeting Conference (YouTube)
Miller, P. (2005). Web 2.0: Building the New Library. Ariadne, 45. Retrieved from http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue45/miller/
Morville, P. (2005). Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Rubin, R. E. (2004). Foundations of library and information science (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Sanger, L.M. (2009). The Fate of Expertise after WIKIPEDIA. Episteme, 6 (1). Retrieved from http://www.eupjournals.com/doi/abs/10.3366/E1742360008000543
Willner, S. (2009, November 4). To Cut Costs, Library Unloads 95,000 Volume Duplicative Collection. The Cornell Daily Sun. Retrieved from http://cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2009/11/04/cut-costs-library-unloads-95000- volume-duplicative-collection