Tech support in Libraryland: through the looking glass [slides]

ALIA Library

Kreunen, Ben

National Library and Information Technicians' Symposium, 13-15 November 2019 Melbourne: Discover, Diversify, Dive In
This presentation (PowerPoint slides) accompanied the keynote address on the experience of a technical support officer at the University of Melbourne.
Session description: My job as a tech support officer is not just to fix things when they break. A more important aspect is to find ways of making things possible in the first instance, then practical and, eventually, efficient. “Can’t” is in my vocabulary but its usage is highly frowned upon. Standing in front of a white board for the first time to sketch out workflows for the newly formed University Digitisation Service was both exciting and scary at the same time. I wanted to incorporate the Embedded Metadata Manifesto and the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) together, and libraries had all this metadata stuff down pat… should be straightforward enough. An hour later I began to realise how naïve I had been. Ten years on and we’ve come a long way but we’re still not there.
Join me as we review the successes and failures of integrating library and “real world” tech in a nontraditional library service (digitisation) and explore library tech from new perspectives as we:

  • evaluate the Library catalogue as a FAIR data source
  • explore the benefits and limitations of hacking data from library systems
  • compare studying a second language with library carpentries
  • (dissect and) celebrate failed projects for the knowledge they provide
  • acknowledge the limitations of our own skill sets and identify the values of our strengths

By showing you how library tech can be used in unexpected or unconventional ways I want to open your eyes to the possibility of approaching day to day tasks from alternative perspectives… to discover how to make the impossible possible, the possible practical and the practical efficient. Library carpentries and upskill programs can help diversify your skills and understanding of other technologies, but we can’t ignore their limitations. We also need to diversify the range of people we collaborate with (or employ) to move forward effectively.

But even if we have all the people with the necessary expertise, collaboration requires effective communication. Diving in and trying to learn and use different technologies will, at a minimum, help break down the language barriers that often prevent improvements to processes and systems. If you’re afraid of the high board, at least try the wading pool.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
University of Melbourne