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Fri, Apr. 20th, 2007, 04:15 pm
fabgrrl: Systems Librarians are people too!

To all the Systems Librarians, Systems Managers, Admins, etc.:

Do you ever feel a little misunderstood by the other librarians at your institution? I am the systems manager and webmaster at my academic library, and I feel a definite distance from the old guard, the more "traditional" librarians. Some of them see little difference between myself and IT, and expect me to do all sorts of hardware, network and user support work. They don't seem to pay attention when I try to explain limitations or capabilities of the system, they just want things done. This hurts because I feel like I have made a real effort to understand what it is they do -- but I suppose that *is* my job, breaking down what the librarians want to do into code, settings and system process. I have had to, on multiple occasions, remind them that, yes, I did go to library school and I am a *real* librarian -- even though this was a requirement of my position!

Fri, Apr. 20th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)

i feel your pain on that score. i'm also a systems librarian, and very often i feel like i'm treated as a glorified IT monkey. in my case, though, the "traditional" librarians are very respectful of what i do. it's more the support staff and administrators that seem to regard me as something other than a librarian. i don't mind the support staff as much, because they aren't terribly tech-savvy, so they mostly come to me with their smallish computer problems because they know i can fix them quickly and without the hassle of calling the help desk. the admins, on the other hand... we hired a new assistant director recently, who said, when she saw that i was helping someone edit a psychology research paper, "oh, you're letting an IT person help you write something?!" *seethe* wtf.

Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)

I'm a syslib (in academic), more or less, among other things. I used to work as public library reference, then cataloger/webmaster/all-things-tech-related, then this job, which is significantly sys, although I do a few reference shifts and I just got a new set of admin responsibilities.

I will say the one thing that I really had to learn was how to interpret "it would be nice if..." comments. This means everything from I want it, we need it, a patron just pleaded for this, I just saw it at another library/conference, I never expect this to happen in a million years, this costs me an extra hour a day to deal with and it makes me want to quit, and lots of other things. Just like in a reference interview, I had to learn to ask "could you tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that?" because I started cantankerously interpreting that as "it's not important, but I still want it now even though I have no idea how complicated or expensive it would be or what the rest of your workload is like" for awhile. A couple other things I had to work on was updating people periodically with progress reports, even "there's been no progress" and learning how much detail each person wanted, needed, and could handle.

I have worked with some "old guard" librarians, but I never had to remind them that I was a real librarian. (Some patrons making assumptions about my age is another matter.) I would say your experience is not universal, but I would also say you're not alone in facing these problems.

I suspect that telling them that you are a "real" librarian won't change their attitudes - I think it's more a matter of treating co-workers with professional respect. Even if I wasn't a librarian, I would expect librarians to listen to an explanation of what is and is not possible (or what might be a long-term project, or require the hiring of someone with responsibilities dedicated to that issue), and to be willing to learn and retain information about who to ask for what kind of support. I'm not suggesting you rat people out, but it might be time to schedule an appointment and (calmly) explain your frustrations to a managerial sort of someone. If the person is a good manager, s/he should work on improving the situation.