Technology and Librarians: A Brief Overview

Modern LibraryThe rise of the personal computer, the internet, and many other kinds of technology has caused rapid changes in how today’s libraries operate and are utilized. From a technical standpoint, a librarian used to only need an intimate knowledge of the library’s organization system, and how to operate a few machines like copiers and faxes. These days, librarians are faced with managing large amounts of computers, online reference tools, detailed web sites, digital catalogs, and more. The fact is, it’s impossible to be successful in the field of Library and Information Science without some measure of technological proficiency.

If you’re considering a Library/Information Science education, or simply interested in making sure you’re the best possible librarian candidate, there a few technologies you should be confident with (in addition to knowing other things). Tech knowledge will ultimately make you better able to work in a library or research setting and will ultimately free you from having to bug your IT person every day.

  1. Computers and Operating Systems — Some libraries have Macs (running OS X), others have PCs (running various versions of Windows), and still others have both. You should absolutely know how to navigate around any operating system – especially if you have a library frequented by those who may not be particularly proficient in such things themselves (for example, some of the elderly). Knowing how to force programs to close, run updates, search through computers, and identify a minor computer issue before it becomes a major one is a huge benefit.
  2. Software, Software, Software! — Whether it’s Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint), Adobe, or specific programs unique to the library, understanding how to navigate and troubleshoot whatever software you’re using is essential. Sometimes you’ll have to lead presentations, help people find things, or get creative with making bulletins and signs. The best librarians will be comfortable with basic software.
  3. Navigating Online Databases — There are many online databases that can be useful to librarians looking to help someone find useful information. Knowing how to navigate some of the larger databases (such as the Library of Congress Online Catalog) can be tremendously helpful in a library setting. Other libraries maintain online databases of their own, so being comfortable learning about new ones and mastering them is also important.
  4. Projectors, Copiers, and Printers, Oh my! — The amount of machines that libraries use has only grown. Being comfortable navigating the latest in televisions, projectors, printers, copiers, and more is very important. When people come to the library, they often come to use machines they don’t have access to at home. A librarian who doesn’t need to call IT every time a projector doesn’t start up right away is a huge asset.
  5. General Web Savviness — “Web Savvy” is a bit of a vague umbrella term, but every library science student or graduate should feel comfortable describing themselves as such. It doesn’t matter if it’s managing social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter), updating the libraries blog, editing the library’s newsletter, or simply knowing how to use Google to find something online, librarians should be comfortable doing it!

There have been concerns that, with the advent of the internet and new technologies, libraries don’t have the same essential purpose they once did. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Libraries now often serve as a technological hub, accessible by many people in their surrounding communities. At the heart of it all, you often find Library and Information Science graduates. Those who are comfortable with managing existing technologies and learning new ones are incredible assets. If you don’t already know about much of what has been discussed here, don’t panic, you can always learn. The technological areas listed above are great places to start.