Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Libraries and Technology

I've been doing some reading and listening, in and out of class, about the marriage and management of technology and libraries. My library is in a really interesting position here and I think a good one. Listed below are some of the pros, cons and ongoing projects I'm working on.

1) The computer lab, all six of them, live in the second floor of the library. This provides me with continued opportunity to interact with the students in terms of helping them print, figure out what seemingly random MS windows are popping up and why as well as helping them retrieve deleted documents. The last is my least favorite. I also report various issues that I cannot fix, such as the updater server not responding, directly to the Director of IT which leads to point 2.
2) Rob Linebaugh, Director of IT and I have a great relationship. There are several reasons for this one of the most important being Rob is one of the friendliest, outgoing IT guys I've met. He avoids, for the majority of the time, the shirty, Ivory-Tower view of the general public with remarkable aplomb. My own background in IT has helped give us a common ground to talk about his work and by extension what I would like to do with the library, technology-wise. This also give me opportunity to talk up his dept. to my bosses so that we can both benefit. I am finding this to be a unique situation and I'm very grateful for it.
3) The library, in terms of technology desperately needs to be upgraded from the inclusive IBM flat panels to thin-client technology. We have the thin-clients from the former computer lab but the time and effort needed is currently the kicker. However it is on the radar screen.
4) KOHA 3.0!! Exciting and much, much harder than I could have possibly foreseen. I love Koha; it's fantastic. However upgrading to the newest version is kicking my face especially in terms of importing data from the old system into the new one. Most of my experience is in Windows so navigating Unix based, command-line loving programs is a unique experience. My current focus is importing the patrons from the old system into the new one. Manual entry is looking pretty good right now but we'll see.
5) The library web-page is now my baby. This is good in terms of control. This is bad in terms of time.
6)Digitization of the roughly 5,000 cassettes in our collection. I finally got my media converter and am looking forward to getting rid of the cassettes that I can. The digitization process will have to navigate around copyright but I think should ultimately be beneficial.
7) Getting more students to use our online databases. The library really needs to get the ATLA Database and will be rocking the trial for this semester. We have EBSCO, OED, FirstSearch and Wilson but a scholarly religious database is desperately needed to round out this selection. This process is really blowing my mind with the pedagogical process. I don't have the magic bullet on how to wed best pedagogical practices with information literacy but I'm learning, especially from my mistakes. One of the notable ones from last semester is to needing to make sure that the wireless signal in the classroom is strong enough to handle 20-25 students hitting it from their laptops at the same time in an effort to get to an article first. Brutal. Almost as brutal, and I quote. When asked about an assignment a student replies, "I just googled it."
(JM)" Did you check anything else?"
(Student)"Nope, just Google."
(JM) "Did you know that we have these online databases?"
(Student from the session that I taught) "No way; how does it work?"
(JM) ...umm. (Insert quick repeat of session here)

We'll get there someday. I can hear Lancaster's paperless library calling now.

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