I see training in Koha as one of my most marketable things I do at Prosentient. It also feels weird to be thinking about how things will look on a resume, but whatever, the job market I’m going into is competitive. If I want a job some day thinking about this stuff is probably going to be a good idea. I’ve been terrible at selling myself in the past, and while there’s a kind of bravado in saying “they didn’t hire me because I was honest” it’s probably good to be honest in positive-about-my-abilities ways along with my standard self-deprecation.
So last week I went out to the Gippsland region in Victoria to train a couple of librarians in using Koha. This is another one of those instances where working for a small company is fun. I was given a lot of trust, some accommodations and a breakdown of how long to spend on each section of the software.
The librarians I was training are attached to hospitals, and very much in the special libraries are a one-person show kind of mould. They knew each other and were very good at asking detailed questions, which was great for me, since I’m more of a responsive teacher than a dictator of holy writ. We pushed the edges of what Koha is capable so they knew what was possible and what wasn’t. I hit the limits of my knowledge several times and brought back questions to answer later.
After our two days, which felt pretty intense on my end, they’ll be going live with their new systems this month. They seemed happy with what I could teach them. It was really fun to be a field agent for a few days. I find that hanging around the office doing so much on the computer is a touch painful. I feel nerves pinching from all the sitting, so it was good to get out into the world and crouch next to some folks who don’t like MARC records but have to use them, and show them how we can make their lives easier.
I do like how directly a couple of my SLAIS courses I took impact my work here (those courses would be Cataloguing and my Instructional Role of the Information Professional). The Instructional one is kind of obvious when I’m talking about going out and running a two day workshop, but even though I’m not hardcore cataloguing, knowing that lingo and how the rules work is really goddamn useful when you’re trying to teach someone how to use the software to do it. I do find that my knowledge of the Acquisitions module of Koha is less extensive since I haven’t had the experience with acquisitions (beyond troubleshooting Koha) that I have with Circulation and Cataloguing.
So yes, I join the chorus of people who say library school students both need to get experience and need to take a fucking cataloguing course. Use. Ful.
The other day I went along to a meeting at the New South Wales Parliament library. It was basically an in-person meeting to talk about some issues they were having with Koha. It’s a pretty huge collection they’re dealing with so they have interesting problems. One of them that we thought we’d fixed had been caused by a major backlog of records being re-indexed in the search server.
It’s funny to me to talk technically about re-indexing servers or whatever. It feels a little like I’m making up techno-babble. And in some ways I am. This is definitely one of those areas where you have to just move forward a little bit blindly and hope eventually something will click. I feel like it will.
post-title chosen because obviously I’ll never think about this again
I’m back in Vancouver after two weeks at the Center for Cartoon Studies and yeah, I really loved it. Working in a special library like the Schulz feels like the kind of thing for me. On my last day Caitlin and I were talking about the pros and cons about working for a small organization: the control over your chunk of things, but also the being pressed into other areas that might not be strictly librarianish.
On Friday our school’s Special Library Association student group organized a tour of a variety of special libraries around the city. Here’s where we went.
The College of Registered Nurses Library is small and friendly. They gave us coffee and cookies, so we got off on the right foot. This was kind of interesting because they’re very focused on the practical nature of nursing, not the theoretical you might get in a more academic setting. They had a small staff but quite a few shelves of books plus historical displays put on by other groups. Since this library’s in the building for the registered nurses one of the ways they entice people to come in is by having a bunch of shelves for non-nursing bookswapping.
Teck Resources had hands-down the best view. It’s downtown on the 30th floor looking north out over the harbour. I could have lived in that office. Teck does mining in Canada and elsewhere globally, and the library there is mostly to support the upper management in terms of competitive intelligence and that kind of thing. The questions sounded very detailed (“how does this company deal with this kind of issue in this kind of environment and how much does it cost them?” kind of things).
At Environment Canada the librarian talked about the challenges of the bureaucracy of working for the federal government, but also about working with scientists. Like the previous libraries things are getting more digital but he stressed the importance of the role they’re playing. They’ve taken co-op students in the past and I’ll be keeping them in mind if I end up doing that.
The BC Courthouse Library is publicly accessible, though they do tend to assist mostly lawyers. Since so many lawyers don’t work in big law firms with their own libraries, this is a busy place. They also had a bunch of web content that’s very leading edge in lawyer education type stuff. The director was very forthright about how librarians have to network all the time and make our skills known, and fail boldly.
The Vancouver Art Gallery Library and Archives was the saddest stop on the tour. This is because they had so much stuff and their staffing is being cut and they store things in old holding cells from when the building was a courthouse. But it had super cool books, so many catalogues from exhibitions all over the world.
The tour was well organized and diverse, and we heard similar things from all the special librarians we met: network, you don’t need a background in whatever weird thing your library specializes in, take cataloguing courses because you’ll be doing a little bit of everything. All good stuff to know, early in my library school career.
And then afterwards we went for drinks.