Starting as an Elf for a Librarians’ Santa…
June 6, 2010 | In: General
On May 17th 2010, I started my new job in a software house in the industry of developing integrated library systems.
I didn’t think at the beginning that the domain of libraries is complicated. I thought what’s the big deal, its just a catalog of things typical to any other catalog I’ve created before for e-commerce web sites, educational applications and so forth. I realized then that this is not true! Librarians are really demeaned by the stereotype set for them. They are really so smart, they deal with lots of standards and protocols and they really don’t take anything lightly, they always opt for the best, practical and only perfect solutions.
Another very interesting point is how much their domain have changed and got affected by the advances in computing and the Internet. If you are someone who is far from the domain, then just pause and rethink it again. Libraries, as I remember was the place you go for books, articles and even magazines. It was our study place, our first stop for information and yes the place we usually used to hang out in during the late nineties.
Starting my job, deeply and critically reading about the history and advancements in libraries, I started noticing how our relationship have changed with libraries. Just to highlight the point, during all my time at Virginia Tech, I had been to the Library (Newman Library) for literarily a couple of times only. Me and probably you have changed our first stop of information to Google instead, our group study and meetings moved to Starbucks and working on my PhD and writing my dissertation, I didn’t reference a single printed publication. For books, my stop is Amazon, and I can’t ever go for a book without going through all the reviews, consulting friends on Facebook and tweeting for any suggestions of better books or venues. For journals, conference publications and other scientific articles, the last time I did hold a printed scientific publication was around 1998, since then, me and all who I know, our ultimate stop, being in Computer Science, is ACM’s and IEEE’s digital libraries.
I have read a recent paper about Library 3.0 and it stated that our current Librarians are baby boomers and that the percentage of students going for a librarian career had dropped significantly which means we can seriously end up losing our dear librarian for good. In an effort, I guess by ALA and other librarian societies, they are trying to educate our librarians to cope with the technology change and also they are trying to make the job more cool and fun to attract the younger generations.
In my opinion though, being a Librarian 2.0 or Librarian 3.0 is the coolest job you can ever think of. Imagine that your job would be to spend your day using cool software to catalog and tag stuff, blog and make your own radio station/podcast to advertise library events, hear from your patrons and voice their likes and dislikes. What a great job!!
The change in the landscape and the Librarian roles and duties is huge and its not being helped by Google, it can even take over Google. Just think about it, there is no one behind Google to know what do we like or is this stuff is important or even to just organize the information and resources for you according to subjects, authors, publication date, relevance and so on. Google, Bing and Yahoo as search engines, they try to grab links to whatever matches your search keywords. Google tries to be smart by associating the number of backlinks and places referencing a certain link to its importance but still this does not seem to work well with scientific stuff. Google scholar is another refinement but still nothing compares to our dedicated librarians who were taught and got their degrees to perfectly do their job.
Just getting into the domain, I salute you all librarians out there and I can see a splendid future for the career. Working as an elf for a librarians Santa, I promise you all great more products to come along.
I’ll stop here for now, but I’ll keep you updated of my progress in trying to catch up with the domain.
-Hussein Ahmed, Ph.D.