Technical Debt: that escalated quickly

First written and published on LITA Blog
http://litablog.org/2017/07/technical-debt-that-escalated-quickly/


If you’re not familiar with the term “technical debt”, it’s an analogy coined by Ward Cunningham[1], used to relay what happens when rather than following best practices and standards we take shortcuts on technical projects to have a quick fix. Debt occurs when we take on a long-term burden in order to gain something in the short term.

I want to note that inevitably we will always take on some sort of debt, often unknowingly and usually while learning; the phrase “hindsight is 20/20” comes to mind, we see where we went wrong after the fact. There is also inherited technical debt, in all of my jobs, current and past, I inherited technical debt, this is out of my control, it happens and I still need to learn how to deal with it. This piece aims to give some guidelines and bits I’ve learned over the years in dealing with technical debt and doing me best to maintain it, because really, it’s unavoidable and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Believe me, I’ve tried. 

Technical debt can refer to many different things including, but not limited to: infrastructure, software, design/UX, or code. Technical debt reduces the long term agility of a team; it forces us to rely on short term solution thinking and make trade-offs for short term agility. When done haphazardly and not managed, technical debt can shut down a team’s ability to move forward on a project, their long term agility.

It accrues quickly and often we don’t realize just how quickly. For example, I’d been tasked with implementing single-sign on (SSO) for a multitude of applications in our library. In the process of mapping out the path of action this led to learning that in order to implement the bits we needed for SSO most of the applications needed to be updated and the newer versions weren’t compatible with the version of PHP running on our servers, and to use the version of PHP that would be compatible we needed to upgrade our server and the upgrade on the server was a major upgrade which led to having to do a full server upgrade and migration. Needless to say, SSO has not yet been implemented. This technical debt accrued from a previous admin’s past decisions to not stay on top of the upgrades for many of our applications because short term hacks were put in place and the upgrades would break those hacks. These decisions to take on technical debt ultimately caught up with us and halted the ability to move forward on a project. Whether the debt is created under your watch or inherited, it will eventually need to be addressed.

The decisions that are made which result in technical debt should be made with a strategic engineering perspective. Technical debt should only be accrued on purpose because it enables some business goal, intentional and unintentional. Steve McConnell’s talk on Managing Technical Debt [2] does a good job of laying the business and technical aspects of taking on technical debt. Following that, ideally there should be a plan in place on how to reasonably reduce the debt down the road. If technical debt is left unaddressed, at some point the only light at the end of the tunnel is to declare bankruptcy, analogically: just blow it up and start over.

Technical debt is always present, it’s not always bad either but it’s always on the verge of getting worse. It is important to have ways of hammering through it, as well as having preventative measures in place to keep debt to a minimum and manageable for as long as possible.

So how do you deal with it?

Tips for dealing with inherited technical debt:

  • Define it. What counts as technical debt? Why is it important to do something about it?
  • Take inventory, know what you’re working with.
  • Prioritize your payoffs. Pick your technical battles carefully, which bits need addressing NOW and which bits can be addressed at a later date?
  • Develop a plan on what and how you’re going to address and ultimately tidy up the debt.
  • Track technical debt. However you track it, make sure you capture enough detail to identify the problem and why it needs to be fixed.

Preventative tips to avoiding technical debt (as much as you can):

  • Before taking on debt ask yourself…
    • Do we have estimates for the debt and non-debt options?
    • How much will the quick & dirty option cost now? What about the clean options?
    • Why do we believe that it is better to incur the effort later than to incur it now? What is expected to change to make taking on that effort more palatable in the future?
    • Have we considered all the options?
    • Who’s going to own the debt?
  • Define initial requirements in a clear and constant style. A good example of this is Gherkin: https://cucumber.io/docs/reference
  • Create best practices. Some examples:  KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), YAGNI (You Aren’t Gonna Need it)
  • Have a standard, an approved model of taking shortcuts, and stick to it. Remember to also reevaluate that standard periodically, what once was the best way may not always be the best way.
  • Documentation. A personal favorite: the “why-and” approach. If you take a temporary (but necessary) shortcut, make note of it and explain why you did what you did and what needs to be done to address it. Your goal is to avoid having someone look at your code/infrastructure/digital records/etc and asking “why is it like that?” Also for documentation, a phenomenal resource (and community) is Write The Docs (http://www.writethedocs.org/guide
  • Allow for gardening. Just as you would with a real garden you want to tidy up things in your projects sooner rather than later. General maintenance tasks that can be done to improve code/systems/etc now rather than filed on the low priority “to-do” list.
  • TESTS! Write/use automated tests that will catch bugs and issues before your users. I’m a fan of using tools like Travis CI (https://travis-ci.org/), Cucumber (https://cucumber.io/docs), Fiddler (http://www.telerik.com/fiddler) and Nagios (https://www.nagios.org/)  for testing and monitoring. Another resource recommended to me (thanks Andromeda!)  is Obey the Testing Goat (http://www.obeythetestinggoat.com/pages/book.html#toc)
  • Remember to act slower than you think. Essentially, think through how something should be done before actually doing it.

And my final thought, commonly referred to as the boy scout rule, when you move on from a project or team and someone else inherits what you leave behind, do your best to leave it better than when you found it.


Footnote:
  1. Ward Cunningham, Explaing Debt Metaphor [Video] http://wiki.c2.com/?WardExplainsDebtMetaphor
  2. Managing Technical Debt by Steve McConnell (slides) http://2013.icse-conferences.org/documents/publicity/MTD-WS-McConnell-slides.pdf

Extra Reading/Tools:

How to deal with technical debt? by Vlad Alive https://m.vladalive.com/how-to-deal-with-technical-debt-33bc7787ed7c

Obey the Testing Goat by Harry Percival  http://www.obeythetestinggoat.com/pages/book.html#toc

How to write a good bug report? Tips and Tricks http://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/how-to-write-good-bug-report/

Tools & Services list https://www.stickyminds.com/tools-guide

Don’t take the technical debt metaphor too far http://swreflections.blogspot.com/2012/12/dont-take-technical-debt-metaphor-too.html 

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The library in 5 years. 

In October 2013, I wrote:

Ideally in 5 years, our library will become less of a traditional library and evolve towards an information hub, providing a greater breadth of resources in electronic formats, accessible from around the world via internet access. Our library, like many others, is electronic preferred and we will see physical stacks condense as patron driven acquisitions drive up electronic purchases.  

Instead of physical books, students will check out tablets with subscriptions to core collections of
electronic books loaded on them. The condensing of these stacks will open up spaces for collaboration and technology labs. We will see more “pings” from internet connections. The librarian’s role will shift to internet communication and virtual reference, allowing patrons to “call” in for help.  

Along with the shift in resource format, top priorities of the library will include library management
focusing primarily on funding for special projects and less focus on physical collection building. We will
also see more focus on providing adequate internet access, technology devices and electronic resources. 

As the library space and resources transform we will see departments unite in a way they have never done before; engineering students will create programs that medical and biology students will use for lab research.  

Our library will be evolving towards acting as an information hub and a space for collaboration, I envision our library working like a shoelace, securing the core pieces of one entity by providing the final knot of support and unity the campus will thrive from; encouraging innovation and multi-disciplinary collaboration. 

We have a little over a year left; how are we doing? 

I’m a Librarian. Of tech, not books.

Post originally published on LITA Blog: http://litablog.org/2016/02/im-a-librarian-of-tech-not-books/


When someone finds out I’m a librarian, they automatically think I know everything there is to know about, well, books. The thing is, I don’t. I got into libraries because of the technology. My career in libraries started with the take off, a supposed library replacement, of ebooks. Factor in the Google “scare” and librar*s  were going to be done forever. Librar*s were frantic to debunk that they were no longer going to be useful, insert perfect time and opportunity to join libraries and technology.

I am a Systems Librarian and the most common and loaded question I get from non-librarians is (in 2 parts), “What does that mean? and What do you do?” Usually this resorts to a very simple response:
I maintain the system the library sits on, the one that gives you access to the collection from your computer in the comfort of your home. This tool, that lets you view the collection online and borrow books and access databases and all sorts of resources from your pajamas, my job is to make sure that keeps running the way we need it to so you have the access you want.
My response aims to give a physical picture about a technical thing. There is so much we do as systems librarians that if I were to get in-deep with what I do, we’d be there for a while. Between you and I, I don’t care to talk *that* much, but maybe I should.

There’s a lot more to being a Systems Librarian, much of which is unspoken and you don’t know about it until you’re in the throws of being a systems librarian. There was a Twitter conversation prompted when a Twitter’er asked for recommendations on things to teach or include in on the job training for someone who is interested in library systems. It got me thinking, because I knew little to nothing about being a Systems Librarian and just happened upon it (Systems Librarianship) because the job description sounded really interesting and I was already a little bit qualified. It also allowed me to build a skill set that provided me a gateway out of libraries if and when the time arrived. Looking back, I wonder what would I have wanted to know before going into Systems, and most importantly, would it have changed my decision to do so, or rather, to stay? So what is it to be a Systems Librarian?

The unique breed: A Systems Librarian:

  • makes sure users can virtually access a comprehensive list of the library’s collection
  • makes sure library staff can continue to maintain that ever-growing collection
  • makes sure that when things in the library system break, everything possible is done to repair it
  • needs to be able to accurately assess the problem presented by the frantic library staff member that cannot log into their ILS account
  • needs to be approachable while still being the person that may often say no
  • is an imperfect person that maintains an imperfect system so that multiple departments doing multiple tasks can do their daily work.
  • must combine the principles of librarianship with the abilities of computing technology
  • must be able to communicate the concerns and needs of the library to IT and communicate the concerns and needs of IT to the library

Things I would have wanted to know about Systems Librarianship: When you’re interested but naive about what it takes.

  • You need to be able to see the big and small pictures at once and how every piece fits into the puzzle
  • Systems Librarianship requires you to communicate, often and on difficult to explain topics. Take time to master this. You will be doing a lot of it and you want everyone involved to understand, because all parties will most likely be affected by the decision.
  • You don’t actually get to sit behind a computer all day every day just doing your thing.
  • You are the person to bridge the gap between IT and librarians. Take the time to understand the inner workings of both groups, especially as they relate to the library.
  • You’ll be expected to communicate between IT staff and Library staff why their request, no matter the intention, will or will not work AND if it will work, but would make things worse – why.
  • You will have a new problem to tackle almost every day. This is what makes the job so great
  • You need to understand the tasks of every department in the library. Take the time to get to know the staff of those departments as well – it will give insight to how people work.
  • You need to be able to say no to a request that should not or cannot be done, yes even to administration.
  • No one really knows all you do, so it’s important to take the time to explain your process when the time calls for it.
  • You’ll most likely inherit a system setup that is confusing at best. It’s your job to keep it going, make it better even.
  • You’ll be expected to make the “magic” happen, so you’ll need to be able to explain why things take time and don’t appear like a rabbit out of a hat.
  • You’ll benefit greatly from being open about how the system works and how one department’s requests can dramatically, or not so dramatically, affect another part of the system.
  • Be honest when you give timelines. If you think the job will take 2 weeks, give yourself 3.
  • You will spend a lot of time working with vendors. Don’t take their word for  “it,” whatever “it” happens to be.
  • This is important– you’re not alone. Ask questions on the email lists, chat groups, Twitter, etc..
  • You will be tempted to work on that problem after work, schedule time after work to work on it but do not let it take over your life, make sure you find your home/work life balance.

Being a systems librarian is hard work. It’s not always an appreciated job but it’s necessary and in the end, knowing everything I do,  I’d choose it again. Being a tech librarian is awesome and you don’t have to know everything about books to be good at it. I finally accepted this after months of ridicule from my trivia team for “failing” at librarianship because I didn’t know the answer to that obscure book reference from an author 65 years ago.

Also, those lists are not, by any means, complete — I’m curious, what would you add?


Possibly of interest, a bit dated (2011) but a comprehensive list of posts on systems librarianship: https://librarianmandikaye.wordpress.com/systems-librarian/

Blanket Statements [written in frustration]

I really struggle with blanket statements, statements that imply your frustration of one person apply to a large group, or even not large group of people.

Recently there was a post written on the LITA Blog that discussed stereotypes about men and librarianship and if technology is bringing more skillful men into the field. The post has not been well received, for justified reasons. I too am scratching my head at the topic of choice and lack of research done in the piece.

Something to keep in mind is that saying things that imply your disgust in a blog post applies to every person that writes for that blog is a bit harsh. Implying that the organization as a whole is not worth your time if they let something like this get posted.  There have been several really great pieces written by members of the LITA blog team that have NO association with the current post (http://litablog.org/2015/10/is-technology-bringing-in-more-skillful-male-librarians/). Yes we are a team but we don’t all have the same views, we don’t all agree on the same thing, but we do all write for LITA Blog and we choose our topics. Topics are NOT assigned to us, we have the guideline to write about libraries and information technology.

Yes, I am a LITA Blog writer. Which is why these blanket statements are taken personally because the generalization that the entire blog writing team is bringing shame to the profession is harsh. Maybe instead you should provide productive criticism or comment on the blog post so the author gets to hear directly that the piece ruffled your feathers & why. Instead of making a blanketed statement, and discrediting (whether intended or not) the work and writing of others.

As I write this I’m frustrated, and I think rightfully so, as a LITA Blog writer, I’m not thrilled that a fellow writer wrote what they wrote, but it’s their topic, something they felt they wanted to write about. I do not have to agree with it, but I think I can disagree with it with respect.

I ask, in the defense of the talented team I write with, that you don’t discredit the entire blog based on one post that really pissed you off. We all see this world with a different perspective, remember that and even though I disagree/dislike the view given in this specific post, if I want different ideas to be presented, then I have the opportunity as a LITA Blog writer to do that.

If you want something to change then you must be proactive for its change. Tossing it to the side like it’s not worth your time, what good does that do? Work towards making things better. We have that ability.

**UPDATE**
A fantastic response to the post being mentioned by Galen Charlton, https://galencharlton.com/blog/2015/10/books-and-articles-thud-so-nicely-a-response-to-a-lazy-post-about-gender-in-library-technology/

LITA Forum, 2014: My Recap

Last week (Nov. 4-8, 2014)  I attended the LITA (Library and Information Technology Association) Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was my first LITA anything that I had been a part of and had no expectations beyond those of myself in networking and learning. There were so many fantastic sessions to choose from it was really difficult to choose and thanks to the incredible use of Twitter, I was able to get snips of what was going on in the sessions I couldn’t attend.

I was volunteering with the 2014 planning committee to help out at the conference and showed up a day early to help with the pre-conference sessions. Can I recommend that if you go to a conference, volunteer. Especially if this is your first time at said conference. It open the doors to a lot of opportunity for me and I was able to meet and do many things I would not have if I wasn’t volunteering. Showing up early turned out to be in my benefit because there wasn’t much for me to do besides monitoring the pre-conference sessions so I took advantage of the time to visit of some local attractions in Old Town Albuquerque, specifically the Natural History Museum of New Mexico.

Having some down time prior to the conference was wonderful and I highly recommend to designate downtime either before or after the conference. My reasoning for this is that the conference becomes more than just sessions and lots of people learning/speaking about for the most part very similar topics. It gives you an opportunity to experience life outside of the conference venue, in this case the hotel.

I used Twitter for a substantial amount of note taking for multiple reasons: Sharing session snips with those who couldn’t make it and so that I could refer to it later easily. I have put any embedded tweets in [ ] as I refer to them throughout my recap.

**My recap includes only a few of the sessions I attended. As I gather my thoughts on the rest of them I will add them in along with more resources.**

Feel free to read them here: 

My primary focus going into the conference was to attend as many sessions on institutional repositories (IRs) that I could, learn how they are being used and what other libraries are using. My current place of employment is actively researching IRs as we are on the cusp of moving from our current option, ContentDM, to something that will better suit our needs. Choosing an IR has become increasingly more challenging as OpenAccess and data, where’s our data & what does it say, are major factors in what you need to and want to accomplish with your IR. How it is used, presented, accessed and managed can change what software you go with.

Goal: Learn what others are doing with their IRs.

Achieved: Margaret Heller’s session on “What Does Your Repository Do?: Understanding and Calculating Impact” showed me how Loyola University Chicago’s IR is being used. [PDF]

Margaret’s presentation was super interesting as it took Loyola’s IR and showed how it was being used. The content in the IR is accessible all over the world and when Loyola looked at the data of their IR it showed countries that they never would have thought would have interest or be accessing the content.

The story of why: limited access to resources at their library/institution or lack of resources on that specific topic.

MH_LITA

Having the story beyond the numbers really stuck with me; if done right an IR can serve people you never thought would be accessing your content. [Are the traffic drivers of IRs aligning with the institution’s goal/mission? #litaforum Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

This session more or less reconfirmed the importance of having and IR and the OpenAccess movement.

Resources Gained:

Real-Time readership map from LUC: http://ecommons.luc.edu/readership_map.html#content

Goal: Learn/Discuss an IR in action and resources used.

Achieved: Tommy Keswick’s session on “Using Islandora for Digital Content Delivery” discussed and showed Detroit Public Library using Islandora . [Check out an #Islandora repo from Detroit Public Library. http://t.co/oYgI4up5nF #LITAforum Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

Tommy and I had talked about Islandora a couple of months back at a meet-up in L.A.; prior to my move to New York and prior to my immediate interest in implementing an IR. Islandora is on MPOW’s list of IRs to look at, primary reason our entire site is on Drupal. Islandora is a Drupal, Fedora & Solr developed DAMS (Digital Asset Management System). Why use a DAMS and not just a CMS? A DAMS like Islandora offers standards for metadata, integrity tools and extensibility. A major drawback I have with many IRs is the presentation of the content is never “sock blowing” awesome. No, Islandora isn’t sock blowing but it is definitely a major step closer.

Resources Gained:

Git Repo for Entity Bridge [Cherry Hill devs figured out a way to utilize the flag ability from Drupal with Islandora, Entity Bridge :https://t.co/xGsJejbFpz #litaforum — Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

Solution for Indexing [A solution for tricky indexing create a catch all field(s). Use them to search whole words & to search partial words. #islandora #litaforum — Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

Git Repo for JQuery Zoom [View GitHub repo for JQuery Zoom https://t.co/rwkKHq2Yln #islandora #litaforum — Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

Goal: Be inspired. Achieved: Keynote sessions #1 and #2 (I missed #3 due to flight conflict).

AnnMarie Thomas: Playing to Learn: A Maker’s Perspective. Obviously, her entire keynote was about being a maker. It was by far my favorite point of the entire conference. “It doesn’t feel like work if you’re laughing” so often we get stuck in the “work no play” aspect that we forego opportunities to learn. Her keynote session resonated with me. As a newly dubbed librarian over two departments that are recovering from a stressful reorganization, this session gave me the humph to encourage play at work.

[After being inspired by @amptMN keynote at #litaforum I put out a puzzle this AM & my dept enjoyed the fun. #MAKERS pic.twitter.com/kxb4ludDm4 Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 11, 2014]

Lorcan Dempsey: VP at OCLC. He spoke about Thinking about Technology Differently. “The network reshapes the society and the society reshapes the network.”

 

infovsknowledge by the GapingVoid

We have a lot of text. A lot of records and what we want to do with it is turn it into a form that is more usable. That will yield more insight, more knowledge.

 

We want to make a qualitative difference with the quantity of data/information that we have. I enjoyed this keynote because working in libraries and in library systems, surrounded by information and technology. How I think about it and know it’s use and how it ties together is not how someone else may think about it. Lorcan boldly said, and I agree, “Technology is integrated. It isn’t something you pick up and move over. It is implied and incorporated.”

We have moved from caring just about the outcome to caring significantly about the method. We want to know the how not just the what. Libraries are working constantly with learning behaviors and research behaviors, we see software that has been created to manage the data to tell us more than the what.

You can view the entire keynote session here LITA Forum 2014 Lorcan Dempsey [70min]

Goal: Network and meet others. 

Achieved:

Volunteering: My reasons for volunteering were both monetary benefit and personal networking gain. As I mentioned I had never been to a LITA forum before. I had interacted with a handful of other attendees via Twitter but didn’t know anyone in person. Volunteering gave me a ground to start running. I recorded keynote sessions (gave me a front row seat, WIN!), introduced conference sessions and worked with the planning committee and met up and coming committee members.

Game Night: Cards Against Humanities! [You’re missing out. Come join us! #LITAforum pic.twitter.com/EiadiwR4JB Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

OpenRefine Skill-share: The last night of the conference there were networking dinners to sign up for. A couple of us had tweeted interest in playing around with OpenRefine so instead of doing a networking dinner; I took the initiative to do a sign up for playing with OpenRefine. We ended up with a decent response and had some fun. [@cm_harlow @ranti @lorcanD Say what?!  pic.twitter.com/cK5gyif7DM Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 7, 2014]

Unfortunately most of our time, due to dodgy wi-fi, was spent getting installs completed. However, most if not all of those who came left with a bit more knowledge of the program than before and we opened a door of possibility for those who hadn’t any clue as to what OpenRefine could do. [and we’re almost up and running. Installs on multiple OS’s takes time. #litaforum pic.twitter.com/U8rolMh55H Whitni Watkins (@NimbleLibrarian) November 8, 2014]

Overall the conference was great. I learned a lot and was able to come back to MPOW with a stronger knowledge of IRs and a stronger reasoning behind my recommendations.

Things I learned for next year, always volunteer, have a goal in mind prior to going but be willing to change/adjust that goal as you need, pack snacks, take good notes, and don’t cement yourself to session that does not hold any interest to you.

Other Resources from the Conference:

Statement of Professional Philosophy

Statement of Professional Philosophy:

The Pathway to my MLIS:

Becoming a librarian was not a dream of mine; it was not even a conceived possibility because I was going to play soccer professionally and that was it. Growing up I loved the library but only in the summer. My local library offered a fantastic reading program that rewarded you, multiple times, throughout the program with tangible objects like tickets to professional sporting events. Essentially, I loved the library because of what it did for me. As I started my undergrad program, again I loved the library, usually only when I had major papers to do research on. Again, I loved the library because of what it did for me.

You see, when I started my undergrad and quite near the end I was set on going to law school and then all of the sudden I wasn’t. Well I can’t say ‘all of the sudden’ because it was a process of about 2 months. The last semester of my undergraduate career was a game changer for me, why? Well that semester I became a student assistant in the library. The library became my focus place, my hangout, my professional training, my niche and the staff became my family. Again, I loved the library for what it did for me but began to also love the library because what I could do with it for others. I didn’t go to law school when I graduated, I wasn’t preparing for the LSAT, instead I completed a digital archives internship and I researched library schools.

When I first decided to go to library school I was set on going into archives management. I enjoyed digitizing and preserving materials however after my internship I realized that I did not enjoy it as much as I first thought I would and did not want to pursue a career in it. What I did know was that I actually enjoyed the digitizing process of using technology and creating digital content for the library website and I missed creating research guides and working on cataloging projects in the ILS. I then decided to pursue the MLIS degree instead and focus on using technology to develop digital content for the web.

Passions and Focus:

What ultimately clenched my interest in working with libraries was the organization of information, the embracing of using technology to enhance the user experience and being “what can you do for me” for patrons. Those who study library and information science are given an opportunity to design, create, and serve for the benefit of many; I love being the person that solves the problem that seemed to them unsolvable. As I have worked in the library field and journeyed through my MLIS career these passions have not changed but have evolved towards a greater focus on digital content and web design & we development. I took courses that encouraged these passions including: Best Practices in Module Web Design using HTML and CSS, Web 2.0 and social networking tools in libraries, Special Studies: Virtual Worlds, Understanding Content Management Systems and using Drupal and my  Virtual Internship centered on Social Media use in Public Libraries.

When I started library school I was six months into a professional library position where I was head of the learning resource center (LRC) at a very new academic trade school; this meant I had complete control to shape the library from the archaic state it was in to what it now has become. I had two years of paraprofessional library training and experience under my belt so I was both enthralled with the responsibility and utterly terrified.  When I started working at this school the materials of the LRC were locked behind glass cabinets and students were terrified to ask me questions and often commented on how nice I was compared to the previous library worker. This made me sad for multiple reasons but primarily because it tainted their view of the library. My goal was to brand the library in a way that students saw it as a benefit for them to use it, that it was giving them something they did not have before. I wanted to teach the students that I was here for help, I wanted them to know that the LRC had something they wanted that they did not have before.

I spent a significant portion of these first six months organizing the collection and advertising to faculty, staff and students the materials that were available for them to use. When I started working the collection was organized by in-home developed call numbers, essentially the program they were used in and then an accession number, example: Anatomy-001. The complete listing of library materials was housed in an excel spreadsheet that was printed out and put into a binder for browsing, in house only. This is when I learned most about copy cataloging and became very grateful for World Cat and budget and user friendly OPAC resources such as LibraryThing. I spent many hours searching catalogs and completing the records for our material, after about three consistent months of this I finally had some sort of OPAC for students to view our material outside of the library.

I had accomplished this significant task prior to library school however, when I started the MLIS program an entire new world of opportunity opened up.  In the first year, I learned about database building, controlled vocabulary, library management, and web design and development. The first semester gave me the confidence I needed to feel like I could make an educated difference in the LRC, where I learned about library science, the basis of the profession and gained many resources for reference when needed.

Libr200 introduced me to the various roles and responsibilities of a library; this helped me see my role as the head of the LRC in a greater light and paved a way to improve the library.  My main focus was to get the LRC recognition to students, faculty and staff. I created an information literacy course that I took to the classrooms of the school I was working at. This course taught students about the resources we had, how they could access them and how they would benefit them during their time at the school. This course increased library usage ten-fold, it was amazing and affirming that what I was doing was on the right path, the students saw what the library could do for them.

With the increase of material circulation and the students’ desire to see the collection and search it and use it I knew my next step had to be upgrading the current format of circulating materials, filling out a form. I worked on automating the library; this allowed students to circulate material for longer periods of time and also use it off campus where prior to that they could only use material in the LRC. Another step towards the LRC being something the students saw benefit in.

My passion with technology, my experience in creating digital resources and my love for organization led to becoming the campus digital resources designer and I created over 300 graphic resources for advertisement for school programs, community events, career resources and health clinics. Taking Libr240: Information Technology Tools and Applications with a focus on designing for the web helped me hone the skills I had to really serve the community by giving my guidance to create a library website. The website opened a whole new world of access to students from contact information to catalog searching and project help and upcoming campus events. The creation of the website sparked my interest to study web programming further and to learn to work on multiple platforms.

The implementation of technology use in the LRC continued to grow as I took courses on social media use in libraries, web 2.0 tools and reference services. We implemented the use of Weebo chat (which has since been discontinued), Text-a-Librarian through Google Voice, a library blog through WordPress, and continued development of enhanced resource guides. All of this content was integrated into the library website so that students could access it conveniently and the page hits exploded from student use. The LRC was becoming the resource I aimed for it to be, it was serving students in a manner that it never had before.

I worked in the LRC for four semesters of my MLIS career, including a summer term, and was able to accomplish significant projects because of it. I knew I was in my dream career because not only was I successful in these implementations but I loved everything about it, I truly loved seeing the students actually using the LRC (physically and virtually). When I left this school to pursue a career as an integrated library system administrator I was truly sad as this place was my MLIS project, something I had built from scratch, I was proud of it.

When I ventured into library system administration, as the integrated library system (ILS) administrator, I learned an aspect of the library that I knew very little about, the back end of every ILS module pertinent to a library. This included learning how each department ran. I spent months going through training and learning the procedures in acquisitions, serials, access services, preservation, cataloging and reserves. I really learned what it took to run a library and the man power it required. It was here where I also moved from creating digital content to managing digital content and resources. When we automated the library at the previous school the collection and patron size were much smaller; at this library the collection was millions of items, with hundreds of staff members and thousands of students to serve. Handling a library of this caliber required significant attention to detail and the ability to see the bigger picture simultaneously.

My course work in online searching (Libr244) taught me how to build complex Boolean search strategies to find specific information. I was not aware of how I would apply this to my professional goals until working with ILS where I had the responsibility of creating reports that pulled various types of information for multiple departments. This course taught me how to break down complex topics to the basics and build up; this is a skill that expands beyond Boolean searches and into to general reference questions all together in all fields of study. I used this skill significantly and intuitively as the ILS administrator when troubleshooting issues with the system.

While I worked as the ILS administrator the immediate result of seeing the students benefit from the library wasn’t as apparent as it was in the LRC, sometimes it was not apparent except to myself and only because I knew what the system was providing the students. Although I missed this immediate reward and the interaction with the students I learned that my passion for working with technology and web programming overshadowed that.

As information professionals we are lifelong learners involved in a profession that moves rapidly. I have dedicated myself to this profession; “In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information” (ALA, 2008). As digital resources continue to impact how we organize and deliver information to our patrons it is imperative that we continue to understand, learn and participate in this evolution of information dissemination.

I intend to keep up with the profession through my continued attendance and participation in professional conferences. I have been fortunate enough to attend ALA annual and midwinter as well as participate in CLA and local conferences such as the LA Archives Bazaar.  I have continued to build my technology skills by learning multiple library systems including: content management systems (CMS), learning management systems (LMS), web 2.0 tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and multiple communication platforms.  I have been expanding my programming skills by attending webinars, workshops (physical and virtual) and participating in programming projects through Treehouse and GitHub. There is so much to learn and so much potential for technology in libraries that it often becomes overwhelming on what to learn next. The ability to see where we stand in society, as professionals, and understand our impact on the greater society allows us to take important steps to shaping the libraries potential.

References:

American Library Association, (2008). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.cfm

Recognize and describe cultural and economic diversity in the clientele of libraries or information organizations

Component 1: Statement of Competency

Libraries are successful because they are dedicate to creating equal access to information to their patrons. This means they spent time focused on understanding and studying how people use information based on cultural and economic demographics. We, information professionals, evaluate how patrons of different ages use our resources. For example are 16 year olds checking out physical books more often than an 85 year old or do they use digital resources and technology more and why? Looking at this data shapes the way libraries market their material and more so how funds are allocated for resources.

Due to the nature and mission of libraries they are accessible by and attract a diverse population. The population ranges in education level, age, cultural background, learning ability and physical abilities. All of these factors play a part in how a patron uses information. It is our responsibility to determine how to attract this population and how to meet and serve their information needs.

I want to point out that social status and economic status are directly related. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data on the correlation between education level and income and typically those with a higher educational level have a higher income than those with a lower educational level. This suggests, that those with a higher education have a higher socio-economic status and in relation are able to use library resources at a more independent and intricate level than those with a lower socio-economic status. This however, does not mean that libraries that serve lower socio-economic communities should deprive these communities of access to these resources and information.

As the world continues to progress in the digital world, we see that what is commonly referred to as the digital divide, is largely affected by socio-economic status. Rubin explains, “as income rises so does Internet use… Only 25 percent of those with incomes of less than $15,000 use the Internet, compared to 67 percent of those with incomes exceeding $75,000” (Rubin, 2010, p178). One of the primary reasons for not using the internet is complexity of technology. The shows that use of the internet, or lack thereof, is not just restricted access due to income but also due to the skill set and knowledge. Libraries have focused on providing greater public access to the internet through installing public computers and even offering digital literacy programs to teach how to use the available technology.

It is important to acknowledge that cultural backgrounds also largely affect how patrons access information. On a study conducted by Liu and Redfern (1997) on students at San Jose State University, “Statistical analyses indicated that the student’s level of success in using the library was related to English-language proficiency, frequency of library use, and the frequency of reference desk inquiries” (Evans & Ward, 2007, p72). The inability to understand the dominant language of the collection of resources is a huge barrier on how the user with access and use the information that is available.

It is important that libraries understand the demographic makeup of the community they serve and adjust to serve their information needs. One significant adjustment that has been made is the incorporation of multilingual OPACS. This allows users the option of searching for resources in the language which they are most comfortable with. This will allow users to increase their skill set in searching because they now have the ability to use the resource.

Component 2: Justification of Evidence and Evidence:

My first piece of evidence I have included for this competency is a blog post I wrote for Libr240 on [Usability versus Accessibility]. This post discusses the importance of creating a website that is accessible to a diverse population and factors that impact how the user may be accessing the information. With digital content one of the most important factors in accessibility is making the webpage accessible to those who are visually impaired. This is done by adding alternative text for images and links within your code. This piece of evidence shows my understanding and ability to acknowledge and adjust to cultural and economic barriers my users may encounter.

My second piece of evidence I have included for this competency is a blog post I wrote for Lib240 [Designed for Mobility]. This post discusses designing your digital content for mobile use. Today, data shows that users are accessing more and more content on mobile devices like tablets and smart phones. This can drastically change how users use the available information, especially due to screen size differences and connection speed. The post discusses how to address some of the barriers that mobile users will deal with when accessing content through a mobile device.

My final piece of evidence is a [Final Proposal] I wrote for Libr285 for implementing a SMS reference service in an academic environment. This proposal discusses the purpose of implementing the reference service; “Studies have shown that 89% of college students have a cellphone and two-thirds of them use it for text messaging (Farkas, 2007)” (Watkins, 2013). The proposal shows my ability to recognize and adapt to how users are accessing and using information, specifically in an academic setting.

Conclusion:

As an information professional it is important that I am aware, able and understand the need to adapt and create resources that will serve a diverse population that deal with cultural barriers and socio-economic barriers. Our goal in the profession is to provide equal access to information, this can only be achieved if we acknowledge and understand the needs of our communities. We are doing great work to minimize the effect of the digital divide through multilingual OPACs, web design accessibility standards and access to technology that is often limited to communities with a lower socio-economic status.

References:

Evans, G. E. and Ward, P. L. (2007). Management Basics for Information Professionals. Second edition. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Rubin, R. E. (2010). The Values and Ethics of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Watkins, W. (2013). Research Proposal written for graduate studies course Libr285. San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science.

Evidence:

Usability versus Accessibility blog post for Libr240: https://nimblelibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/usability-vs-accessibility/

Designed for Mobility blog post for Libr240: https://nimblelibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/designed-for-mobility/

Final Proposal for Libr285: [Final Proposal]