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Library Day in the Life: Setting the Stage

Partly out of genuine interest to share what I do and partly because I find Facebook invites from Bobbi Newman hard to turn down when there’s no travel involved, I’m participating in Round 5 of the Library Day in the Life project. For the week of July 26, 2010, I’m going to do my level best to provide at least a cursory summary of what I’ve done each day. I’ll start with a post on Tuesday so I don’t interrupt my Constitution Monday series.

However, I feel like I need to do a little stage setting because while I am a librarian and my work deals in part with the Alaska State Library, I no longer “work in a library” in a traditional sense. But I think it will be instructive to show you what types of work people with a Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) can do.

My title is Head of Technical and Imaging Services (TIS) for the State of Alaska Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. You could think of me as a technical services librarian whose unit provides services to archives and museums as well as to the library. TIS is a very young unit, only formally put together in April 2010. I’m the first head of the unit and that’s both fun and a little scary. The concept of TIS has been around for about a year and a half as a result of integration discussions between the State Library, State Archives and State Museum. No new staff were available for this unit. I was voluntarily transferred from my previous position as Head of Information Services into a long unfilled “Digital Librarian” position and some staff from other sections of the Division were assigned to my supervision.

As it exists today, TIS consists of several informal subgroups:

Metadata – A library cataloger, her assistant, an Archivist and the person responsible for maintaining our consortium catalog.

Micrographics/Imaging – Central Micrographics Services provides microfilming services to state agencies. Last year they acquired the ability to scan paper into digital format. Just this week they received machines that will let them digitize microfilm and microfiche, expanding their capabilities. They have a staff of three.

IT support / Web presence – The Division has one IT person who does his work under my supervision and in coordination with our parent agency (Education and Early Development)’s IT department. Part of my work here is serving as a bridge between IT staff and end users, occasionally intervening when communications breaks down. This relationship isn’t always as harmonious as I’d like it to be, but I think both sides are acting in good faith. I also supervise the Division’s webmaster.

In addition to supervising the staff above (nine in all), my job includes helping to plan digital projects, provide advice on internet and technology matters, coordinate efforts at metadata cleanup and staying on the lookout for ways that the Library, Archives and Museum can work together.  For this duty, I try to follow any resource I can find on LAM collaborations/integration. So far, Hanging Together at http://www.hangingtogether.org is one of my favorite resources. Do you have any?

The above just represents my regular duties. In addition to those, I’m working on the reference desk of the Alaska State Library for 4-5 hours a week. Did I mention that when I left Information Services, they didn’t get a replacement staff member? My old position was filled from within, but that person’s position remains empty. So until the Division can afford to fill that spot, I’ll still have a foot in the State Library. It’s actually kind of fun working the desk without being responsible for that unit. Even after that position is filled, which I think it will be eventually, I’d still expect to work their desk a shift a week, and possibly adding desk work at other Division units. Anything I can do to understand the work of other units is a good thing.

In addition to my regular duties and the desk work imposed by budgeting constraints, I’m also involved with the work for planning a new building that will house all three units of the Division. You can read more about that at http://alaskalamp.blogspot.com/.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my new job in the few months since April. It has had some very stressful moments, which I won’t detail in a public forum, but overall it has been a great learning experience and has expanded my skill set. In addition, I’ve gotten to put some things in place that I’ve wanted for YEARS, like a wiki-based staff intranet that everyone in the Division can access regardless of location.

Now the stage is set and hopefully some of my Day/Week in the Life posts will make a little more sense as I dash from one set of duties to the next.

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4 Responses

  1. Very cool! Aspects of your job remind me of a job I recently saw posted. I’m volunteering for a Memory Project, and the work is just fascinating (and somewhat similar to what you’ve mentioned). I’ve picked up some interesting skills doing it, and at an interview I had a lot of what was discussed was the Memory Project. I enjoyed doing that work so much, that I have started to focus more of my library skills on cataloging, archives, and metadata. I am eager to pursue that direction rather than what I intended when I started library school (which was law library/gov docs focused).

    I look forward to seeing what else you might post.

  2. Hi Carolyn, Good luck with the Memory Project, it sounds fun.

    My biggest challenge this week will be remembering to stop periodically and take note of what I’m doing so I can give a reasonable summary of each day’s activities.

    I’ve thought about setting my iPhone to go off every hour, but that would be trouble in some meetings. Might just carry a mini notebook with me.

    If there are past participants of this project out there, what ways do you keep track of your days?

  3. Thank you for posting this website. I am currently halfway through my masters program in library and information science with a focus on digital imaging projects and following graduation, would like to relocate to Alaska. I just returned from visiting Anchorage and found it to be so beautiful and I have family that live in Anchorage.

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this because it gives a great perspective into the job characteristics that you are working with. I hope that you have a great week and best of luck with this new exciting position.

  4. Hi Laura, Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I’m glad that my and other librarians posts from “Library Day in the Life” were helpful. Many of us participated in the hopes of letting current students like know know what librarianship means to us.

    Your being at UNT is great preparation for digital projects. They’re doing some of the best digital government documents work that I’m aware of. Does your master’s program include internships or work study in UNT’s projects?

    Anchorage is pretty. I would advise you spending a few days in December/January before taking the plunge and relocating. Sign up for the Alaska Library Association list at akla.org for upcoming job listings and library happenings in Alaska. For general relocation information, check out the Department of Labor’s page at http://labor.state.ak.us/research/relocate/relocmap.htm.

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