A Systems Diplomat? My ideal job

September 22, 2006, 3:04 pm

I was talking about careers with a friend of mine the other day. We’re both in similar spots professionally, although different industries, in which we’ve passed through the entry level phase and are now looking forward to having wider influence.

We’re both at the point that we need ‘bridge’ positions…. jobs with substantively more responsibility that would allow us to gain wider experience and to position ourselves for a future administrative role. I guess typically this happens by being an assistant department head, then head, and so forth climbing the ladder from within… or bouncing around to different schools, upgrading along the way.

A question that came up (and actually I get asked this a lot) was what type of position do I wish I had? One of the weaknesses I see with libraries is that they hire for specific roles, rather than for general talent. I like the college football model better, where athletes are frequently recruited based upon their abilities and find ways to contribute to the team once they’ve enrolled.

I’m not in any rush to leave Georgia Tech. Where else could I submit a request for a student assistant to explore digital media and viral marketing concepts– and actually get it approved? But nonetheless, here is my idealized position:

  • 50% Systems Diplomat
  • 25% Assessment
  • 25% Alternative Marketing

Systems Diplomat
Systems departments have it tough. Every small hiccup in the network results in a crisis. In fact, I’ve seen (and heard about) the disconnect between systems and frontline staff in many libraries. The Systems Diplomat would serve as the public interface for the department. Essentially, this role would involve project management and coordination. The bulk of the duties would be to meet regularly with every department to understand their workflow, use of technologies, desires and needs— and to furthermore explore collaborative opportunities (with systems and other departments.) It would largely be projects based— you need this, ok, let me work on that, alright, here you go. But also involve testing and training. I’ve dabbled with MySQL, action scripts, and advanced Dreamweaver behaviors—so I think that I offer the benefit of speaking their language. I could also be trained-up to apply some quick and dirty fixes to common problems that arise. Bottom-line, the objective is to improve the relationship between Systems and the rest of the Library, and to improve communications between all staff.

I’m a statistics hack so I have a lot to offer in an assessment role. Again, working with various departments (circ, ill, collections, etc,) I’d adopt the charge of pulling together the multitude of raw data make it meaningful. I’d aim to help to streamline the process of collection (web-based) and interpretation, but also talk with departments about the types of information they’d like to know. For example, I am interested in which Elsevier journals users click through on (SFX) which we don’t have back files for. This could help guide future purchasing. Or, I noticed every few weeks our printers are slammed with 10+ people waiting at each release stations. Is it possible to collect and analysis usage data to estimate peak times throughout the semester? This would help us know when we might run out of paper and ink and perhaps if we should double-staff student workers during key certain hours each semester. These are just two examples off the top of my head, but I’d really like to focus on applied assessment and workflow—and not so much on the instructional / info lit assessment side of things, or the quality of reference. I am more interest in functionality. Of course, assisting committees / working groups / taskforces / etc with various assessment opportunities, such as surveys and focus groups would be part of it too. And helping with whatever accreditation needs exist. I’m decent with SPSS and Excel, and can hack LibQUAL+ with the best of them.

Alternative Marketing
Flyers and posters can only do so much. There is this wide open world of digital media that has yet to be tapped for library marketing. Right now everyone is jumping on the social network bandwagon, but there are lots of methods to explore. (My blog covers some of this already.) I’ve moved toward the opinion that we need to target niche groups and offer services that are meaningful to them. I’m breaking away from the fast-food model that treats all patrons as equal, and that the one-size-fits-all library is maybe not the way to go, but rather the library can be different things to different people and we should encourage that. I am developing this concept further more into library as product . I’d imagine again, collaborating with various formal and informal groups (within and outside of the library) and seeking ways to spread the message. Again, I labeled this alternative marketing because it would be using guerilla tactics, aimed for socially contagious epidemics , and finding the right Connectors to deliver the message. The objective is not to replace existing marketing efforts, but simply to reach for the fringe users and generate new hype and interest outside the bounds of convention.

So there it is, in a perfect world, that’s what I’d be doing. In reality I’m off to help someone with a paper jam just as we close up for the night.



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