Welcome to The Library IT Crowd – a new column brought to you by the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA). We want to showcase some of the great librarians and library workers who are currently working with technology, get to know them, and share their experiences! We hope we are able to inspire you, and shed some light onto what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers!
Your name: Nancy Fong
Your title: Digital Initiatives Librarian
Where do you work: University of Toronto, Information Technology Services
Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
I wear mainly 2 hats in this role. I act as a consultant as I work together with faculty, librarians and other library staff on potential projects involving access, preservation and management of digital assets, predominantly on 2 open-source platforms, AtoM (Access to Memory), and Islandora. I also act as a project manager, as I provide technical support, project management and liaison work for the 30+ Drupal, Islandora, AtoM, and other legacy websites hosting academic research in my portfolio.
Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?
I had a sense that this role would be much more technical. It certainly has been quite technical, but not in the sense where I thought I would be involved in coding, though I’ve had to brush up on my shell scripting knowledge in order to update some of our legacy websites..
It has been a really great learning opportunity to work so closely with technical staff, such as my application developer, as well as the DevOps / SysOps team, to troubleshoot and work through some of the issues that have cropped up with data migration to our new redundant server architecture, as well as our upgrade to the most recent and stable Islandora release. It has certainly deepened my knowledge of the underlying systems architecture that supports one of our open-source digital assets platforms, Islandora, and its corresponding repository, Fedora. I’ve found that having a methodical, problem-solving approach combined with some knowledge of basic programming (programming language syntax, specifically) has really helped me in this role.
Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
I’ve always had an interest in technology, though I did not seriously pursue it until after I had finished my undergraduate degree in English at the University of British Columbia. Looking back, I think I felt a bit intimidated by the prospect of having to learn how to program / code, and felt that I didn’t have the right foundational knowledge, having come from the arts / social sciences and humanities (which is not true at all – anyone can learn how to code). I tried work in event planning and communications, then moved on to IT project management in BC, specifically working on a project involving document and content management. It was through that project that I got to know and work with some corporate librarians. It was really interesting work and I began pursing my interest in working in knowledge and information management, which led me back to school to get my Master of Information (MI). It was during my time at the iSchool at the University of Toronto that I began working in libraries, working with OCUL’s Scholars Portal, as well as Ryerson University Library and Archives for a period of time.
What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
While it’s not a “project” per se, it was related to our ongoing project work with our Islandora sites — working through some of the system and user functionality issues that occurred during testing after data migration, Islandora upgrade, and implementation work for Mirador, a IIIF compliant viewer.
If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project at your library?
This is a really great question. I’d love to see more hands-on technology oriented workshops like Library Carpentry have dedicated financial support in the library, as I’m a firm believer that we need to empower more information professionals with the technological skills and tools to enable them to do their work more effectively and efficiently. I was involved with organizing a Library Carpentry workshop back in July 2016, hosted at the University of Toronto, and I was really thrilled to see that we had librarians and other information professionals coming from as far away as Oregon to spend two days learning about regular expressions, XPath and XQuery, OpenRefine, Python, and web scraping.
What is the best part of your day in your current role?
It really depends on the day! Though admittedly… it is the best feeling when issues are resolved and JIRA tickets are closed!
Sarah Macintyre has been working in libraries for over 5 years, and has been at St. Thomas Public Library for half that time. In her position, Systems and Support Services Librarian, she has overseen many new digital initiatives, including the launch of the Creators’ Community services. She can be reached at smacintyre [at] stthomaspubliclibrary.ca.