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: Mita Williams
Your title: Librarian
Where do you work: in the Information Services Department of the Leddy Library, the main campus library for the University of Windsor.
1) Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
I am a liaison librarian for Biology, Earth Science and Computer Science. I also do a little bit of this and that which I do here and there.
2) Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?
In many ways, my work at the Leddy Library has come full circle as I was originally hired as a Science Librarian in 1999. As I increasingly spent most of my time on the library’s website, I then became a User Experience Librarian. I then covered a colleague’s maternity leave and another’s sabbatical year. Now I’m back doing liaison work. It’s the same work but different – just like the saying, “You don’t step into the same river twice”.
3) Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
Ah, but if I tell you that now then you will have no reason to read my contribution to the forthcoming collection of autoethnographies that will be published by ACRL.
4) What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
It’s not a project, but some weeks ago I was part of a Monday night seminar dedicated to the idea of Open Cities at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. It was really cool to sit in the same coach house which was once the operational base of McLuhan and the site of his own Monday night seminars.
5) Have you had a project that has failed miserably in the past year? If so, tell us about it!
I’m working on a secret project right now that is entirely dependent on whether students are curious enough to borrow a box of objects without exactly knowing what’s inside. While I am hopeful that they just might, I don’t think the odds are in my favour. I’ll hopefully reporting the results of this experiment at the OLITA Lightning Talks at SuperConference.
6) What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?
I have several potential projects that I am hoping to work on in the near. However, I am forcing myself to not to commit to anything new until I finish up all the existing projects around me. Stop tempting me.
7) If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project at your library?
I’m increasingly concerned with the physical and mental wellbeing of students, many of whom worry about the vast amount debt they are taking on as they are at school. So, if I had unlimited funds maybe I would buy the copyright and the author contracts of the major textbooks and use this intellectual capital as a means to seed a more equitable and sustainable system of educational resources built for free use and re-mixing.
8) What’s your favorite “shoestring” project that you could recommend to others?
I can get pretty evangelical when it comes to Zotero. It allows for so much potential use beyond formatting bibliographies. For example, you can use Zotero to automatically update bibliographies published on a website which can be maintained by a variety of people. Why this isn’t widely used this way in academia still flummoxes me.
9) Do you partner with community groups or other organizations in your current position? If so, what are those partnerships like? Do you have ongoing projects with them?
I’m on the Board of Directors of Hackforge, a community minded Hackerspace that’s located in downtown Windsor where I’m the lead of two special interest groups: Maptime Windsor and Open Data Windsor Essex. We don’t have a formal partnership with Hackforge but I find that the librarianship I bring to Hackforge is very well received and what I learn from Hackforge helps me with my work at Leddy.
10) How does your library use social media? Do you have any success stories to share?
Our library does use social media but largely just for broadcasting events and news from the library. I find that most social media – including blog posts – tend to be re-shared if the work resonates personally with the reader. I believe that’s why our most popular posts – deal with the disciplinary interests of students or pressing issues of the time such as the #BlackLivesMatterCNDSyllabus.
12) How do you keep up with library technology changes and trends?
When I paid lots of attention to Twitter, I felt that I had developed a sort of situational awareness of library trends and technology changes by following a wide variety of librarians and technologists. But now I’m reducing my social media snacking and getting back to longer reads such as newsletters, blogs, newspapers and books.
13) If you could go back in time five years, what would you tell yourself that you have learned in your current position?
I would shake myself and yell, “you don’t need a fancy program, project management philosophy, or complicated system to keep track of your day to day work; you need to just keep a simple notebook as a bullet journal”.
14) What is the best part of your day in your current role?
I am continually grateful for the opportunity to learn something new every day.
15) What is your pet peeve about your current position or your library?
I am a little jealous of libraries whose librarians and staff keep in touch with each other using systems like Slack or chat. That sort of sharing just isn’t in the workplace culture where I am — and that is not inherently a bad thing.
16) How do you think your library will change over the next 10 years?
I still contend that the library as a physical space will remain its most important asset. I very much hope we can get some funding to revitalize our space for our students.
17) Do you feel as though your library services are valued by your community?
Yes. We have students who spend more time in the library every day than I do!
18) How do your library patrons use technology at the library? At their homes?
I think why they use technology is a more interesting question than how. For example, if students use chat and social media to continually check in with their circle of friends back home for comfort and community, then perhaps academia as an institution isn’t doing enough to foster conversation and dialog on our campuses.
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.