Welcome to The Library IT Crowd, a column brought to you by the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA). We showcase some of the great librarians and library professionals currently working with technology, get to know them, and share their experiences. We hope we can inspire you and shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers!
Your name: Monica Socol
Your title: Manager, Digital Technologies Services
Where you work: Hamilton Public Library
1) Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
The Digital Technology Services team supports the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) staff with internal technology support and provides public services to enhance digital learning in local communities (front-facing public services) so includes:
- The technology service desk as well as Makerspaces operations
- HPL external web presence and the HPLnet internal collaboration website
- Software applications implementation and support, digital literacy public programming, staff training and tech support
2) Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?
I would not really say very different, as I was aware of the portfolio when I joined HPL. But I do not think I realized at that point that Hamiltonians have a great interest in technology or the various levels of services that HPL provides to support digital literacy in local communities. I am excited about the multiple offerings in programs and the partnerships we participate in to make sure we prepare and support the local communities in Hamilton in this new digital era. Almost every day, there is a new opportunity or need identified and it is great to work in this environment.
3) Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
I do come from a geeky computer science background. I went from being a software developer to an enterprise systems architect and to business analysis and project management because I was trying to understand the needs of various customers with whom I worked. I do think that using the right technology can make our workdays a lot easier and can extend our connections, outcomes that are not possible with the current technology. I worked in a few industries, both public and private, and everywhere I saw the same improvements to everyday life that technology could bring. Working for the library, especially providing more information, support and tools to various groups to get them more confident in using today’s technology, or providing a glimpse of tomorrow’s technology for students during class visits takes all my work to a totally new level so that I enjoy my job a lot!
4) What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
I would say expanding the Makerspaces to the other 12 HPL branches is the one project that I feel would bring the most benefits to local Hamilton communities, and I am really happy about that prospect.
We still have the Central Library—Circuit 4.0 Makerspace—that holds most of the new-age technology (3-D printers, for example), but we have now three more branches that have a photo/video studio, music recording studio and media studio with iMac computers and digitization technology; plus 11 more branches have media studies, and there are two more branches to come soon!
5) What projects do you have on the horizon?
Hamilton Public Library is hosting a lot of public events and programs for public gallery displays, and the management of all these aspects is very time-consuming and requires a lot of coordination. We are doing a full review of how events are organized within the library so we can find efficiencies and improve the process, and establish better communication and visibility of the offerings to the public. Stay tuned ☺….
6) If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project at your library?
Unlimited funds would be nice. For sure I would like them! We have a lot of class visits from various schools, and it is fascinating to hear the very young and the senior students equally throwing out these ideas of what they would do and to see all this creativity coming through. At the same time, we have small start-up businesses coming and using our equipment while they are establishing their business and newcomers that are looking for information or for technological help to get into the employment market. What I would do? I’d purchase more equipment and software or create programs to support better all these groups in reaching their dreams and goals.
7) 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?
The HPL has a lot of partners with the common goal of better helping and supporting local communities, and we do have a lot of projects on the go. To mention just a couple:
- Mohawk College City School offers a few classes, free of charge, within the HPL space to Hamiltonians to support better education and future employment.
- Together with McMaster University, we are part of the Hamilton Digital Literacy Social Lab and have a few projects on the go (and more to come) with the purpose of finding better ways to increase digital literacy within the community.
8) How do you think your library will change over the next 10 years?
I think that the library will become more and more a community hub. I see the library fostering a lot of collaboration and networking or just the pure creation of groups on common interests. I also see more digital literacy support from libraries offered to communities. The support includes guiding customers through the technology era we are in and also providing resources and equipment for customers to enhance their digital knowledge.
Interview by Sarah Macintyre