The American Library Association’s democracy statement reads, in part: “Democracies need libraries. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy; after all, democracies are about discourse—discourse among the people. ... It must ensure that citizens have the resources to develop the information literacy skills necessary to participate in the democratic process.” This might seem like some pretty big shoes to fill, but there is truth to it. Public libraries help us stay informed and keep us kind.
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 onto what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers!
Your name: Chris Jasztrab
Your title: Manager, Information Technology and Technical Services
Where do you work: Milton Public Library (MPL)
1) Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
I manage the Information Technology Department and Technical Services team. On any given day I’ll be working with my team to ensure that the computers are running smoothly, discussing processing matters when receiving materials, or meeting with other departments to ensure we are supporting Milton Public Library in achieving its strategic goals.
2) Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?
I am a lot more involved in the Technical Services aspect of the job. I come from an information technology (IT) background and becoming immersed in the world of Technical Services has been an eye opener. You never really appreciate what it takes to get a book on the shelf until you meet the team of talented employees who work in the Technical Services department. I’ve learned more about spine labels, 650 & 9xx MARC fields, and the plethora of adhesive tape that exists then I would have ever imagined.
3) Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
I’ve always been in love with technology. My family purchased our first computer in 1987 when I was 9 nine years old. It had a black and yellow monitor and only 20MB of hard drive space. I’ve been in love with technology ever since. My interest in libraries actually found me. I was working in the private sector when I was given the opportunity to apply to a library. I applied and I can’t now imagine working anywhere else. When I see children’s faces light up when reading a book, or the excitement when they’re attending a program, I know that this is the best job in the world!
4) What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
In the past year, we’ve made a switch in vendors who provide the print materials to MPL. I was part of the team who evaluated the RFP responses to ensure that they would be able to meet the TS requirements. I’m also chairing the project team who are re-designing the MPL website. The new site will be launched later in 2017 and will blow your socks off! There are also a lot of behind the scenes work that I’ve done including replacing the entire network, and upgrading our phone system.
5) What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?
We are going to be upgrading all the patron computers across the MPL network to Windows machines. They are going to be a lot faster, and allow for more programing opportunities while providing an interface and productivity suite that patrons are more familiar with. For the remainder of the year into 2018 I’ll be working behind the scenes to support the public service teams by rebuilding the Battle of the Books (BoB) database & interface. This system is used by MPL and other systems to create and manage questions for the many BoB competitions that happen each year. When the site is finally finished, I will be releasing the code so that any library who would like to use it can download and implement their own BoB competitions.
6) What’s your favorite “shoestring” project that you could recommend to others?
Set up a Moodle server to support staff training. It’s easy to do, and you can start delivering online training for staff so they can learn at their own pace. Moodle is a learning platform designed to provide educators and learners with a personalized learning environment. Think of Moodle as the classroom that you sit in and the ledger where the teacher records all the student names and marks. After getting Moodle setup (there is even a one-click installer available) you just need to add content in. Moodle is free, easy to use, and updated often. At MPL we have mandatory HR training courses that all staff are required to take (think WHMIS, and Safety in the Workplace) and we have a range of courses designed to support staff in a number of key areas including Readers Advisory, Customer Service through to taking good photographs, and how to use a Chromebook! We deliver all this training online using Moodle. Another added feature is that it allows HR to track who still needs to take training, and where needed, can generate a certificate of completion for the student.
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?
MPL is part of HALINET—The Halton Information Network. This is a group of public and school libraries in Halton Region that share information and best practices to support each other in providing exemplary library service provision, across the region. MPL’s ILS was purchased in partnership with one of our HALINET partners Halton Hills Public Library who also host the server. Thanks to my colleagues in the Information Services team, MPL was also an early adopter of MagnusMode and we have created a number of card decks for MPL in partnership with them. These decks are step-by-step guides designed to support independence of use for people living with autism, and other cognitive special needs.
8) What is the best part of your day in your current role?
The best part of my current role is when I’m out and about in the community and have a chance to bring up talk about the library. I love asking if people have a library card (it’s free you know!) and getting to tell them about all the free services and materials they can use at the library and from home. Libraries have continued to change so much in the past decade but people are still often surprised when I tell them that they can watch movies, download music, e-magazines and e-books, take elearning courses and all for free!
9) How do you think your library will change over the next 10 years?
I really do see MPL as the hub of the community. As we continue to grow and expand, we are constantly evolving and changing with the times, offering additional study spaces for students, increasing the number of free programs for parents and children, and free online homework help! I imagine in 10 years, MPL will be a space where people can come to create whatever they desire. 3D printers will be mainstays and cheap, able to print in more than just plastic. There will be sound and video studios available to record a TV spot or a demo song. Maybe even virtual reality will be here to stay and people will be spending time in, as Gibson coined it, “Cyberspace.”
10) How do your library patrons use technology at the library? At their homes?
Patrons come to MPL to use our computers, free Wi-Fi, get one on one tech help with our Emerging Technologies Librarian, and to take part in workshops. We recently had our first 3D printing workshop where teens learned how to use online 3D modelling tools to design their own keychain that they printed and took home. We also have a wide range of online resources that our patrons access from home in increasing numbers including Brainfuse, our online homework help app, MagnusMode and a wide range of e-resources including GALE courses, HOOPLA and e-videos. MPL is also incredibly proud that due to a provincial grant obtained through the Ontario Libraries Capacity Fund Research and Innovation grant, staff are working on the development of a gaming app in partnership with the Town of Milton, Conservation Halton and Halton Region to promote the programs and services of all four partners. The app will be launched in early 2018 and the code for the app will be made freely available to any municipality in Ontario who may want to replicate the game in their areas.
Watch this space for more information. We are also in the process of developing content for the Town of Milton app where MPL will have an icon through which patrons can search the catalogue, log into their account and check the current schedule of programmes available.
Interview by Sarah Macintyre
Sarah Macintyre has been working in libraries for over five 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.