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librarians, technology, work

Fitting in: everyone has a role

A few months ago I wrote about finding a niche and discovering one’s place. I haven’t found any answers yet, but I’ve continued to think about place a bit. I’m trying to look at it on a larger scale. Instead of narrowing down to find a topic I’m interested in, I’m looking outwards to see where I am and where I’ve been.

Stepping out of the world of work altogether, I can see things I hadn’t before. Growing up I had an older brother and a father. Well, I still do have them, they’re just bigger now and further away, though at least were all in the same country and within a 12 hour drive of each other. Let me tell you about them.

First, my dad is a tinkerer. He likes gadgets. I don’t remember when we got our first computer. I know we had Commodore 64 and Vic 20s and before them we had game consoles like Atari and we had some sort of Texas Instrument – no not a calculator, maybe this, I remember a keyboard. Anyway, I grew up around electronics. Other than those consoles, my family did not buy computers. We were working class, or maybe working poor is closer to the truth, and so there’s no way we’d buy a computer. Instead, my dad regularly packed us into the car (never, never a new car – even now he only gets junkers) and drove us across the border to the shopping paradise we called the United States of America, where milk came in gallon jugs and electronics were cheaper. I can’t even say how often we drove over, but we pretty much went whenever there was a big computer show at some nondescript community centre or mall or wherever. Of course we’d also hit Gibraltar Trade centers and do groceries (it’s not just gas that’s cheaper). Piece by piece my dad would assemble computers and adjust things just as he liked. In grade school my brother was fairly popular with the boys (well some); he’d always have friends over to play on the computer. In high school (early 90s) we had two PCs which was unusual for most families in my hometown. My dad still hasn’t ever bought a desktop, though he has laptops – used ones that he’s torn apart to mix and match components. Through the years besides providing my brother and I with computers, he’s also built and given some to my cousins, uncles, families in need, even my mom after they were divorced. My dad enjoys this hobby, but that’s all it is; he’s actually a driller during the day.

Moving onto my brother. He also likes to tinker around but over the years it has developed differently. While dad is a hardware geek, brother is a software geek. He’s a programmer. His last job had something to do with debugging stuff and he writes code. He’s also a Linux adherent and a bit of a gamer. He hacked into our high school computer system and changed his friend’s grades. (Only found out that changing grade bit a couple years ago, and indeed his friend turned him in and my brother was punished.) Growing up, he was the bigger, stronger sibling and so I didn’t get to play on the computer much. Really, I only had a fraction of the computer time my brother did, but that’s OK because I’ve always thought of computers and their games as entertainment, not just for those who play but for those who watch too! Unlike my father, computers are not just a hobby for my brother but a source of livelihood. He is a programmer of some sort and I’m sure many of you would recognize the company if I said it’s name. He told me once that even for fun he would work on geek stuff (like WINE). He’s taken an interest in my video game playing giving me tips on WoW and he does seem sincerely disappointed that whenever we’re on he has to go on a raid with his guild.

So, dad is hardware, brother is software. What does that leave me? Am I just a consumer? An end-user? I think I care too much to just be a user. I’m not much of a creator, although I did do a website for my dad’s boss as a course assignment (who was then too lazy to actually put it up – believe me mine was better than their old one, and what they have now). I also helped my former workplace go through two redesigns last year. Yet, I don’t feel as though site design is my thing either (I’m not really that good at it, though I enjoy it). Friends used to mention their university classes and I lament, yes, I say I am sad, that I did not take any math (or science) courses in university. Although I did well in my OAC math classes, I nearly flunked grade 12 Computer Science the year before (long story) and that experience made me afraid to try anything math or science related in university.

At the same time I was starting to consider getting my MLIS, I thought another option would to be go back for a Bachelor’s in computer science but obviously I decided against that because I still didn’t think that would get me a job. Now I have my MLIS and I still want to take computer courses but I might have a little bit of an idea. Many job ads that interest me require skills that include HTML, CSS, ASP, Javascript, PHP, etc. and then other stuff too, you know, the standard web 2.0 mumbo jumbo (or 3.0) [love the concept, hate the terminology]. I’ve always wanted to do things that require more geek power than I have. I have Geek Envy. I want to be a bigger geek. Realizing that, maybe it’s time I took some action? I’ve been contemplating once again taking some sort of courses, but it’s so hard to know what I should do – a certificate? diploma? maybe an actual degree in something? A friend suggested just getting a book and working on stuff but I need more structure than that. So, that’s still something I’m thinking about.

Going back to the question of where I fit in, it does seem like librarian is a good role for me. I may not be a creator or inventor or manufacture anything, but I play mediator. Connecting people with information or tools that they want or need. And as many librarians will tell you, this isn’t just during working hours. I have had friends and acquaintances contact me one way or another to get advice or find out more about a topic or just some tips for their work. I wish to continue to connect people with their information needs, I’d just also like to have a stronger comprehension of how we can create and use technology for fulfilling these needs.

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About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.

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