This was originally written to update my “About Me” page. But it turned into this. These are the posts that prompted this post – MLS and Library Technology, a post on Why require an MLS for library technologist about a post on code4lib regarding an MLS degree for library technology postings (which unfortunately is currently unavailable since all code4lib.org sites are down). And here is an interesting post about an opposite perspective called I Didn’t Get an MLS to do That and another about the MLS degree in general called The Embattled MLS in the Library Journal. Which begs another question about whether or not an IT degree should be a requirement for librarians. But that is a post for another day. Anyway…
I said I am a coder. But it is better to say I was a coder. I did love to code. But honestly, I’ve gotten less interested in it since I’ve retired. What I really love to do is to listen to what people want to do and then translate that into something that solves their problem and/or enhances their technology environment.
For as long as I worked, I was what was known as a Programmer/Analyst. That means that the majority of my time was spent conducting client interviews, learning the ir processes, creating client/IT teams to discuss what the goal is and then doing a lot of analysis and design to get to where they want to go. The coding, although fun, is the easy part.
I had to take a concept that someone had and translate it into something functional that transcends their original thought and turns it into a working, creative, useful application. You might not realize what this involves. Most of the time, people don’t know exactly what they want, they just know they want it. This is actually the best scenario. It is really harder when people think they know how to design what they want. There is a reason why there are special IT analysts/architects. We spent a lot of time and have a lot of experience designing technology solutions.
Just as people are experts in their own field such as financial organizations or non-profits or libraries, so are IT analysts experts at translating what someone else does into a technology based solution. And just as I could not tell you the formulas for calculating statistical risks for life insurance, neither would a risk assessor know how to take what they do and make it user-friendly and technologically innovative.
I think one of the problems organizations are having with going Web 2.0, is that they don’t recognize that they need a person who can look at their processes and design a Web 2.0 solution. I’ve done that for many, many years and I really find it surprising that other organizations (such as libraries) that say they are wanting to have an online presence and to go Web 2.0, don’t even seem to realize the need for someone with those skills.
I worked with various functions in life insurance most of my IT life. And I have little to no background in life insurance. It is not my field. But it never needed to be, nor should it have been. There were ample experts in all facets of life insurance that could determine the formulas needed and the results expected, and could take me through the processes. My expertise was knowing how to listen to what people want, to learn how they currently do it and to design a technologically progressive solution that goes beyond what they envisioned and yet still satisfies everyone and is not intimidating. It’s really a very complex job.
I have to confess, I find it funny (sad) that the IT positions for libraries all seem to require an MLS (master of library science) degree. That makes no sense to me. There are plenty of people with library skills and knowledge already in a library. What is lacking is anyone who is able to look at the processes from an IT design perspective and to pull all the areas and processes together into one, creative, innovative and functional design.
I also hear the arguments that you can’t talk to a librarian or understand a librarian unless you have an MLS. How can that make sense? I’ve talked to actuaries and lawyers and accountants and life risk assessors and all sorts of people with their own expertise and language and ways of thinking. Why would a librarian or academic or anyone else be any different? I’m not stupid. I think I can grasp how most jobs and functions work and I think I can talk to most kinds of people and be understood and understand them. And I know how to create a team that includes expertise from all areas so that everyone contributes in ways only they, with their knowledge, can.
Next time your or your organization are thinking about hiring an IT person, think about what you are trying to accomplish and what needs you have that you don’t have internally already. Then look for someone who can determine where you are, where you are going and how to get there in a way that includes everyone and appreciates their expertise while contributing their own expertise. Be understanding of each other and teach each other. Then sit back, let go of the reins and see how far you can go.