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IT or librarian?

February 10, 2012

It has been my experience that lucky career college libraries operate with one librarian (maybe full-time).  The challenge of being a solo in a college is that at some point you will have an issue develop that you can’t make better; you don’t have the skills.

Such is the case for our little library in North Carolina.  Now I am a very lucky library because I’m full-time and I also have a fabulously wonderful MLIS assistant librarian that is also full-time.  The major bane in our existence are the networking or computer problems we have EVERY SINGLE DAY!

This week might have been the worst week in computer problems history.  Ugh!!!  I write this post to query you all on what tech challenges you face?  I think this is a challenge for every library everywhere because let’s face it, most info needed for day-to-day work is on the Internet.  That means you need some piece of technology to get it.  What does the librarian do when there is a problem with the equipment?

In our case we have an offsite IT help desk.  Now this group of individuals works very hard to solve our problems in a timely manner and overall I am happy with them and I think they are happy with me.  It is difficult however to convey the level of chaos and insanity that can ensue when the printer isn’t working for two days.  Or if students can’t access their private files via the network for a 8 hours or so.  Well, to keep this from turning into a rant I will stop but I’m sure you are hearing me.  🙂

So how do you handle your IT problems??  Please share your experiences, what has worked?  What hasn’t?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2012 4:37 pm

    We just had “Tray 3” removed from one of our more venerable printers. The printer was jamming on every other print the other night and it was down 36 hours before someone figured out that taking all the paper out of tray 3 would circumvent the jamming issue. Now it turns out that tray 3 is dead, so we’re down to one tray (tray 1 is the bypass) on that printer for the moment. Fortunately, we had other printers the students could use. Unfortunately, this was the default printer.

    Meanwhile, we just updated the disk image on all of our public computers (two models, so actually two disk images), and have discovered that the printer drivers were not configured to recognize the duplexer, so they can’t do 2-sided printing. I’m going to have to go around and unfreeze the computers and fix that a little later. Also, half of the computers ended up with a faulty video driver that prevents DVDs from playing on them. I’ll fix that at the same time. Getting the ability to have my own instance of deepfreeze with my own password for these computers was a huge boon, since otherwise we’d have to wait for IT to send someone out to do it for us. That’s a lot of trouble for them and an inconvenience for us.

    Then there was the issue where a streaming video vendor’s web site kept throwing an obnoxious error (a couple paragraphs!) in our IE 7 browsers claiming they were IE 6. I was able to google the field that tells a web server the version of the browser (user_agent) and was able to provide enough information that the vendor’s IT disabled the error message (I also think that copying the error message to the vendor helped, since they’d never seen it and had no idea that some of their customers were being subjected to such a condescending epistle).

    The key things I’ve found that have helped: signage (lower those patron expectations gently!), triage (the more specific details you’re able to put into a trouble-ticket, the easier it is for the problem to be successfully diagnosed), google (googling the specific text of an error message can help you get a handle on what might be producing the error, and suggesting a line of inquiry can sometimes grease the wheels of the person helping you), friendly persistence (go ahead and nag IT, but nag *nicely*… assume they are overwhelmed and treat them well and let them know that you completely understand and ask if there’s any additional information that you might be able to provide to help them, etc.), affirmation (nothing calms an irate patron down as quickly as an indication that their frustrations have been heard and understood… doesn’t always work, but more often than not, it does), whiskey (woops, did I say that?)

    • February 10, 2012 5:54 pm

      Oh man I totally hear you! The reimage thing for our computers is nuts and we frequently have problems with domain accessing the network – it’s like the network doesn’t exist. We use some basic reservation software in the library for the printer and it is always giving us problems with the drivers and is (I think) more trouble then it is worth. It’s really nice that you have some access to tackle these types of problems on ground. With our new help desk we are frequently waiting for a contract tech to come out and put in new cords or reimage a machine.

      Great suggestions though for handling it. I agree, the single best thing to say to a patron when they are having an IT problems is “I know how frustrating this is. I hate it when it happens to me too. I’m sorry and we this is where IT is at in taking care of this for us.”

      Personally I like to buy cookies for my IT people. Nothing helps my issues get fixed faster then a nice email of thanks and a few cookies. 🙂 I haven’t tried the whiskey but I can imagine that it is very helpful! LOL!!

  2. February 10, 2012 6:15 pm

    Over here at Duke, we’re fortunate to have an in-house techie department, so I don’t have much to add. As a student, though, I’ve found DropBox to be a pretty handy backup for important stuff already saved on the network. (You never know when Murphy’s Law will hit in one place or the other!)

    • February 10, 2012 6:49 pm

      Great idea with DropBox Lesley! I will mention that to our students here. Thanks and enjoy the in-house tech crew, I’m so jealous!

  3. Rae Lovvorn permalink
    February 11, 2012 3:56 pm

    I am also lucky to have an on-site IT tech person, but he is here 9-5, so anything outside of that timeframe becomes my concern, and when he was recently on medical leave, that also left me figuring out the IT stuff. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the IT people at other campuses, crawling around on the floor looking at cabling, and trying to explain to them what I was seeing, and understand what they were telling me to do, and I also became adept at resetting passwords and adding students to our wireless network. We still have an ongoing issue with our LRC and lab computers not remembering the printers between logins, so students have to add them every time they want to print, and of course, that means we walk students through that process over and over each day. It is frustrating, but I try to keep in mind that I am gaining IT skills, whether I wanted them or not.

    • February 12, 2012 12:46 am

      Awesome that you are getting some tech skills Rae. Makes you appreciate your IT staff all the more when they aren’t there all the time. One good thing about our help desk is that they are always staffing it, so at least there is always some one available.

      It is just amazing to me how many problems a person can have with a networked printer. I’m convinced I hate them all. Anyone see Office Space?? Yeah – baseball bat out back, that’s what I want to do with our printer. Thank you for your comments!

  4. Alice Graves permalink
    February 14, 2012 4:40 pm

    Jennifer–a little off the subject. You’ve been a CC librarian waaaay longer than me. I am working on a poster presentation for the florida library assn. and I am having trouble finding current stats on # of career colleges in the us and # of students attending. Any suggestions? Thank you.

  5. Alice Graves permalink
    February 14, 2012 4:41 pm

    BTW, you can contact me at alicegraves AT gmail DOT COM.

    • February 14, 2012 7:54 pm

      Great question Alice. I believe that every CC that provides FAFSA funding must submit that type of data to the Dept of Education in an IPED report. They have an extensive website where you should be able to find what you are looking for. I would be interested to see what you find on the site. I have piddled through it but not done any deep digging. My email is and you can find me on FB, Twitter and LinkedIn too!

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