The Trouble with Technical Services

Rebecca at her desk
“Rebecca, having threatened to take a cellphone picture, at her desk” by Nada Sweid [2016].
Several months ago, I created this website in order to create an electronic resume and portfolio to aid me in professional development and career advancement.  Sure, the portfolio and the home page was fun enough to create – but the much more fun and engaging part of this site has been continuing to post on the blog.  The blog on this site is truly for me to post about whatever I want, so long as it relates to librarianship.  Librarianship encompasses so many things, that it’s rare that I have writer’s block.  But I’ve found that it’s very hard to write about my area.

LGBTQ services, outreach and marketing activities, privacy seminars, technology gaps, access for underserved populations, emotional labor, approachability (or lack thereof), radicalism – those are a lot of fun to write about.  You’ll probably see posts on these topics here at this site.

But acquisitions workflows? theory? policies?  Cataloging beyond slamming (rightfully) the LCSH?  That’s not nearly as glamorous, though it can be equally fascinating (I think).  And it’s much more difficult to write about.

So, the trouble with technical services is: it’s hard to communicate about what we do.

There are so many reasons for this.  One, tech services is very…technical.  I know so many acronyms and synonyms and technical terms and jargon and product names.  And my reference and instruction colleagues just don’t speak that language; they speak the language of the patron (as they should).  I find that I’m so integrated with acquisitions speak that I have trouble finding more layman’s terms for my work.  I’ll always say SFX rather than the Online Journals & Databases function, OPAC instead of catalog, CARLI instead of I-Share or the library consortium.  I’m speaking a whole different language sometimes.

Then, so often the software tech services people work with proprietary software.  I cannot legally go on my blog website and post screen captures of a lot of my work – because ProQuest owns Ex Libris Voyager and strongly discourages displaying their product without their permission.

And while most of the information I work with is public knowledge, and people are welcome to FOIA it, I feel like airing out institutional finances just isn’t appropriate. Unless I’m whistle-blowing, which I haven’t had a reason to yet.

Then, some of the stuff tech services people have to deal with…we don’t know how to explain these things to ourselves, let alone other people.  I love working with electronic resources…but they’re crazy.  They’re lovely when they work, and a nightmare (sometimes) when they don’t.  And I’ve never met someone who can coherently explain electronic resources.  The things are just so twisty: every single one seems different; the DRMs are important but then you have to coherently explain DRMs; what is SUPO or MUPO?; copyright makes all sorts of stuff crazy; pricing is out of this world.  Electronic resources just aren’t coherent enough to talk about.

Don’t get me wrong, tech services are awesome and I am so glad to work in this field.  But communication with the “outside world” is the trouble with tech services.



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