As the systems librarian, I handle – wait for it – the library’s systems. And these systems all interface with each other in some capacity. But of course, never quite seamlessly or fully. And I have a rather decent grasp of how they all work together. Maybe not every single piece of code, but I know how and what each system shares with the other systems.
However, all these systems and the myriad of ways they talk (or don’t) to each other proves confusing to most people. Hell, it was confusing to me at the first get-go – and I came in with at least some knowledge of the monster I was dealing with. People without a library or technical background (or both) find themselves mystified about our systems, what they do, how they work, how they function alongside our other systems, how they might work for constituents outside the library, etc. And when faced with a room of library technical staff who all use differing jargon (but somehow we all understand each other), a lot of people get at best a little unsure – at worst, frustrated that we keep jabbering and they plain don’t get it and our jabbering doesn’t seem to help.
I understand completely and anticipate the variety of negative reactions people have to technical services chatter. It’s why when most people try to get me to talk about work, I try to be as vague and nondescript as possible. Launching into a tirade about discovery layers, Solr indexes, batch uploads, and a litany of other things…just doesn’t make good conversation. (Ah, yes, the trouble with technical services.)
However – even though I try to avoid talking about the stuff to spare other people the pain of trying to decipher what I’m saying – I love talking about technical services.
Recently, one of my colleagues in the Art department asked me to explain all the moving parts of our systems to her. I cannot describe how thrilled I was. I drew charts on the board, explaining what each piece did and how it interacted with the others. And I really hope I made sense. I loved describing my systems to a lay person. I got to challenge my own understanding of my systems when I talk about them to a lay person who wants to understand and therefore asks questions.
So, if you want to know about library technical services, set aside a good few hours and let we tech services librarians (try to) demystify parts of our job.
So, again, the trouble with technical services is that it’s hard to communicate about tech services. But I like to try.