As a child, me and my sister played a wide variety of games such as teddy hospital, hiking up the stairs with dressing-gown-string ropes and generally running around outside falling into ponds and other large bodies of water. When we got a PC in the mid-90s it wasn’t even that interesting. We had Paint (saving all our art onto floppy discs of course) and we also had Encarta ’95. The main game we could find with Encarta was making slideshows, as this was as close to Paint we could get. As you can see, we were utterly thrilling children. Our fave was to repeatedly make slideshows about Australia because we found this video about kangaroos in which a hirsute Australian man told us very sincerely about kangaroo nipples and teats (obviously hilarious). All in all, this was my main period of IT development until I went to high school and discovered Myspace and pictures of boy bands.*
And so despite these humble beginnings, I have managed to become reasonably competent. It’s just as well, as IT skills are omnipresent on job postings and pretty much a vital part of working in a library. It hasn’t been pretty though, and I am still not sure what skills I need and what I have no chance of ever understanding. Having gone from studying Medieval Literature and poncing around with pretentious books in my hand, many an afternoon has since been spent with me dramatically shaking my fist and screaming ‘why’ at my copy of the Riverside Chaucer. (Sorry Geoffrey)
All this blubbering on leads me to my top IT tips (as if you would ever take the advice of someone who would make the above nippular confession on the internet. Bonus tip – do not do this.)
Know Your Basics
In this day and age, it can be reasonably assumed we all know the basics of Word, email etc. It is surprising however, how secretly utterly shit you can be.
During this job, I have learnt so many little tips about using programmes I assumed I was great at. For example, you know that little button that says delete? IT DELETES THINGS! I seriously did not know this. In my defence, I used my amazing intellectual prowess to deduce that it does delete – but I never knew that it deletes to the right rather than the left. This is a whole other world of deleting that has opened up to me, just think of the possibilities! Even worse, I learned this when I was helping my mother set up her email and she was merrily deleting things left, right and centre.
If I were ever in a position to actually pass on IT advice (ha), my main point would be that there is a guide or video tutorial on how to do anything. Sure, the people in these videos might be wearing double denim or talking r e a l l y s l o w l y but it is generally better to ask the internet your questions rather than the people you work with. This isn’t really a skill in itself however, and I think it is really important for people to know when they need to look up how to do things, where to find this information and how to teach themselves. As an amazing example of this, I googled how to make a gif and stick in WordPress – hence the utter beauty below.
In my ongoing attempt to be one of those awful smug people who sit at the front of lectures with their hand up, I have formulated my ideal IT skillset to aim for. I am working really hard to learn code, in-between all that important sitting down I have clogging up my schedule. Social media is also really great, as just by using Twitter you can probably use a reasonable amount of skills without realizing. I think through Twitter I have learnt a bit about Prezi and other useful websites, how to shorten URLs and edit images, and how other librarians are using new innovations in their own jobs.
Don’t be a snob
Please, please, please don’t be tech snob – like the mooing hoards of cattle who decry e-books because they take away that “book smell” and they just love real books so much goddammit. Imagine toasting your bread on a bonfire in your living room because you like that smoky taste or bathing in a pond because you can’t beat the feel of real newts in your knickers. Oh please. Technology isn’t the end of life as we know it! Rather it means there are so many new and exciting ways to help people in libraries get the information they want and surely that can only be good. Unless they are twits in Google Glasses…
What I am trying to say is that coming into the library profession can be knee knockingly terrifying. Suddenly people are talking about all sorts of data and hyperlinks and synchronizing and servers – and it just feels like I will never truly gets to grips with any of it, teetering close to my IT Crowd namesake.
And yet this terror is annoyingly like a roller-coaster cliché. It’s scary and it’s fun and it takes you through unexpected twists and turns. With a little bit of enthusiasm and a lot of googling, I think we’ll be alright.
*For any potential colleagues out there – as an adult I choose my video clips using more stringent criteria (although I do enjoy the DDS shelfmark of books written by a Michael Poole.)