Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Former Librarian #7

This week we welcome our first international Former Librarian to the blog.  Jacob describes himself as being a librarian in his current role without people knowing that he is a librarian which I rather like. 

Name: Jacob Ratliff (@Gameronomist)

Current role: Information Architect / User Experience Specialist at a Non-Profit. Former role: Archivist/Taxonomy Librarian at a Non-Profit. Previously worked on institutional repositories in academic libraries.

What led you to move on from libraries?  The main reason I moved on from academia was the politics. The majority of librarians I worked with were not worried about the patrons or the work, they just wanted to be recognized for how smart they were (and even though I had an MLIS, I did not have a "librarian" title, so I was not worthy of their time). Working in a Special Library was much better. Having a much clearer ROI really drove the work to be justified and useful, and people in the organization truly valued the work. The problem I have overall is that too many think of the library as something insular and separate from the rest of the information and knowledge that exists in the world. Sure, libraries have been around for a long time, but there has been an apocalyptic shift in information and knowledge. The best example I can give is MARC (because I did a decent amount of cataloging). MARC has wonderful depth and complexity, and is a cataloger's and metadata nerd's dream...but it's entirely insular. They only exist in the world of libraries, and most people do not know they exist or the great information in them. The interoperability of them is abysmal. That information needs to be accessible in a much wider way. I think that is a similar metaphor for libraries in general. There needs to be integration and interoperability of not just libraries and the resources they have, but of the librarians, information professionals, and the connections and skills that they have. And it needs to happen 20 years ago.

What do you do in your current role? I work on the corporate intranet for a non-profit, as well as doing metadata and information management work. Essentially, I am a systems librarian, but I need to organize the business and technical information of a large non-profit so that the information can be reused and learned from. Except none of the information exists in a standardized state (like a book or a journal article), and the systems need to be built from the ground up (workflows and people systems too, not just technology systems).

What library skills do you use in your current role? Standardization, metadata, archiving, organization, information seeking behavior, knowledge management, taxonomy, reference...just about all of it. Being able to tell people that I am a librarian, but not working in a library and not having "librarian" in my title earns me a lot more respect.

Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position?  Definitely. I would not have the position without them. I am essentially a corporate systems librarian without people knowing that I am a librarian. Being specialized in "information" gets me a lot more respect than being a "librarian." Librarian is still too associated with books.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Technical skills. The lack of technology classes in my MLIS program put me behind, and I had to spend quite a bit of time learning HTML, CSS, and XML while on the job. To truly keep moving forward in what I want, I really need to learn more programming and technical skills related to APIs, JavaScript, etc. Having basic programming in my MLIS (even as part of a larger project) would have prepared me much more for what I ended up doing. I wish I had also gotten a lot more data work, including things like SQL. In addition, I wish there had been more about data and statistical analysis. The MLIS as a whole seemed pretty fluffy. It could have kept all of that content, but made it faster and added a lot more content to learn; it is a Master's Degree after all. (Do not get me wrong, I learned a lot of great stuff in my MLIS, but there were a lot of classes that were very repetitive or lacking in a lot of rigor, and that is what I think could have been optimized.)

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? I was a member of SLA for a number of years, but have recently deactivated my membership because it is trying to be too many things to too many different audiences; there is not enough depth in the areas I want to learn more about. I am looking more at the IA Institute, AIIM, and some local UX organizations.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I have ideas, but no definite plans. I am planning on learning more on the coding front and more about data science to pursue "Master Data Management" or "Data Architecture" kinds of positions. I have most of the skills, I just need to learn more about data and specific programming languages. The other idea is to do more related to Enterprise Content and Document Management. So many fun things to do! (Which were not even talked about during 99% of my time getting my MLIS.)

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I am also a big fan of video games, and wrote a book about video games, information, and library science. The limited way that LIS and academia have been working with video games is surprising, because of the vast amounts of information they convey. There is a real opportunity for LIS to step forward and be a driving force related to video games and information (because the field is rich and wide open), but it is not being pursued.

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