Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Former Librarian #17

This week we welcome another international participant to the blog, although her work as a librarian was based in the UK.  She inhabits a hinterland between being a librarian and a former librarian as although her work is clearly not that of a librarian but involves supporting information professionals by working as a Content Analysis at a company which specialises in information provision and software solutions.

Name: “anonymous”

Current role: Content Analyst at an information provision/ software solutions company

 Former role: Librarian at a UK university library

What led you to move on from libraries? Even though I studied librarianship, I always knew that I didn’t really want to work in a ‘traditional’ library role. My first few jobs post-graduation were in television and news libraries, which suited me well, but was very niche. I took a job at a university library to get some more ‘traditional’ experience for my resume, but really didn’t enjoy the pace and the general environment of academic libraries. I felt that there was a lot of emphasis on trying to justify our existence and I also got discouraged by the slowness of change and lack of progress. In 2006 I emigrated to the US with my husband and started looking for work here. I discovered that to work in most libraries, State Certification was required, which called for a Masters-level degree. So my options in the library world were a little limited. But I found the company that I presently work for, who were at the time still a start-up, and who were hiring extensively. That company provided software solutions for libraries and almost all of its personnel were qualified librarians. My first role with the company was in customer support, and from there I moved into Content Operations, where I have worked for 8 years in various roles. Even though I am not actually working in a library any more, I am still working with and for libraries.

What do you do in your current role? I work for a library resource discovery product which is used mainly, although by no means exclusively, in the academic sector. Our product is a unified index, which allows librarians and library-users to search in one place for all resources available to them - their library catalog, institutional repositories, subscription databases, Open Access journals and so on - and connect them to the source of the full text of those items. My current role involves working with content publishers/aggregators/providers to ingest and maintain their content in our index. I establish delivery protocols, I review metadata for completeness and for usability, I figure out how we can make sure that clients get search results that mirror their library’s subscriptions, I ensure that we have a way to take the user out of our product and to the full text of any items they are interested in from their search results. I assess platform migrations for their impact on data feeds to us, I troubleshoot metadata issues and I am a general point of contact for many of our partner organizations.

What library skills do you use in your current role? The kinds of library skills I use now are mainly around different metadata formats and standards - I work with XML in a multitude of standards, but also with text files, MARC records, HTML, and standards such as dublin core, particularly relating to metadata acquired via OAI-PMH. I also need to know how librarians and library patrons work, what they need from our products, as well as knowing the market in which they select and purchase resources. I spend a lot of time advocating for librarians, either for the content that will be most useful for them and their users, or for enhancements that I know will make their jobs easier.

 Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, when I was first hired almost everyone in the company, from developers to sales to customer support, came from a library background. It’s considered essential that we understand who our customers are, and how we can best serve them.

What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? Most of the skills I have acquired have still been related to the library profession, because we are so closely aligned with that profession. So I have learned more about the library software market, the way librarians use products like ours, and definitely a lot more about the ever-growing world of electronic resources for which librarians have to budget, and the tools that allow them to make those choices. I’ve also learned a lot about the information providers who supply content to libraries and that general market (in fact, the software company I worked for originally is now owned by a large company that provides research products). I’ve also gained a lot of technical experience, from harvesting content to creating robots to acquire content and create metadata, and from understanding various metadata formats and standards. I’ve also learned some coding skills, writing XQuery to transform and normalize incoming metadata into a product-specific format and schema.

Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? Currently I do not.

Do you have any future plans/aspirations? There’s still a lot that I can learn from the organization I am with, and plenty of room for change and growth. If I were to consider a change outside this organization, I would definitely be interested in working for a publisher or content provider, which I think would fit nicely with the skills I have acquired here. Unfortunately, those kinds of opportunities aren’t viable for me geographically at present. Locally, there are many tech companies who have opportunities for taxonomists or people with data and content experience, so those might be fun to investigate at some stage too.

Anything else that you’d like to tell us? I don’t think so!

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