Based in Lancaster, California, Kimberly M. Thomas is a systems librarian. She has experience in many aspects of libraries, including circulation, technical services, systems, reference, collection development, and archives.

What is a Systems Librarian?

Photo by HbrH/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by HbrH/iStock / Getty Images

When I say I am a librarian, most people picture me reading books and shushing people. This is not what librarians do at all. In fact, I am a systems librarian, and most of what I do involves managing technology. I maintain the Integrated Library System (ILS) which we use for pretty much everything from acquisitions to cataloging to check-in and check-out. Additionally, I manage the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), which is what you, the end user, are familiar with, as this is the interface you search when you want to find library materials such as books or ebooks to check out. You know those gates you walk through that occasionally sound an alarm when you walk through them because your book erroneously wasn’t desensitized? Those are also under my purview. The Systems Librarian’s job is pretty much to manage all of the library’s technology.

My library is switching to a new system, a Library Services Platform (LSP). For the foreseeable future, the bulk of my duties, or at least the highest priority, involves the transition from the current ILS to the LSP. The new system is more modern, more user friendly, and should be a huge step into the future for our library. The technology is a very important and oft-overlooked part of a library. We are not in card catalog days anymore, and the library couldn’t run without the ILS /LSP.

For my particular position, I also do reference and collection development (choosing materials to purchase and discard within my subject areas). Some systems librarians focus entirely on library technology. I feel fortunate in that I get to expand my horizons a bit, because I find reference service particularly rewarding. Helping a student find a needed book or article for a paper and teaching them how to do it for themselves in the future is very rewarding. I particularly appreciate student feedback in this area.

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