Day in the life of an IT librarian

[One of my goals for 2012 is to update here on average weekly. We'll see how that goes, but I think I've finally sorted out some of my practical issues to make it easier.]

First: I am all confirmed (payment and all) for the Library Technology Conference in St. Paul, MN March 14th-15th. (I am combining a week’s trip to see people in Minnesota with this conference – which is an awesome fit for my new job – plus a chance to see various Minnesota friends, and the chance to be at something I helped found the following weekend.)

Registration’s closed (they hit their cap: part of why I liked it when I went in 2009 was that I do much better in a conference of 500 people than one of thousands.) But if you’re going to be there, I’d love to meet both people I know and people I don’t know yet.

On to the meat of the post: I thought it might amuse people to have a day in the life. Or rather, two.

Yesterday (aka Thursday, the 12th) 

Wake up at 5:20 when the text on my phone says that we have a snow day. (Rural campus: they’re considered a fact of life. 6-12 inches of snow predicted, with some bonus freezing damp on both ends of the storm.) We got about 6″, but there was quite a lot more both north and south of us, apparently, because we were in a weird no-snow V in the middle of the storm when it stalled over the state.

Snow days continue to be awesome when you’re an adult. As long as you don’t have to go out in them. (And for the first year in 6, I don’t have to do my own snow shovelling, so I’m enjoying it even more.)

Which brings us to this:

I  did not get any of the things done at work on Thursday that I’d planned to. And classes start again on Tuesday. And since what I was working on this week was imaging and updating pretty much every public or general use computer in the library. (Lab of 20 upstairs, 13 downstairs, plus various other machines), there’s a certain amount of urgency: this stuff gets harder to do when there are people actively trying to use the computers.

The individual stations (the reference work station, the instructor station in the lab, the front access services computers, etc.) I do manually: they’re taking about an hour a piece right now. One of our project rooms took me about 4 hours, because I took the opportunity to run various utilities to see if I can convince it to boot faster (so far, results are promising, but it took forever to run.)

But the two large groups of machines (the upstairs classroom lab, and the public machines downstairs), I do by ghosting. For the non-techie, that means I update one of them, copy that set-up (‘image’) to a server, and then push it back to all the other computers in that space.

There are days I think manually updating them would be faster. (Except that there’s a lot more chance to introduce errors that way.) Tuesday went smoothly enough, once we got the laptop talking to the wired network again.

But Friday:

6am: I get up, and do the morning puttering.

7:15: I go out and clean ice off my car. (I am becoming a fervent believer in the remote starter. Maine gets a lot of ‘just about freezing’ weather, which means that if you park a warmish car and it snows or rains, it freezes in sheets all over the car. The remote starter lets me start the car before I’m ready to go scrape, so there’s a chance of getting the ice *off* again.)

7:30: Drive to work. Remind our Access Services folks know I’m going to be imaging. Boot the staff laptop (used for this process, because our versions of the software won’t run on Win7, which my work laptop runs.) Do the ordinary morning things like check email to make sure nothing is critically broken, etc.

8ish: go down and boot the computer I’m pulling the image from. Upload it. (This takes about an hour)

9ish: go down and boot all the other computers to receive the image. This part goes smoothly, though I have the same “Why am I using floppy disks?” moment I did in August. (The pub machines are our oldest ones, and have both floppy drives and a DVD drive: for various reasons, the version of the necessary software is on floppies.)

Start the image push.

9:45: glance at the laptop next to me (while I’m working on some other stuff on my own laptop) and go “Um. Why is that not more done?” In fact it’s giving me 24+ hour completion times. (The timing is often off to start, but usually improves eventually.)

Consult with my boss (who previously did this part of the job). Consult with my main contact in ITS. Get a “Yeah, it’s doing that for me: try bringing the laptop to the same area as the computers you’re imaging.”

Bring the laptop downstairs to one of our project zones, swipe that room’s wired connection, try again. Slightly better times (12ish, this time). But still, you know, not useful. Decide to let it run for a bit, in case some fluke speeds it up. (One of our staff needs that laptop for orientation on Monday, so I can’t just let it run, because it needs one setting changed to be useable for orientation.)

11ish to 2ish: do other useful stuff. (Namely, set up the basis of the website for the big project: much of which is fine, and one bit of which I need admin intervention on the site on, I think. It’s not awesome yet, but it has good bones and after it’s gelled a little more in my brain, I have more ideas for next week.)

2pm: Still no luck. I shut everything down, we go to plan Q at this point (having run through B, C, D… earlier in the week), and plan to do them on Tuesday. (When if it has to run overnight, I can do that.)

I then go off and update one of the other computers manually, so at least I feel like I got something done. But really. It was one of those days of “Ok. What’s the next thing to try?”

4pm: Go home, glad to have a 3 day weekend, so I can catch up on a few other projects.

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Information Technology Librarian at the University of Maine at Farmington, the small liberal arts college model campus in the University of Maine system.

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