After graduate school, a lot of my classmates waited around for jobs because they were determined to break into the field of academic librarianship. Their whole goal was to become research librarians at a major institution somewhere in the United States or abroad. I, on the other hand, was newly married and wanted to get as much experience under my belt as possible in a short amount of time.
In the fine tradition of young folks who say “go big or go home,” I answered an advertisement for IT supervisor at a seven-branch, three-county library system in mid-Missouri. I figured I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in heck of getting a callback, but at the time I was shooting out resumes to any organization for any position for which I was even remotely qualified.
Somehow, I got the call for an interview, but I still figured I was a longshot at best. I went into the interview and, in addition to questions about librarianship, there were questions about managing IT across multiple sites using different types of software programs. What does every person say who is looking to start a career? I smiled and said, “sure, I can do that!”
Meanwhile I was making a mental note of all the things I needed to research when I got back to my home base (this was pre-smartphone days). Unbelievably, as I was tying up loose graduate school ends one day, I took a phonecall that would change my life: “Would you like the IT supervisor job?” My eyes got about as wide as Barney Fife, and I knew I had talked myself in deep, maybe over my head.
On the first day, I walked in, and did my best to begin evaluating the IT situation in the library system. Speaking gently, it wasn’t the greatest. I followed effectively the methodologies outlined in my book Crash Course in Technology Planning to triage the IT, and then begin repairing what needed to be fixed in a logical order, all the while mapping where I had been and where the library system needed to go. I only worked for that particular library system for four years, and of course you never get everything accomplished that you intend to accomplish. But, I did make significant progress towards putting them back on the right track in terms of Information Technology.
The other secret is that I was able to research and teach myself virtually everything that I needed to know. From physical networking, to repairing desktops, to maintaining Cisco ASA firewalls, everything was learned via research, both online and offline. Of course, the real thought that I want to leave you with today is that, if I can do it, so can you. Don’t be afraid of technology. You can do this, even with little or no formal training, and I for one am here to help you with that goal, having gone through it myself.