Mallory Austin

Welcome to The Library IT Crowd – a new column brought to you by the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA). We want to showcase some of the great librarians and library workers who are currently working with technology, get to know them, and share their experiences! We hope we are able to inspire you, and shed some light onto what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers!

Mallory Austin

Mallory Austin

Your name: Mallory Austin
Your title: Library Technologies Specialist
Where do you work: Middlesex County Library

Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?

One thing I love about my role is that as technology becomes more ubiquitous, my role changes and grows. I administer the integrated library system software and the website. I watch out for tech trends and submit equipment proposals. I help people make their Overdrive app do their bidding. I draft training materials and make presentations. I have a hand in program planning- particularly when it comes to makerspace activities. And I pay our Internet bills.

Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?

I didn’t realize how much work it is to implement and manage a new integrated library system. We’ve been live for a couple months and I’m still hard at work resolving issues, reporting bugs to our vendor and often just staring at my computer screen in abject bewilderment.

Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?

What got me interested in libraries: During my undergraduate years, I was the summer student worker in a local cemetery. There was this old converted garden shed full of burial records and obituaries dating back as far as the 1800s. I got really into piecing together stories and helping visitors find genealogical information. One day, my sister, who’s a librarian, said: “You know, Mal, that sounds like what I do…”

What got me interested in technology: I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid. For a while I wanted to be a professional game designer, so I took a course at Fanshawe College in 3D Animation. Knowing the principles of 3D design and printing have proven quite useful in makerspaces.

What projects over the past year are you most proud of?

Well, I created a digital archive of stories at www.almacollege.wordpress.com, and it’s since had over 7000 hits. I graduated in September with my MLIS from Western University, started this job, and immediately dove headfirst into managing a library system migration. The new system is up and running and nothing has exploded. So I feel like that can be classified as a success.

Have you had a project that has failed miserably in the past year? If so, tell us about it!

I’ve been trying, to no avail, to set up our system to accept online donations and fine payments. It works one day, and the next it mysteriously doesn’t. For the life of me, I haven’t been able to explain how or why this is happening.

What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?

We are working on rolling out Chromebooks and iPads for patrons to use in some of our branches. I’m currently ordering hardware and developing a loan policy.

If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project at your library?

A digital design studio complete with CINTIQ tablets, motion capture equipment and high end workstations. I picture it with low light and pulsating techno music in the background…

How do front-line staff at your library keep up to date with new technologies and library services?

Honestly, nothing works without staff buy-in. I’m lucky to work with a team of open-minded, resilient and adaptable people. They eagerly participate in training and workshops, pass along updates on the latest trends and field patron suggestions to me. But perhaps most importantly, they’re patient when things go wrong. They’re determined to rise to the occasion, and that’s a big deal.

How do you keep up with library technology changes and trends?

I subscribe to listservs and belong to useful groups on Facebook like “Makerspaces and the Participatory Library”. I network with colleagues in the “library world,” but also with friends outside of it. For example, I chat about tech with IT professionals, makers, artists and game developers. And I’m open to finding inspiration anywhere.

Do you feel as though your library services are valued by your community?

Absolutely. I love that quote from Humans of New York that “the library isn’t going to compete with the internet. It’s going to be part of the internet.”

Whenever I hear the argument that libraries will be rendered obsolete in the digital age, I ask that person saying so to sit in a library for a couple hours, observe their surroundings and then get back to me. It’s clear that we’re busy. And that’s not even counting the substantial number of patrons who access the library virtually.

Sarah Macintyre has been working in libraries for over 5 years, and has been at St. Thomas Public Library for half that time. In her position, Systems and Support Services Librarian, she has overseen many new digital initiatives, including the launch of the Creators’ Community services. She can be reached at smacintyre [at] stthomaspubliclibrary.ca.