Keeping on keeping on

December 18th, 2006

Even though I said I’d aim for weekly updates, there’s not much to say about my research at the moment.

I’m still scheduling synchronous interviews, and waiting for a few email interviewees to get back to me. I don’t want to say too much about what I’m learning in case I affect the interviews to come. So what I thought I’d do now is interview myself. It seems only fair that I let participants find out more about me, since I’m asking them about their background and skills.

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background? For example, what are your educational qualifications? What is your current position, and what types of positions have you held in the past? How would you describe your technical skills? Other skills?

I have a B.Sc. in chemistry and mathematics, and an M.L.S., both from the University of Alberta. I got interested in library work in the mid-1970s when I saw Dialog for the first time, and thought how exciting it was to be able to search multiple years of Chemical Abstracts in a single step. One of my early summer jobs involved going through every volume of Chem Abs looking for everything that had been written about methylmercury. It seemed to take months, and was very slow — so the idea that you could use a terminal connected to a remote computer to speed this up was something I appreciated. I applied to library school and was accepted. I felt very out of place at first, because I was the only one in the class without actual library experience, but I survived.

I’ve already written about my first library job (see: Choosing a research topic for more about it). Learning to be a SPIRES programmer for the library led me to my next job, working as a Programmer/Analyst III in the SPIRES group. I did that for a couple of years, and then moved on to become a project analyst with UTLAS in Toronto. I remember writing a specification for an online catalogue that people thought was very exciting. By today’s standards it was boring and unimaginative.

In 1986 I moved to New Zealand to work as a systems analyst at the National Library, and moved through the ranks to become the Applications Manager. Access to source code was important there, too, because the NZBN bibliographic utility and union catalogue was based on a modified version of the WLN software. In 1990 I started teaching part-time in the New Zealand Library Studies Certificate programme, and I took up my present position of Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington at the beginning of 1997. In addition to teaching in the MLIS programme, I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information Management.

The best word to describe my technical skills is ‘rusty’. I tend to be a power user of whatever software I use regularly (although WordPress is currently an exception). I’m still able to troubleshoot and can generally find solutions or workarounds. I know basic HTML and CSS, and can understand simple PHP scripts. I try to keep up with new developments such as Ajax, OpenURL, etc., but am generally more of an observer than a developer.

In many ways I’m either an early adopter, or have been lucky enough to have been exposed to technologies before they are in general use. I used the device-independent TEXTFORM software to produce my M.L.S. thesis in 1978. TEXTFORM used document markup in combination with layouts to format text for different devices. This gave me an early introduction to the power of markup languages. In many ways I still prefer markup over WYSIWYG for word processing.

Coming next: Projects I’m involved with (at least in a peripheral way)

Entry Filed under: Research


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