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Systems Librarian

UKS Newsletter Jan 2013

Newsletter: Interview with Joe Kirsch

Give us brief information about yourself.
I am in the position of Senior Control Systems Librarian (from 2003 to date) at the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. I completed a National Diploma in Library and Information Services in 1998 and recently acquired certification in IT governance. I am certified in Information Technology Infra-structure Library (ITIL), and Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT). From a project management perspective I am certified in Projects IN Controlled Environments 2 (PRINCE2) Foundation. Having specialist knowledge in Integrated Library Management (ILM) systems and the Digital Content Delivery services and being involved in many migration projects to new Integrated Library Management (ILM) systems, has broadened my specialized knowledge and experiences. In-depth knowledge and understanding of application of library and information service principles, standards, best practices and procedures have been instilled over the years while being involved in all aspects of different library functions, from acquisitions, cataloguing to circulation and system administration. I am currently involved in consultancy as an external specialist at the Library of Parliament in Cape Town (Nov 2012 - Feb 2013) to assist the Library of Parliament in the purchase and implementation of Integrated Library Management (ILM) systems and Digital Content Delivery services.


How long have you been in the library industry and what are the lessons learnt in your journey?

I have been working in the library sector for over 16 years and as a Systems/Technical Librarian for more than a decade. One of the important lessons learnt is to never act on assumptions, before verifying the facts.


What do you think makes a good librarian?

A Librarian should have a good general knowledge and a logical approach to information seeking, as well as people skills (communication and interpersonal). A love for reading is essential.


What do you think is the Shape of the 21st Century Library?

I foresee that the age of internet, internet kiosks, Wi-Fi, mobile phone, RFID, information portals, e-books, web OPAC, Digital Content Delivery services, etc., will re-shape the library’s services. Libraries need to be aware of the new challenges and one can only hope that the libraries and Librarians will step up to the challenge. Librarians need to update and re-evaluated their Libraries’ current services and create new ways to best serve library users.


Do you think SA libraries are getting any closer to this shape?

Libraries in South Africa have always been a few years behind the UK and USA libraries. It will take many years of dedication and commitment from this profession to achieve international standards in library services. SA libraries can learn a lot from progressive libraries in the rest of the world. However, South African libraries have the potential and should make use of the financial resources that are made available by the Carnegie and Bill Gates Foundation. In my experience, many SA Librarians are very reserved when it comes to ICT. From my personal observations I found Librarians to have a tendency not to share the information they possess or feel threatened by suggestions or different points of view by outsiders for some unclear reason. Only through sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences can Systems/Technical Librarians solve their ICT challenges and really start making a change. SA Systems/ Technical Librarians desperately need to create a Knowledge Sharing Culture. In 2012 I emailed over 80 Systems/ Technical Librarians in South Africa to attend a workshop (even had LIASA online send an email to all its members) but this endeavour failed dismally with only 3 responses, perhaps not just because of the absence of interest but rather due to the fact of passiveness. ICT developments and advances will continue and if we continue to look the other way it will be to our own detriment see


What are your likes/hobbies/sport?

Chess, Website design, Systems Librarianship, Integrated Library Management (ILM) systems, SEO (for Google Rankings), creating blogs, forums, etc., basically everything ICT related (listed in no particular order). I also enjoy reading up on new technologies that are successfully implemented or available for libraries. When I have time I consolidate and publish articles on my website:


Are there anymore words of wisdom that you would like to share?

Libraries and technology cannot be separated, for this reason it should be important that Librarians are open to change as the only constant with ICT is change. It is also true that most courses in ICT are useless within 5 years in today’s high-tech environment. I'm not sure that university education can make a Systems/Technical Librarian, but I do believe the practical environment can instil good habits (analytical and critical thinking). Technology challenges System/Technical Librarians to be perpetual learners and adapting, particularly with the Internet and ICT being at the forefront of today's society and such an integral part of what we do. I am of the view that in this profession a person should always strive to keep abreast of new and evolving technology trends within the ICT industry. Only through knowledge can you empower yourself to give guidance on best practice and ensure the future of our Libraries. I am of the opinion that all Librarians in SA should be a member of LIASA, to increase their influence in advocating in the interest of our profession.




Date: 26 January 2013

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