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For Librarians, by Librarians - Emerald shares Award Winning Advice

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Article Sections

  1. About the awards
  2. David Walker: Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology
  3. Emily Drabinski: Publication of the Year Award
  4. Jason Dewland and Cindy Elliott: Emerald Research Grant Award

LITA/Library Hi-Tech award for Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology – David Walker

Image: David WalkerEmerald Group Publishing and the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) sponsor the award, which recognizes outstanding individuals or institutions for their long-term contributions in the area of Library and Information Science technology and its application.

David Walker was chosen as the 2015 winner of this award in recognition of his dedication and commitment to developing the open source library portal application Xerxes over the past decade.

My experience and my day to day role at present

I've worked in the field of librarianship for over 13 years.  Much of that time has been focused on developing and deploying open source applications, most significantly Xerxes. 

I oversee library technology services that are used across all 23 campuses at California State University (CSU).  We are currently embarking on a massive project to migrate all CSU libraries to a shared library services platform.

My work on the open source library portal application Xerxes

In 2004 I built an application to improve  the user interface to Metalib (the federated search system developed and sold by Ex Libris) as we wanted more control over the end-user interface and to add further features and functionality. 

It was adopted by several institutions worldwide and we still use it today.  Like most academic libraries, we've replaced our older federated search system with a new generation library discovery system but we continue to use Xerxes as the interface due to the control it gives us over what the end-user sees – we can change the back-end search engine and the end-user experience remains the same.

Xerxes lets us easily explore the integration of library resources with other campus systems, especially learning management systems. Xerxes helps academic libraries to better promote and provide access to library materials, which cannot be easily done by library systems vendors.

Winning this award and how it will impact my work

It's a great honour to even be nominated for this award, let alone win it!  Many of the previous recipients have been pioneers and important thought leaders in the field of library technology, so to be included among that group is quite humbling.

A positive change I've made recently that I'd recommend to others

I think it's important to always promote your work and to make as much of it available to others as possible.  In library technology, especially, people need to make more of their work open source so others can benefit from it – even if your programming code isn't as elegant as you might like. 

Getting your ideas and name out there will make you part of the conversation. And that will ultimately connect you to people and projects that will help advance your career.

Three tips I'd give to someone starting out in librarianship

  1. For a career in library technology, I recommend beefing up your programming skills – either through formal course work or learning on your own.  Whether you work with open source applications or commercial library systems, there is a huge need for custom programming.  It's easier than ever for a systems librarian or library technologist to come up with a useful script or a complete application that can positively impact the library.

  2. Try to contribute to an open source project – working with more experienced programmers and developers will help improve your own programming skills.  Even if you aren't interested in programming, there's a big need for improving documentation or contributing to these projects in other ways.

  3. Participate in LITA and groups like Code4Lib, which can connect you to like-minded people, as much as possible. The more you can get your head up and see what others are doing and the current trends affecting libraries, the more inspiration you can take from others for your own work.

If you have something to say about digital technology, Library Hi Tech could be publishing your views.

The journal features articles which explore new tools for managing and giving access to information, innovative ways of understanding interactions with users in both digital and hybrid environments, and unconventional approaches to library and information environments.

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