By Dianna MacLeod
for Sno-Isle Libraries
When customers come into any Sno-Isle Libraries building with a question involving technology, chances are good that a librarian like Anne Murphy will be able to answer it in a heartbeat.
How do I download an eBook? How do I print from a Web page? How do I set up an account to apply for a job online? Sometimes the questions are more complex—specific to the design of a website, say, or the performance of a browser—and a librarian must track down the answer.
“Technology doesn’t always cooperate, but we make every effort to outsmart it and get the job done!,” she said.
It was the need to address quickly changing technology and widening gaps in digital literacy that prompted Sno-Isle Libraries to create the position of Lead Librarian for Public Computing. Murphy is the first to fill it.
“Sno-Isle’s strategy includes building literate communities, and we believe ‘literacy’ for today’s citizens requires knowledge of information and communications technologies,” said Terry Beck, Sno-Isle’s information services manager. “That’s why we created this system-wide lead librarian position.”
It’s Murphy’s job to make sure all of Sno-Isle’s 21 community libraries have the hardware and software that customers need to use on site, and that all librarians are prepared to help customers—just as she helps at her home-base library in Oak Harbor.
Although technology can seem impersonal, Murphy’s warmth and patience bring a human touch to the experience as people learn to use library computers, take a computer class, or download library resources onto their mobile devices.
“It’s important to me that people leave the library with answers to their questions or having successfully accomplished what they came in to do,” she said.
Murphy invites customers to drop in or call ahead to arrange for advice and training. “Book-a-Librarian” sessions are available in all of the libraries.
“There are people who visit the library who are not technology users, or who have minimal experience, and we are always happy to help in any way we can,” she said. “The number one thing people want to know is how to download books from the library collection.”
Electronic options for reading, listening and more
The library’s electronic offerings are extensive. OverDrive is the most popular service with over 42,000 eBooks and 16,000 eAudiobooks from which to choose. More books are available from the 3M Cloud Library. Access to magazines is provided through Zinio and to music through Freegal.
“The service I’ve been using a lot lately is hoopla, which offers streaming movies, music, and audiobooks,” Murphy said. “The exciting thing about hoopla is you don’t have to wait in line for popular items. I’ve been impressed with their music collection and have been able to listen to new releases on the day they come out, as well as find some great older music.”
Murphy is also tasked with developing and maintaining an extensive knowledge of the information resources that are available through the library.
While Internet searches yield enormous amounts of information, it doesn’t always come from credible sources. In contrast, Sno-Isle Libraries provides access to a wide variety of reputable research materials.
Training resources are available, too. Sno-Isle’s most recent offering is customer access to Lynda.com.
“It contains professional quality video tutorials on all kinds of topics including software, Web design and social media,” Murphy said. “There are tutorials for beginners, or for people looking for advanced instruction. And it’s all free—as long as you have a Sno-Isle library card.”
Navigating a changing environment
Murphy began her library career behind the circulation desk at the Oak Harbor Library in 2000 and went on to earn her Master of Library Science from the University of Washington in 2003. She was hired as the teen services librarian in 2007 and remains responsible for teen programming and outreach to Oak Harbor schools. When the position to lead public computing was created, she saw it as an opportunity to move up into a challenging job with broader responsibilities.
“When eBooks really took off, it became clear that Sno-Isle needed someone to help staff navigate the quickly changing environment,” she said. But although Murphy may be the navigator, she’s quick to praise the technological sophistication and competence of library staff in all community libraries, along with an information technology department that works behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.
As much as Murphy enjoys working with customers, she also likes the more technical aspects of her job: ensuring that the computers in each branch meet the needs of that particular community and educating librarians about new technology adopted system-wide. Her job as in-house technology expert keeps her fully occupied—and always learning in order to stay ahead of the curve.
“There may be something new and exciting right around the corner, and I’ll be watching for it,” she said. “My goal, first and last, is to help both Sno-Isle customers and staff maximize the benefits of whatever is coming our way.”