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Our inaugural Info Pro-file: Robin Hastings, part 1

Ever wonder what the next information professional is up to, what trends they're following, technologies they're using, how they're keeping up with the latest "shiny new thing" to grace our industry?

We sure do. We're kicking off a new series we're dubbing "Info Pro-file." We'll be interviewing special librarians, knowledge workers, IT managers, and other information professionals in e-mail Q&As or podcasts. We're posting our conversations here on our blog, uncut and unedited, so you can get a true slice of each info pro's life -- both professionally and personally.

Our first "victim" is Robin Hastings, IT Manager of the Missouri River Regional Library, blogger for A Passion for 'Puters, Web 2.0 aficionado, and mother of one. Janelle did an e-mail Q&A with her last week, the first installment of which is posted below. They had a lot to talk about, so we broke it up into two parts. The second half will appear here later in the week.

By the way, if you're interested in being featured here, feel free to contact Kate Ritchie at

Now that our ducks are in a row, let's dive in!
JK: Introduce us to Robin Hastings. Tell us about who you are and what you do.

RH: My vital stats: I'm 35 and the mother of one just barely teenaged son.

What I do all day -- besides the mom-taxi and laundry/chef services -- is work at the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, Missouri. I'm the Information Technology Manager there, and that means that I make sure that all the bits are flowing throughout the library and that folks know what to do with those bits.

I manage both the network and the computer training for the library. I am also the webmaster of the library's various websites. All that keeps me from getting into *too* much trouble at work.

Outside of work, I am busy on a couple of upcoming writing projects; I'm contributing a chapter to a book on Mashups in the Library, writing a Technology Report for ALA on the use of Web 2.0 tools for collaboration, and getting ready to start on a book about microblogging (Twitter) and lifestreaming (FriendFeed) applications in the library.

I also have been going all around the world this year, presenting some of these ideas to folks from England to Jamaica (that one was fun!) to California, Chicago, and right here in Missouri. All that keeps me out of trouble. For the most part.

JK: What interested you in library science? Tell us your story.

RH: Actually, since I'm not a professional librarian (no MLS degree), what got me interested in libraries and library science was the fact that I took a job -- 10 years ago in December -- at the library at which I still work as the webmaster, computer trainer, and assistant to the Information Technology Manager.

Since so much of what I do in computer-land is library related, that has made me naturally interested in what kinds of applications there are for all of this cool computer technology in libraries.

JK: How has your job changed over the years, and is the pace getting faster?

RH: Besides moving up to a position of more responsibility and supervisory duties -- on top of everything else -- my job duties haven't changed much. I am doing more networking "stuff" these days, but I love working on the web and conducting the libraries training, so I've taken that with me as I've moved up the ladder here.

I now have an assistant of my own who is in charge of keeping the nuts and bolts of the computers running in the library so that I don't have to, something that my predecessor had to do as part of his job duties.

As for the pace getting faster -- yes, certainly. New ideas and new technologies are being introduced, new projects are being started and new directions in computing are being opened up all the time -- and part of my job is staying on top of those new things and determining what we can support with our limited resources.

JK: You also have a blog, A Passion for 'Puters. What do you like to write about, and why?

RH: The blog started out as a web design blog. I spent the first couple of years just talking about web stuff, since that was the main part of my job and what I did for fun after work, too (yes, I'm a nerd).

It's now grown with my duties in my job to be much more inclusive of all the technologies that I use -- from web design techniques to social networking tips to training ideas. The "tagline" of the blog is "the intersection of libraries and technology" and that is pretty much an accurate statement of what I discuss. Not just libraries and not just technology, but where they meet and how they interact.

JK: How long have you had your blog?

RH: The blog has been in existence for about 6 years, but there was a horrible server incident in the summer of '06 and everything from before June of '06 is lost to the sands of time and the cache of Google. I rescued some of it, but most is just gone.

JK: One interesting point you made in your Internet Librarian recaps posts was "the bar/restaurant/hallway conversations were among the most useful parts of the conference." What are some things you learned or discovered from these conversations?

RH: A lot of what I learned came from discussions over a beer or cider (I'm not a big beer drinker, but I do like a glass of cider every now and then!) about all manner of library/techy topics.

I had discussions on the impact of running our entire library's email system through Google Apps for Domains, something I just completed in August of this year, and the privacy/security concerns around that.

I talked with other attendees about the use of social networks at other libraries and learned how they are improving their services and their reach with those networks -- and hopefully gave other folks some ideas when I discussed how we handle those issues, too.

Mostly, though, I made some friends who are smart, innovative, and willing to let me email/message them with questions and ideas. I met folks who will be a sounding board for my ideas and a source of new ideas as they go back to their libraries and start implementing their new projects!

JK: What other Web 2.0 technologies are you using, and what do you use them for?

RH: Personally, I have an account with just about every Web 2.0 technology/site/service out there. The ones I use regularly, however, are Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, and Delicious. My library is fairly well represented in the Web 2.0 world, too. We have accounts with all the services above, plus MySpace, YouTube, and others.

JK: What trends, news, and technologies are you following right now?

RH: Web 3.0 -- the "semantic web" -- as well as collaborative platforms, innovative uses of the Web 2.0 tech and tools that we already have, and information overload remedies. My Google Alerts are all on the Web 2.0/Web 3.0/social networking topics, but I read blogs voraciously to keep up with pretty much any new ideas and tools that are coming out.

JK: Why do you think it's important for information professionals to watch these things?

RH: Well, the information overload tips and tricks come in handy when you are faced with the deluge of information about Web 2.0 that is out there, so that is just self-preservation. The rest of the topics are vital because our patrons are using these tools, and they are going to need our help in both navigating these spaces safely and in understanding how to use them effectively.

If you ignore the new developments in these areas, you are ignoring what your patrons are doing, and you are in danger of becoming obsolete and irrelevant to the people who need your help to understand this new wave of information. Part of professionalism is, in my opinion, the willingness to continue learning and growing in your field.
On that note, we'll pause our Q&A with Robin, and pick it up later this week. Check back to find out what Robin thinks of the trend towards social libraries, whether she sees a day when libraries are completely digital, what literature you can find on her bedside table, and more.

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