William (Bill) Helling and his son John both graduated with SLIS degrees. Both are successful in their careers, and we thought it would be fun to do SLIS News stories featuring some aspects of their jobs. In email interviews, they both responded to questions. Bill Helling (MIS'98) was one of the first Master of Information Science graduates at SLIS. His answers are below. John Helling's profile can be found at Hot Jobs! Associate Director for Systemwide Services.
from William P. Helling, Assistant Director,
Crawfordsville District Public Library, Crawfordsville, Indiana
I was the first systems librarian for the Crawfordsville District Public Library when I started there in 1998, and I was responsible for the automation of the library, the digitization of local history/genealogy resources, as well as giving the library a web presence. I still serve as systems librarian and webmaster — but have also added some additional roles. Besides becoming the library's assistant director, I became the head of the Reference and Local History departments, when they joined to become one department.
As a recipient of the MIS when the degree was still new and untested, I have thrived in a field that depends more and more upon technology. No one has allowed me yet "to slice up a pig in the stacks, or sponsor a demolition derby car" (see John Helling in the Johnson County, Kansas Library system), but I know I can support technologically any effort like these that my library wants to make!
One of the favorite aspects of my combined responsibilities is that I get to use my MIS skills in order help the Reference/Local History Department provide better services. Because my position as the head of Reference/Local History can be time consuming, I am actively training some other staff members to help me with library systems and web-page design. Not coincidentally, I have taught these topics as an adjunct instructor at IUB and IUPUI for more than ten years, and I am always able to bring real-world experience into the classroom.
One of my most interesting recent projects involved creating another database for our Local History collection. We actually had a database of our items that were not catalogued. My task was to extract the Local History MARC records from our main library database, parse them so that I could match their fields with our existing Local History database containing the uncatalogued items, and then combine the two seamlessly into one database. Now our staff and patrons can, in one place, discover all that we own in Local History, and we can better keep track of every item and its location. It doesn't matter what you own if it isn't easily findable.
I would never recommend that students pursue a path of technology unless they are ready to make a commitment to life-long learning, to trying new things, and to embracing constant change. The commitment is the important thing. I have discovered that it really takes only a little bit of effort here and there to stand out from the average librarian and to prosper where others may flounder. So make that choice and be prepared to enjoy a rewarding career.
Posted October 02, 2012