This is an interview with Max Macias, an independent librarian, author, and editor, done by Naomi House of INALJ. This is part of INALJ’s 2020 series on non-library jobs for library workers.
On Trainer Developer, Intranet Specialist & IT Specialist Work :
an Interview with Max Macias
Q1: Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand what exactly various types of IT work involve and how LIS folk can get into this type of work, both inside and outside libraries. First could you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got your MLIS (or your educational background) and what you do currently?
I am a first generation college student. I earned my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon. I worked in libraries from 1987-2009 before getting my MLS from Emporia State University. I was part of Emporia State University’s EDI project. In 2010, my new degree allowed me to get a job in the IT department as an IT trainer at the school I had been working in for 10 years. I have now been in that IT department for almost 10 years! My job is the intersection between people and technology and I love it. Would I love to be a librarian–sure–but libraries are too strict when it comes to anti-oppression work–and I am an anti-racist. I have not been able to get a job in libraries since my graduation as a result of my activism. IT has not treated me similarly. I find that extremely odd…
Q2: Now can you tell us how you got into doing this type of work?
I always liked training people in the library software I have used in the past and when this job came up–it paid much more and allowed me access to technology I had not had before. The job opened up and I applied and was able to get it. The work is challenging and really gratifying because I get to help people daily–and sometimes those people are the most neglected populations at the school where I work.
Q3: What makes this a great fit for LIS workers to aspire to and likewise, what do you think makes LIS workers strong candidates for hiring managers looking to fill IT positions?
LIS workers who have technology skills will most likely have people skills as well. These two skills combined–are pretty rare in the IT world. The IT world tends to be full of technology people who love technology, but are not the best with people. Work on training projects at the library and get training experience. Work on website projects to gain experience working on websites. People and technology skills together are something that can make LIS workers shine when it comes to getting a job in IT.
Q4: What is the best way to get your foot in the door?
Talk to people in IT. Apply. Volunteer–I spent a good stint volunteering for REFORMA Technology Committee. This gave me experience I could put on my resume concerning technology. I was able to maintain the web site, run a voting campaign and also host the first REFORMA virtual conference. Use your Information skills—Information Science isn’t that much a jump from Library Science. Documentation, archiving and keeping clean resources are vital to any IT organization. LIS professionals have these skills and can use them to improve an IT organization. Let IT organizations know about your documentation skills. I would look for a job at a college or university. You may not get paid quite as much as private industry, but your job will, generally be more stable.
Q5: Finally what are some of the most important skills / certifications / etc that LIS folk can do to prepare them? Any last tips?
Get to know people in your IT department. Take computer information systems courses. Practice public speaking, get good at creating handouts, take pedagogy courses and talk to people. Find someone in IT who can mentor you, who can give you tips and leads. Use your research skills to repackage information for IT consumption.
Interestingly, working in IT has given me far more freedom to work on EDI issues and anti-racism in library organizations and libraries in general. I don’t have a library director telling me what I can or can’t say, etc… I keep my foot in the library door and contribute, but I now can contribute without the fear of being censored or fired. That is worth so much!