Magazine article Computers in Libraries

A Day in the Life of a LAN Administrator

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

A Day in the Life of a LAN Administrator

Article excerpt

Of all the the individuals working in a library, systems librarians who double as local area network administrators may be the least understood in terms of what their jobs entail. All of us can call up a mental picture of what the generic reference or catalog librarian does in terms of a job assignment.

The same cannot be said when we try to conceive of what a local area network administrator does. There may be several reasons for this lack of awareness. Among them are:

* We have taken no courses that introduce us to local area networking and the demands it may make on an organization.

* We may not have known anyone who has worked as a local area network administrator.

* The opportunities for interaction with the local area network administrator in our library may be limited.

The result of this lack of awareness or understanding may be a reluctance to integrate the local area network administrator completely into the affairs of the library. If this occurs, the consequence will be a library unable to capitalize fully on the benefits of local area networking.

Although we have spent many hours in the dose company of network administrators, there is a continuing sense of amazement in the diversity of activities in which these people are involved. It is common for library staff to expect the network administrator to leap tall buildings at a single bound and to stop locomotives from jumping the tracks.

The reality is quite another matter. Typically, the network administrator leads a harried existence while being pulled in many directions. The inadequate number of staff in most libraries assigned to the task of supporting all library automation, and especially local area networking, means that even the most well-intentioned network administrator faces an uphill struggle. As dependent as an organization can become on a local area network, inadequate staffing may set the stage for network accidents.

Diversity and Complexity

To demonstrate the diversity and complexity of the network administrator's role, we have selected two days separated by two months as representative for the purposes of this article. It has been said that the most effective network administrators have the capacity to deal with ambiguity, a constantly changing landscape of problems, and are quick studies when acquiring new knowledge in the midst of continuing change and crises.

The diary from these two days supports this contention. The activities of these two days group themselves into the following broad categories:

* software acquisition

* hardware acquisition

* software installation

* hardware installation

* software maintenance/fix

* hardware maintenance/fix

* CD-ROM networking

* consulting with other library

staff

* consulting with computer

vendors

* consulting with other institutional

computing personnel

* consulting with institutional

purchasing

* configuring software

* configuring equipment

* windows customization/setup

* training library staff

* miscellaneous personnel

These categories are not exhaustive but they are representative of the wide range of activities that any network administrator must be prepared to handle.

How much time was our network administrator able to devote to the tasks on our representative days? The first day we sampled, there were eleven tasks that ranged from thirty minutes in length to two and one-quarter hours long. The tasks were scattered across seven different library departments.

The second day there were thirteen tasks that consumed from fifteen minutes to two and one-half hours. These efforts were spread through nine separate library departments. Often the work on one project was interrupted by the emergency needs of another. …

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