A Portrait of a Middling Technocrat as a Young Man

by Robert Drake

I recently reached my 10th year in the library industry.   To honor that occasion, I looked over my journal – I keep a quasi-daily archive of quips, comments, and sundry marginalia – to see if past me had anything fun to say…

March 9th, 2009
I have taken the mid hudson library system job.  […] It'll be my own cosmodemonic telegraph company.

November 19th, 2011
I think I was made a manager today.  This is good?

November 7th, 2012
I never honestly expected to go to something like NYLA.  I’m apparently scheduled to have dinner and then go to some cocktails nonsense later.  

May 27th, 2014
I'm halfway through my first day as Technology Operations Manager.  Just polished up my Director’s Association report.  The number of emails flying at me is tyrannical.

October 10th, 2016
Supposedly have an interview for the nassau job.  I'm so completely skeptical and disquieted by it in general.  I think there’s a White Castle near there.  Never been.  

February 13th, 2017
Started at NLS.  Had White Castle for the first time.  It’s not very good.

March 18th, 2017
Jeremy of NYLA has asked me to write a column for their newsletter.  Doesn’t he already owe me a beer?  Maybe now it’s a better beer.

November 15th, 2018
Morning meeting was successful enough.  I did a lot of talking mostly about my usual bugaboos - share more, weed more, buy better.  I was not too caustic…?  I was too caustic.  Sorry.

Hmm.  Well.  That’s not very interesting at all.

It’s been a good enough run through and so, in an effort to give myself a little more to work with ten years from now, I’ve decided to live-column my work tomorrow.  Here goes nothing:

8:05am.  We’ve had a long-standing ILS bug involving mis-categorized self-check statistics.  It’s mostly fixed following a system upgrade, but we now have the follow up work – rejiggering past wonky statistics, confirming there aren’t any straggler self-checks, standardizing the naming scheme for the various SIP licenses, and then whipping up some tableau formulas so we can merge and unmerge the self-check statistics from the overall library charts going forward.

Starting to schedule a floating collections kickoff meeting for a project commencing in September.  The calendaring software is giving me fits (who does the IT around here, anyway?  Oh…)

Project three – asking staff to follow up with our Managed Service Provider to open up some firewall ports.  Easily resolved, right…?

Ah, but the Mobile App isn’t working.  Checked with vendor.  Looks like it’s related to the ILS.  Easily resolved, right…?

I’ll check later.  Turns out there’s a building renovation project that’s leaving the facility with fewer networking jacks than when they started.  Do their computers have wireless cards?  Where are the wireless access points going?  Do they have new ones?  

My research is interrupted by a phone notification that the Supreme Court has ruled on the census question.  One of the more convoluted court opinions – hardly decisive – not so much a ruling as the judicial version of “you’re standing in the wrong line.”  

I should probably look into this further, but there’s a library in California that was sued
– or something – over their use of Gale Analytics.  I love advertising but hate marketing – a long-standing bias only tangentially germane to the concerns of this particular article.  I do note with some satisfaction however that I helped write a new privacy policy for the system last year.  I’m skimming it again now…

How is the app still not working?  What is the vendor actually doing over there?  I have a list of contacts in my phone arranged inversely by how useful I think they are.  Let’s work our way up.

While I wait for them to respond I assemble version 1.0 of a presentation I’m supposed to give next month.  1.0 means I don’t bother looking at the what I’m actually supposed to cover.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get to that later – right now I’m more concerned with making sure I’ve got slides vague enough that I can talk about whatever seems to be pertinent later.  One powerpoint to rule them all and in the florescence bind them.

The app is fixed!  Pretty sure it’s a colleague who actually got through to the vendor…

My euphoria means there’s no chance of working further on the presentation.  Personally, I can only prepare for those sorts of things in a state of wild-eyed exasperation.  Anything less, and I start adding too many words.  

It’s a few days yet, but there’s a board meeting on the horizon so I should review the packet.  Most of it is financials, but it’s still like 60 pages long.  I put on The Prodigy (RIP Keith Flint) – that’ll triple my skimming speed.

Are those firewall ports still not open?  Didn’t we send that in days ago and then remind them again this morning?  I swear I could implement my own national census in half the time it takes those…

I go back to work on the presentation.

Back to being calm so I’m copying my board and department report templates.  I’ll fill in details tomorrow.  Do I have anything that requires a nice big screenshot?  I’ll figure it out later.  

Almost end of day.  Hungry, but definitely not going to White Castle – I learned that lesson two and a half years ago.  

And now I’m home.  Just one last thing to do.  Toss this into that NYLA article and come up with a snappy ending…  

Happy summer everyone,


Robert Drake is the Assistant Director for Technology Operations at the Nassau Library System.  He knows who blabbed about taco shack’s secret menu.  The views and positions here expressed are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of NLS, Robert Drake himself, or probably anyone...