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Meet Joan Kolarik, the Libraries' new manager of the Library Integrated Technology Systems team

November 16, 2022

In June, the Drexel University Libraries welcomed Joan Kolarik, the new Manager for Library Integrated Technology Systems (LITS), to the organization. Maggie Patterson, Marketing & Communications Assistant Co-op for the Libraries, recently sat down with Joan to learn more about the LITS department, how she plans to support and improve the Libraries’ technical infrastructure, and her view of the future of libraries. 
  

Q: Not many people outside the Libraries know about the Library Integrated Technology Systems Team. Tell us about it.

Internally within the Libraries, our team is known as LITS.  We are here to help (mostly) Library staff, but also clients, with their technical problems. There is a strong focus on hardware and system issues, but we also support the different software products the Libraries relies on to provide access to authoritative information resources and tools, such as our Library Management System; DragonSearch, our online discovery tool; Drexel’s digital repository, and the Springshare suite. It’s a broad mandate and we need to hire more staff so we can better support the Libraries and our clients’ needs.

Q: Tell me about your background. What brought you to Drexel?

It was not a straight path. My mother was a school librarian and I grew up in her library. My bachelor’s degree is in Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology. I attended library school in Israel and spent 15 years working in small corporate libraries. I may have seen the writing on those walls, and that’s why I moved into academic libraries. After five years in academia in Israel, I spent the next 10 years working—mostly for Ex Libris—in Chicago, Singapore, Israel, Boston, and New York before taking my previous job at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. 

You can call me a systems librarian, but that broad experience means that I know a bit about all the functions of a library—at least enough to discuss workflows and options coherently. And just to show how old I am, I remember when call numbers were written on book spines with a hot pen and transfer paper, handling book loan cards, card catalogs, The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature in print, using paper cards for journal issue receipt, interlibrary loan  orders via telex, and paper. So much paper.

My kids are all in New York, so I decided it was time to move closer to them. I was born and raised north of Philly and still have family in the area, so Drexel was an easy choice—especially since it offered a job that interests me. 

Q: Was working in a library your dream job, even as a kid?  

I helped my mother in her library from early elementary school, so I always knew libraries as a place that I enjoyed.  During my university years, I did one year abroad in Israel and got a job in the library there specifically because it felt like a piece of home.

 

Q: What is one goal you hope to accomplish in your role with the Drexel Libraries?

Better integration of technology and a less bumpy “road” in general would be great! In other words, improved services for both Libraries staff and our clients.

 

Q: So far, what excites you most about working for the Drexel Libraries?

I enjoy just about every aspect of library work, but in recent years, I see the most potential in research information systems and services like Lean Library, which helps improve access to library resources.  I have seen how these two very different solutions can help researchers and students at their point of need. And helping people is the best part of library work. 

 

Q: How is technology going to change the services that libraries provide over the next five to 10 years? How will it change the role of librarians?

While there are constantly interesting and exciting changes happening for libraries in the area of technology, the lightbulb has to want to change (and the budget has to support it). Much of the newest technology has not been fully adopted in many libraries and there are plenty of opportunities for improvement that are not being pursued for a myriad of reasons. 

That said, I believe that as traditional services are less in demand, libraries can either fade away or take bold moves into new areas, such as supporting research through research information systems and services. Librarians who can learn to use technology as part of their work will find more options open to them. For example, it’s great that some staff are expressing interest in learning to use analytics in Alma. Even simple reports can support new workflows and make processes easier. The more we understand, the more we can imagine such solutions.