Q&A with Daniel Mills, Technology Integration Librarian
November 20, 2023
After working as a Software Librarian at the Lehigh University Libraries in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for over five years, Dan Mills relocated to the Philadelphia area to take a position as the Drexel University Libraries’ Technology Integration Librarian. We recently sat down with Dan to ask how he’s settling in and to understand what exactly a technology integration does to support Drexel Dragons and the mission of the Drexel Libraries.
Q: Your title is “Technology Integration Librarian.” What is it that you actually do here?
I work as system administrator for all the [Libraries’ patron-facing] software and system. I provide support for systems like DragonSearch (also known by the product name, Primo) and Springshare (the system used for subject guides and FAQs), but not Microsoft.
Part of my job is to integrate systems—to make them “talk” to each other and to ensure they exchange the right information in the right way, which all leads to faster workflows for staff and a better experience for clients. For example, I’m working to make Google “talk” to the Drexel Research Discovery portal so the research and information in the portal will appear in Google search results.
Q: Tell me about a few of the projects you are working on right now.
When I first arrived at Drexel [in June], I immediately joined the Libraries’ SSO Project Team and started working to implement Shibboleth, a single sign-on (SSO) authentication system that allows clients to log in to library resources via Drexel Connect using their Drexel user ID and password. The goal of that project is to enable more avenues for clients to access Drexel licensed resources.
Similarly, I am now moving on to a discoverability project. I just set up the Libraries’ Google Analytics account and a Google Search Console for many of our discovery websites. With the Google Search Console, I am telling Google to index our websites, especially faculty and student research included in the Drexel Research Discovery portal and the Drexel History Collection. That means I’m making sure that when someone searches Google for Drexel research output or archival materials, they find the Drexel Libraries' websites.
Q: What goals or projects do you hope to achieve in 2024?
In my last job, I was working on a project to refresh the library’s [resource guides]. A subject librarian was working on standardizing content guidelines, while I worked on a new CSS template: new layout, colors, and aesthetic to ensure a consistent look and feel across all of the guides. I'd love to be a part of a similar project here at the Drexel Libraries, particularly looking at our subject guides, FAQs, and the Database A-Z list.
Q: Looking to the future, what are some of the emerging technologies that librarians should look out for?
It's hard to ignore the allure of AI (artificial intelligence). At the ExLibris Northeast User Group conference last month, the company revealed a prototype for an AI-powered search engine. Imagine if you could search DragonSearch by typing a full sentence instead of just keywords. You could ask, "What were the causes of the French Revolution?" and—instead of just a list of books and articles—it will give you a short, five-sentence summary and a bibliography of articles in our collection that [the AI-powered search engine] used to arrive at the answer. Of course, we need to make sure clients are clicking through to the full-text and doing additional research on their own to form their own ideas, so something like this isn’t without its challenges.
[I predict] SAML-based systems, like Shibboleth, will only become more important with time. Many systems professionals—both those working in libraries and in other fields—have long been waiting the death of IP-based authentication. SAML-based authentication systems, overall, are more secure and are easier to maintain on the backend.
Q: By now I’m sure you know how these interviews end: what is your favorite book and what are you currently reading?
I often say Candide is my favorite book. [The character] Pangloss's "sufficient reason" never fails to make me chuckle. However, Kurt Vonnegut maybe my favorite author. I've read a few of his novels and Slaughterhouse Five is the best. It’s a great example of [Vonnegut’s] style: funny and sad at the same time.
I commute to work on the train, so lately I’ve been reading short stories by Eudora Welty, a southern writer. I’ve also found that Terry Pratchett's cheeky fantasy world is great if you want to have some fun dreams, so I always have a Discworld novel on my nightstand to read before bed.