Beyond the Job Title: User Experience and Emerging Technology Librarian

A library tech job interview with Kelly Karst

A woman sitting with a laptop on top of a browser window, looking at a job application for User Experience and Emerging Technology Librarian

Core to LibTech Insights‘s mission is demystifying the broad and dynamic field of tech librarianship in higher ed. To that end, we’re launching a new series where we interview a librarian every month to learn a little more about their position. As library tech jobs proliferate, they sometimes come with unfamiliar, jargony, or intimidating titles. We want to go beyond the title and look at the responsibilities, skills, and joys that make up the job. We hope this series will increase your knowledge of library tech jobs and skills out there and offer you greater insight into the working lives of your colleagues.

For our first installment, we spoke to Kelly Karst at CUNY Brooklyn College to learn more about her job as a User Experience and Emerging Technology Librarian. 💫

Can you give us the basics of your position? Where do you work, what is your title, and what are some of your primary responsibilities? 

I work at the CUNY Brooklyn College Library as the User Experience and Emerging Technology Librarian. Some of my primary responsibilities: 

  • Reference services (in-person, online, chat, email) 
  • Instruction sessions (in-person and online) 
  • Maintaining and creating new content across our LibGuides and LibAnswers platforms  
  • Seeking out and implementing best practices to enhance our user experience both within our digital presence and through in-person handouts and services.  
  • Staying informed about emerging technologies for academic libraries and higher education and reporting on relevant tools to Library staff 
  • Subject bibliographer and Liaison to the History and Film Departments 
  • Participate in Brooklyn College and CUNY-wide committees and task forces.   

Can you describe your career trajectory leading up to this position? Did you need any specialized training for this role?

I was at just the right age when the internet became widely available to the public and flexed my nerdy preteen and teen arms to understand how to make the most out of platforms such as ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, Geocities, and eventually Myspace, among other sites and platforms. This laid the foundation for a basic understanding of interacting with technology. After college, I worked in many positions at a PK–12 international school and soon became a point person for explaining how to use adopted EdTech for both the classroom and administrative purposes. Doing an online MLIS through San José State University further exposed me to what was out there in the world of technology, which has continued to serve me in my role as an Academic Librarian. 

I did not receive specialized training per se. I did the coursework for an MLIS, but much was learned on the go either via scheduled in-person, one-time workshops, tutorials, and webinars or just trying things out!  

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What are some misconceptions other librarians might have about your job?

Before my current role, I imagined Emerging Technology Librarians as being in the thick of things in terms of virtual reality, 3D printing, and being experts in coding and navigating complicated tools like statistical and graphic design software. Although this can be true for this role, in my case it is more about being in tune with the basics of relevant technology and trying to make improvements within limited budgets and through easy-to-use interfaces that our students, faculty, and staff can understand.  

What do you do for professional development to keep up with emerging technologies?

I stay up to date with what’s available through various higher education news outlets, ALA and ACRL forums, conferences, and webinars. Whenever I see or hear mention of something that might work for our community, I make sure to save it somewhere, such as private LibGuide, to try out later. When I can, I like to try out various tools to compare them and determine their usability and if they are worth making the case to invest funds into.

On a more personal research level, I am currently interested in the ethical concerns of using AI for research in Libraries and the implications of what may be the next phase of the digital divide due to the current lack of institutional licenses of AI products and the increase in freemium and subscription-based AI tools.  

What do you enjoy most about this position?

This is my first role as a Faculty Librarian, and although I do much of the same work as when I was classified as staff, I now have the flexibility to delve into my professional development and research. It has opened doors to collaborate on research topics with colleagues and pursue publishing within the field on topics including Emerging Technology. My current role has also made it possible to pursue a second Master’s Degree in Digital Humanities. I’m looking forward to learning even more about tools to enhance our collective digital experience!  

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