This class serves as your foundation for understanding and working with technology over the course of the MLIS and beyond. We’ll cover technologies specific to libraries and information professions, but we’ll also learn about some core concepts that should enable you to make sense of technology in general.

LIS classes often involve a push and pull between the theoretical and the hands-on, and this class is no exception! I want you to emerge from this class feeling confident about your ability to use, understand, analyze, evaluate, and critique new technologies. But because specific technologies come and go with such speed, it probably won’t best serve you to spend a lot of time mastering mouse-clicks in one interface or another. Instead, we’ll tend toward moving one level of abstraction from specific pieces of software, and toward the principles that govern that kind of technology in general.


Wherever possible, instead of leaving a reading for you in CCLE, I’ve provided a direct link to the file. This is because it benefits the author to cite usage statistics, and I want the author’s records to reflect accurately the number of their readers. You may need to be connected to the UCLA network, either directly or via proxy, in order to access these readings.

Class one: Intro & tech competencies

January 7-8

What’s this class about, and what should we expect from each other? Where did I come up with the specific topics on the syllabus? We’ll investigate various professional organizations’ lists of recommended tech competencies, decide if we’re missing anything important, and review current job ads for library and information professionals.

In-class activities

Tuesday class’s list of competencies

Wednesday class’s list of competencies

Class two: The library tech stack

January 14-15

Guest speaker: Stacey Knight-Davis, head of library technology services, Eastern Illinois University

What is a library…made of? That is, what kinds of technologies can you expect to find managing all of the different functions that a library serves? With the proviso that there are many kinds of libraries, and no universal tech stack, we’ll wade through the weeds of ILSs, ERMSs, link resolvers, discovery layers, and…whatever else there is, to try to figure out what does what.

  • Chapters one and two: Matthews, Joseph R, and Carson Block. Library Information Systems, 2nd Edition. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2019.
  • Breeding, Marshall. “ERM Strategies in Academic Libraries: Historical Evolution and Current Context.” Computers in Libraries 38, no. 3 (April 1, 2018): 17–21, https://librarytechnology.org/document/24077.
  • Knight-Davis, Stacey. “Academic Library Technology: Possible Elements and Ways to Combine Them,” 2019. https://works.bepress.com/stacey_knight-davis/79/.

In-class activities

Class three: Evaluating technology

January 21-22

Guest speakers: Kate Zwaard, director of digital strategy, Library of Congress, and Jaime Mears, senior innovation specialist, Library of Congress Labs

How do we know if a technology is a good fit for a particular use case? It’s a question not only of users, technical constraints, and affordances, but also of what we see as the purpose of the organization in question. In addition, we have to develop some kind of theory about why people do and don’t pick up on certain pieces of technology – and infrastructure studies can help with that!

In-class activities

Class four: Fundamental concepts in computing

January 28-29

Guest speaker: Shira Peltzman, digital archivist, UCLA

Computers have evolved enormously over the years, but three elements remain the fundamental concern of computing: processing, storage, and communication. We’ll talk about what this means and how you can use these concepts to understand a diverse array of technologies.

Class five: Standards, protocols, and accessibility

February 4-5

Guest lecture: Prof. Jean-François Blanchette

Librarians know better than anyone that standards are the key to interoperability. Without these frameworks, we wouldn’t be able to share information across platforms and devices. But where do these standards come from? Who comes up with them? As we will see, these standards and their associated technologies can have major effects on people’s lives, and they can be particularly troublesome for people with disabilities. So how can we incorporate a disability studies perspective into our discussion of technology?

  • Shapiro, C., & Varian, H. R. (1999). The art of standards wars. California management review, 41(2), 8-32.
  • Russell, Andrew L. “The internet that wasn’t.” IEEE Spectrum 50.8 (2013): 39-43, https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6565559.
  • Chapter 3: Matthews, Joseph R, and Carson Block. Library Information Systems, 2nd Edition. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2019.
  • Adams, Rachel, Benjamin Reiss, and David Serlin. “Disability.” In Keywords for Disability Studies, edited by Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss, and Serlin, David. New York, N.Y: NYU Press, 2019. https://keywords.nyupress.org/disability-studies/essay/disability/.
  • Mankoff, Jennifer, Gillian R. Hayes, and Devva Kasnitz. “Disability Studies as a Source of Critical Inquiry for the Field of Assistive Technology.” In Proceedings of the 12th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility – ASSETS ’10, 3. Orlando, Florida, USA: ACM Press, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1145/1878803.1878807.

In-class activities

Class six: Digital redlining, data privacy, and justice

February 11-12

Guest lecture: Dr. Erin Rose Glass, digital scholarship specialist, UC San Diego Library

Did you know I can see a record of every time you log in to CCLE? Ick. Don’t worry, I never do this, but it’s just an example of the kinds of data institutions regularly and quietly collect about users. As an information professional, how do you balance user-responsiveness with respect for patron privacy? And why does it matter?

In-class activities

Class seven: How the internet works

February 18-19

Guest speaker: Dr. Scout Calvert

The internet can seem sort of magical: enter a URL, and there you are. But how does it actually work? What do we need to know in order to analyze networked devices and foresee potential trends and problems?

Class eight: NO CLASS

February 25-26

Please use this time to work on your final projects.

Class nine: Machine learning and AI (in the library)

March 3-4

Class ten: Group presentations

March 10-11