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The convergence of information science and tech comm

Until I started working at Scriptorium, my educational and work background was in information and library science.

I have worked at the circulation and reference desks in academic libraries at both the community college and four-year university level. Over the last few months, amazingly enough, so much of what I’ve learned from past work experience works hand in hand with tech comm.

People ask me what information science is, and I usually respond jokingly with “computer science without the math.”  However, it is obviously much more than that.  It covers web design, database design and management, information security, information search and retrieval, and the list goes on.

books come out of laptopLibrary science is also an extremely broad field that ranges from cataloging books to collection development to reference and instruction services.  Today’s libraries are at the cutting edge of technology, believe it or not.  They work with web 2.0 tools, social media, and the latest gadgets.

There are many different types of libraries, but the major types are academic, public, school library media centers, and corporate.

The biggest misconception of what a librarian does can be summed up in this statement:

You mean you have to have a master’s to check out books and shush people???

Now how do these disciplines work with tech comm?  Well, basically, tech comm is the flip side of the information life cycle from information and library science.  Technical communicators create the containers of information, whether it is a PDF, HTML, e-book, or some other form of electronic content.

Librarians and information professionals are responsible for searching and retrieving content from the resource that technical communicators create.  They have to search knowledge bases, navigate websites, and access databases.

Something to think about: Not everyone has the level of technology expertise that we do.  That is why it is important to structure content in a way that makes it simple and easy to understand, and navigate.  This makes our lives as a middleman easier and helps the end users gain access to top quality information. [Ed. Note: Did you know that a middleman was originally a “maker of girdles”?]

You’d be surprised at how many people don’t automatically know how to search to get the answers they actually need.  Understandable really, because Google is full of junky websites trying to outrank each other.

I still have my toes in the library world moonlighting as a reference librarian for NCKnows, a statewide chat based reference service.  As I get deeper into the tech comm industry in my day job, the questions I answer from NCKnows serve as a constant reminder to create content that is intuitive and easy to use.