April 23, 2018

Sarah Houghton-Jan | Movers & Shakers 2009 – Trendspotters

Sarah Houghton-Jan, San Jose Public Library, CA Librarian in Black

“I always wear black,” says Sarah Houghton-Jan (aka The Librarian in Black). “Yes, always.” While Houghton-Jan describes herself as “100 percent goth on the inside,” her mission is anything but dark: to make librarians comfortable with technology and able to use it effectively, regardless of time and budget constraints.

As an Infopeople instructor and frequent conference presenter, Houghton-Jan hopes people gain practical tips “to make their lives better and help their libraries offer better customer service.” These tips make technology accessible and doable; Char Booth, 2008 Mover and e-learning librarian at UC-Berkeley, notes that Houghton-Jan makes “the complicated comprehensible” and wants people to “feel confident as much as to be competent.”

As a technology librarian, Houghton-Jan wants libraries of any size to implement technology wisely and maximize resources. David Lee King, 2008 Mover and digital branch and services manager, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, KS, says she “encourages smaller libraries to do new techie things,” helping them plan and do it “for free or little cost.” To Houghton-Jan, free Web 2.0 tools mean that libraries are “foolish” to ignore free and open source options. “Libraries are poor—let’s stop spending like we’re wealthy,” she says. This commitment to open source parallels her commitment to librarianship; she sees more libraries moving to open source “technologies and communities that exactly match the philosophy of our own profession.”

Since late 2003, Houghton-Jan’s blog has covered technology, reference, and web services, gathering resources and ideas useful to any size library. Meredith Farkas, 2006 Mover and head of instructional initiatives, Norwich University, Northfield, VT, follows over 200 blogs but still “finds new resources in Sarah’s posts that I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere else.” Houghton-Jan’s reputation for honesty means she pulls no punches criticizing products and services. “Making a choice to never say anything negative is lying by omission,” she believes.

Her constant watch on trends pays off annually as Houghton-Jan serves on LITA’s Top Technology Trends committee, looking at cutting-edge publications to see “what people are buzzing about” and how that affects libraries. As ideas rush in, she lets them “spin around in my head, waiting for connections to be made.” Houghton-Jan fosters similar connections in everything she does, enabling librarians to serve their users and communities better.


POSITION Digital Futures Manager

DEGREE MSLIS, University of Illinois–Urbana, 2002

BLOG Librarian in Black, LibrarianInBlack.net