Pathfinder Hadi Amjadi: Library Systems Problem Solver!

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

If you need help with the Library's computer systems, our go-to expert is librarian Hadi Amjadi of the Technical Services department!  Hadi is San José Public Library's System/Cataloging Librarian there.

Growing up in Tehran, Iran, Hadi went across the globe to go to college in Hawaii, where his major was in computer science.  He has had computer positions in a hospital, an information systems company, and at the Blue Cube, which required security clearance.  He moved to San José after his wife received a position at Santa Clara University.

Hadi tells me,

"For several years I was quite active in the Computer Special Interest section of AALL, the American Association of Law Libraries along with the Northern California chapter. I served on their executive boards and coordinated several educational programs."

Hadi earned a Master of Library and Information Science at San José State University.  He found a position as a Systems Librarian in Berkeley, but disliked the long commute.  In the interim, he found a position in computer support, but soon found that he missed his work as a librarian.  He once again found a position as a librarian at Golden Gate University.

Hadi enjoyed the reference desk work while at Golden Gate University.  If you need information, either directional, technical, or research-oriented, the best place to start is at the Library's Reference Desk.  Hadi continued working in Reference when he joined San José Public Library.

The Library Services Platform (LSP) that Hadi manages for the Library is called Sierra.

What is Sierra?

LSPs like Sierra have largely replaced the Integrated Library Systems (ILS.)

ILS primarily managed print collections, like the old card catalogs of yesteryear.  LSPs handle the workflows of an integrated system of print and digital collections.  Sierra is an LSP.  As technology grows, so do system requirements.

As an example, before the Pandemic, high schools used Learning Management Systems (LMS) that did not involve a component that allowed the turning in of assignments.  When the Pandemic hit, this feature was needed.  As a result, in the spring of 2020, school children were turning in assignments on multiple platforms, which added to the confusion and anxiety everyone was experiencing.  For the 2020-2021 school year, many school districts changed LMS software so that assignments could all be turned in to the same LMS.

Much like the LMS example, libraries needed LSPs that could include their digital collections.  During the Pandemic, the use of digital collections multiplied!

How does Sierra help you?  According to Innovative, which owns Sierra,

"Sierra facilitates the connections libraries have with the communities they serve. Whether it be finance applications, learning management systems, or any community the library exists within, Sierra is open and can connect."

So when you use our catalog, Sierra is behind the scenes to ensure that your library experience is fruitful.  Hadi tells me,

"Sierra is the biggest public service the library offers."

Different modules allow for acquisitions, cataloging, and serials (periodical tracking.)  According to Hadi, "Sierra also has components which allow us to keep track of what we have spent for the collection, as well as what are the most popular titles by collecting checkout and usage statistics."

Hadi is responsible for ensuring that Sierra works for you!

What Does Hadi Do?

According to Hadi his role is to:

  • "Upload the MARC records to the library system and ensure that they are accurate and have no errors.  MARC records stands for Machine Readable Cataloging record."
  • "I work closely with the publishers and vendors to troubleshoot problems and loading errors."
  • "I also work closely with department staff to handle any Sierra related issues that they experience.  This may involve working directly with the Information Technology Department staff to resolve problems."
  • Hadi mentions that some of his duties also involve the production of statistical lists, as done by his colleague Tim Collins.  He has produced "lists of the most popular magazines, usage statistics for materials in various languages"
  • Hadi is often called to test the capabilities of Sierra.  He attends the Sierra Management Group meeting with Sierra representatives each month to ensure that the Library can "provide more capabilities to our patrons," which is the most important goal!
  • Aside from his core work, Hadi is also a selector for the Library's Computer Science material and he is a member of the eResources team.

Hadi tells me about how he finds the solutions to Sierra problems,

"I troubleshoot the issue by researching on the vendor (Innovative site) for possible causes and solutions. If none is found I then open a call ticket with the vendor to report this problem. I keep the staff informed on the progress of resolving their problem on the system.  I may also post a question on the users group listserv to get help from colleagues at other libraries. These problems have involved issues such as label printing, file transfers and record display issues."

As a member of the Technical Services Department, Hadi provides much needed support.

How Hadi Provides Support in the Technical Services Department

Hadi was excited about learning a new skill, cataloging.  He tells me that he finds his co-workers to be amazing individuals!

He tells me about his supervisor, 

"Sharon Fung is an excellent team leader, she is supportive of her staff and handles problems quickly.  She makes it easy to want to contribute and give more to the department."

He says that the following individuals are an immense help to him, "Fabian Garcia, Austin Carrell, Celine Lee and Tim Collins."  On Systems related projects he is very grateful for the support from Florence Wong and Jennifer Luayon. He has also received great support from Tim Reif when dealing with BiblioCommons issues.

Here are the ways that he supports the Technical Services Department:

  • Every system needs upgrades, and Sierra is no exception.  Hadi ensures that there are no interruptions in service by reviewing changes to determine any impacts on service.
  • He acts as a trainer by providing instruction to staff, to keep them informed about the new capabilities.
  • Hadi says, "I test out fixes that are applied on the new version to see if the problems I have reported to Innovative have indeed been corrected on the new version"
  • Hadi is involved with all projects that deal with Sierra.  For example, he was involved in a location code project that more specifically informs customers of where materials are located.  In this project, in addition to showing which library houses an item, the record now also shows where the item is by collection.  For instance, a citizenship item may be housed in the Family Learning Center at Hillview and in the Citizenship collection at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
  • In relation to MARC records, Hadi says, "I have worked with Sierra vendors and colleagues in my field on ways to facilitate loading of MARC records by changing a few load tables since I started working here. That process has led to easier loading of MARC records for media resources."
  • He aids in guiding "Technical Services staff to find answers to Sierra questions."
  • He maintains his continuing education by attending "the annual conference each year developed by the users of the Sierra system also known as Innovative Users Group (IUG) to keep abreast of the developments on the Sierra ILS."

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below!