http://www.flickr.com/photos/andih/115781801/sizes/l/ The IMLS Initiative, “Museums, Libraries, and 21 st Century Skills” identifies some characteristics of organizations that have reached what it calls the “21 st Century Stage”: IT has been infused, inseparable w/ business process across the organization IT infrastructure must become an integral part of Strategic Planning, Capital, Infrastructure, and Service Initiatives IT should be on your senior management team if they aren’t already. If you don’t have a technologist on staff, get one!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/36521979990@N01/2597734293/ From earlier and earlier ages, our customers are growing up with expectations of ubituitious digital access
http://www.flickr.com/photos/86435488@N00/3922055137/ Fueled by limitless bandwidth… they know they can’t get it at home, so they look to libraries to provide this for them– not understanding the limitations placed on us– cost, policies, etc.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/87585644@N00/4016373215/ But in many cases, they have no where else to turn
http://www.flickr.com/photos/63335179@N00/3144083988/ What other institution steps up bridge the digital divide? There are efforts in schools to help instill 21 st century transliterate skills– but there exist few alternatives for those who have not grown up as digital natives
http://www.flickr.com/photos/95368991@N00/4278048158/ IT has traditionally seen itself focused on “stuff”– not people. Often there is an understanding that the stuff is there to serve people, but because they spent so much of their time on the break-fix cycle, it was hard to feel excited about rolling out rolling out new services.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15923063@N00/2294144289/ How many have felt like this is your IT department? Whether you have your own or are dependant upon the city, the county, the campus… For those who are outside of IT, it often seems that they are worried about nothing but locking down the very tools you’d like to do your job
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51286430@N00/133625115/ And it’s true– even to this day, many IT departments view new Internet services, including social collaboration and creativity tools, as distractions or potential security threats– which is exactly what they’ve been taught for years
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60648084@N00/2855854548/ Now with the proliferation of free, open tools– many IT departments are contemplating the worst. There’s nothing more they’d love but to pull the plug on cloud computing, filter the networks, lock everything down and retreat back to the server room where the controlled environment is most comfortable
http://www.flickr.com/photos/99175982@N00/4209973576/ Because many IT professionals are self-motivated and self-taught through experimentation, they don’t always make the best trainers. When new software is installed, they may not understand its use any more than the rest of the staff– but they will still be looked to to train others on it. This produces frustration on both sides– IT understands the principles of how to figure out a new software, but that perspective can make it difficult to take the end user perspective who doesn’t have the same skills and feels the pull of many other duties distracting them from spending their time teaching themselves. As a result– most library professionals have learned to teach each other, but this doesn’t always build bridges between departments
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28362388@N00/3382838948/ So how do we bring the players to the table and address the changes that are necessary to become an organization that fully integrates support for “21 st Century Learning Skills”?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/billselak/2952495516/sizes/l/ So the Spotlight is on IT—but we’re not always comfortable with that. Traditional IT has been a “black box” – a backroom affair. In some cases, a necessary evil. In times of lean budgets, a department that is often misunderstood but commands a large budget is one of the first to be looked at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41534655@N00/220318384/ Proliferation of free, outside tools gives some false expectations that IT should be cheaper, easier, able to turn on a dime To some degree, that’s fair and there are ways to do it To some degree, this is a tough challenge because just as IT services rise in importance, the push is on to look at the large IT budget as a place to cut—sometimes this pressure can come from administration who don’t quite comprehend what the costs are, and sometimes it come from outside pressure (city at large, campus, etc.) This is not unique to library IT IT as an industry is increasingly asked to do more with less Accused of not responding to changing expectations fast enough Redefining itself as a field, with Google Apps and the cloud, “why do we need an IT department?” Sound Familiar?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/spursfan_ace/2328879637/sizes/l/ In response, IT must find itself in expanded roles that mimic the expanded roles of libraries Advocates Articulate what it is we offer Hold our vendor’s feet to the fire to make sure we get the products we need. It’s a lot easier to cut the budget on a product that your customer don’t like or don’t understand. Fundraisers Actively seek out and suggest grants Partnerships – both partnerships with businesses from the local tech communities, with the local schools, non-profits, and local government but also partnerships with other libraries to take advantage of economies of scale and to amplify your voice in advocacy—Look at IT consortiums, development projects with other libraries, using and contributing to the open source community We use too many tools provided by somebody else– and reinvent too many tools that have already been invented
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28335533@N05/4501800803/ like to see more of a concerted effort to build and provide the tools and platforms for this activity. I don’t mean that we should replicate what I consider to be a mistake of the past—silos of content. But let’s look at models like Disqus and Intense Debate and work with other interested libraries and partners (LibraryThing springs to mind) to develop these types of embeddable, cross-site sharing of discussion. Why not have online book groups that can be embedded in a patrons blog or include a whole cross section of libraries? Let’s continue to develop and share the tools we need– some great examples out there, Blyberg’s SOPAC, Scriblio, Colorado has “Reading Record” developed by Eric Sissler at Westminster Public Library and used by nearly 20 other libraries, Ann Arbor is sharing their “GT System” for tracking game tournaments.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645538@N00/233228813/ W e must ask our IT departments to shift their focus from product orientation and the break-fix cycle to greater participation in library programs and training. Some great examples are Christopher Tracy at the Davenport Public Library in Iowa who teaches a class for Teens on how to hack the firmware on the Wii and install “homebrew” software. St. Louis Public Library has a “PTA” or Personal Technology Assistant program. CYberNavigators
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/103363685/ At my library, we’ve used drop-in help sessions, stealing thunder from the Genius Bar by making ourselves available to help members of the community with whatever questions might arise. It’s a lesson for both IT staff and our patrons. By having a greater direct understand of patron needs, it helps us design our services that much better—and the patron doesn’t have to pay $30 an hour for advice that may or may not be helpful. (I hate to disparage any business in particular, but I do have to say that I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone come in and say, “well I took it to the Geek Squad, but they didn’t tell me how to… <fill in the blank>.”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/82625518@N00/5228173/ But IT can help take it further, less common are classes on how to spot and remove spyware; or understanding a wider variety of Internet protocols such as how, why, and when to use BitTorrent; What are the alternatives to iTunes? Library staff do an excellent job of sharing this information with each other online and through staff development, but I haven’t seen as many examples of it being offered as workshops or classes for the public. Perhaps this is trickling out more on an individual basis at the service desk—which is awesome. But there are many people in our communities who don’t know where to begin to ask such questions and might not realize that this is something that they can come to the library to learn. IT can help lead the way though programs such as “Tech Competencies” that help to raise all ships throughout the organization. The more comfort and confidence our service staff have with technology—the more they’re able to assist a wider variety of customer needs
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645538@N00/3387387075/ Creativity is valued broadly, and success is associated with the ability to articulate using not only words, but also images and sounds To that end IT and libraries can support each other in providing “Digital Storytelling” workshops or Podcasts for Teens (already a fixture in many libraries) or projects like Brian Myers from the Wilmette Public Library near Chicago who offers classes in video game development using tools like Scratch.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/24029786@N00/3443631316/ Developments in Educational Technology should be studied and applied in the library. IT must take a leadership role in this area—introducing and training library staff on new software, collaborating with the school districts and teachers directly to ensure that the software and technologies needed by the students is offered in the local library. Kids who don’t have ready access to a computer at home are at a distinct disadvantage to other students who do if our libraries fail them in this regard.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/43132185@N00/167095727/ We can’t burden our Children and Young Adult librarians with all of the responsibility of this task—by working together, we can best service the kids who come in, and hopefully draw even more that previously were not library users. A caveat is that we can’t allow the culture of “attract them to with the computers to bring them in for the *real* library stuff to persist.” We must change our thinking about E-books, Downloadable Audio, Gaming, and online content creation so that we recognize that these are ends of themselves. Most of us at CIL have already embraced this—but many of our staff and many more of our community members—parents, teachers, local government officials—have not embraced this. We’ve got to be ready to talk about why these experiences are valuable parts of literacy and not merely “fun” ways to trick kids into the library. It’s all about Partnerships - Libraries and Tech firms, Libraries and Schools, Libraries and Campus, Librarians and IT….
http://www.flickr.com/photos/67953162@N00/3943777830/ Just as IT stands on the brink of seeming irrelevant, Libraries cannot allow schools to be consider themselves the only answer or worse—be supplanted by private businesses. We can’t afford to be seen as “quaint”.
Library Technology: Supporting Transliteracy
“ Make tools for creating and experiencing new media broadly available” – New Media Consortium