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  • 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0888-045X.htm FLUX CAPACITY Delegation at the macro level Delegation at the macro level: library IT, spheres of influence, 55 and the promise of cloudware Accepted January 2011 Colleen S. Harris Lupton Library Department, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USAAbstractPurpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of budget cuts on libraries’ abilityto continue to maintain labor-intensive IT maintenance on multiple systems.Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents a discussion of the likely impact of theincreasing popularity of cloud-based and hosted information technology solutions.Findings – Library practice, and emerging technology products targeted at library informationsystems, point to the fact that libraries with limited IT staff may continue to reduce their involvementin enterprise-level IT projects and focus more on service provision and local enhancements.Research limitations/implications – The change in IT environments towards increasingly hostedsolutions creates implications for library IT departments in terms of focus and needed skill-sets.Practical implications – This paper brings the issue of library IT constraints to the forefront in aneffort to engage librarians in a discussion about where IT influence should be directed, and awarenessof some of the practical concerns about moving to hosted and cloudware solutions.Social implications – The culture of library practice could be affected by this issue, and may havewider ramifications in terms of future library IT development and distributions of effort.Originality/value – The paper is timely, addressing a current question and debate within the field.It proposes that librarians should explore the questions inherent in altering IT offerings in light of newvendor capabilities.Keywords Libraries, Information services, Budgets, Communication technologiesPaper type ViewpointMany ARL libraries have dedicated library IT departments to handle enterprise-levelsystems, hardware and maintenance, and other projects more closely related to newuser services (such as application development). On the other hand, smaller librariesand those dependent on IT personnel located outside the library have a harder timeadequately addressing all of the information technology needs presented by multipleadministrative software systems (ILLiad, various ILS systems), desktop maintenanceand repair, updating security suites and machine images, and various other work. With continuing budget cuts, those in libraries are realizing that with limited and The Bottom Line: Managing Librarydecreasing resources, we need to be more diligent in focusing our efforts. In effect, in an Finances Vol. 24 No. 1, 2011attempt to do everything with reduced resources, we may be excellent at very little. pp. 55-57 Libraries are not unfamiliar with outsourcing. We have already taken initial steps q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0888-045Xwith outsourcing cataloging (Anyomi, 1999; Fischer et al., 2004; Sweetland, 2001), DOI 10.1108/08880451111142088
  • 2. BL approval and materials selection plans (Blecic et al., 1999; Wallace, 1997), and24,1 shelf-ready delivery of materials. What these previous outsourcings have in common is a discussion on what the “core services” of the library are, and how non-core services can be efficiently handled by outside vendors at a lower cost to the library, with the intent of ensuring excellent service and a focus on the most important work. The next stage of library development56 may be for library IT departments to start looking into what their core services include . . . and to move to IT as a purchased service for those functions not falling under that “core” designation. Spheres of influence for library IT In libraries with the luxury of dedicated IT staff, the IT department may hold responsibility for the interlibrary loan system (ILS), regular refreshes, updates and imaging, hardware maintenance, and more. While both the hardware and software offerings at many libraries expand to meet user needs, library IT departments are also increasingly offering value-added services connecting collections, technology, and users. Examples include the NCSU Library WolfWalk, a location-aware geotagged guide across campus, King County Library’s “New Arrivals by Category” RSS feeds, Darien Library’s Social OPAC, which allows for user reviews and tagging, and others. The advent of mobile devices has libraries scrambling to keep up with demand for easy-to-use applications that highlight the usability of collections. For many, this application development happens in IT. For those libraries with dedicated IT units, the increase of technology services (both for users and for the library itself) may quickly outstrip the ability of the unit to capably handle everything. What the cloud and hosted solution offer libraries is the chance to ask, “If we could remove something from our sphere of IT influence to better focus on the services we are best equipped to provide, what could we move to hosted or cloud solutions?”. Or, perhaps, “If we could focus on where our skills might best serve our users, what would we do?”. Software and IT-as-a-service offers libraries the opportunity to analyze what they need and what business they want to be in. Should library IT be a one-stop shop, capable of handling every IT issue, or should it be a more focused enterprise? The answer will depend on the library, its relationship to its users, and its budget. The promise of the cloud, and climbing a ladder-in-progress Vendors are increasingly aiming their products at libraries with lean IT infrastructure and staffing. Hosted solutions are being offered for the ILS, as well as for interlibrary loan systems. Newer services are moving toward being web-based: consider the OCLC web-based management system (WMS), which is effectively an integrated library system that is entirely web-based. What many of these solutions have in common is a two-fold benefit to libraries: taking time-intensive responsibilities out of the hands of the IT department, and reducing the downtime connected to library services. With cloud and hosted solutions, there is little to no need to interrupt workflows for client updates, no need to expend valuable (and limited) library IT time in routine updates, upgrades, or patches. Many of the services are also scalable, offering libraries the ability to increase (or decrease) their investment as needs dictate.
  • 3. There is cause for concern, though, that the cloud and hosted solutions may not be Delegation at thethe panacea users are hoping for. Are the records held at the hosted or cloud solutionstill yours, or do you lose ownership? How do local, state or federal laws impact where macro levelyou can house data such as patron or financial records? What happens if you switch `vendors in the future? What happens if, a la Yahoo! and its delicious announcement,the vendor cuts the service or goes out of business? What does it mean to suborn ITservices to an outside vendor with more of a revenue-focus than a user-focus? How 57much control over data handling, reporting and statistics will the library lose, and howdoes that weigh against any advantages? OCLC’s WMS, as an example, is currentlybeing used at a handful of libraries, while others have decided to wait until the systemis more functional in terms of billing and reporting before choosing to migrate. In addition, libraries will need to ask whether buying into hosted and cloudwaresolutions will change the needed skill-sets of their IT professionals. Can the in-houseILLiad problem-solver develop apps on an Android platform? Will the former ILSadministrator have (or be willing to develop) the know-how to become more involved inbranding and managing locally developed user-focused solutions? The environment of more affordable remote hosted solutions, virtualization andcloudware makes massive changes in the orientation of current library IT structuresand focus possible. Libraries will need to seriously consider what their core IT servicesare, and adjust accordingly to take advantage of the new landscape.ReferencesAnyomi, M.E. (1999), “Outsourcing cataloging functions in South Carolina public libraries”, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, Vol. 12 No. 2, p. 19.Blecic, D.D., Hollander, S. and Lanier, D. (1999), “Collection development and outsourcing in academic health science libraries: a survey of current practices”, Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, Vol. 87 No. 2.Fischer, R., Lugg, R. and Boese, K.C. (2004), “Cataloging: how to take a business approach”, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 50-4.Sweetland, J.H. (2001), “Outsourcing library technical services – what we think we know, and don’t know”, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 164-75.Wallace, P.D. (1997), “Outsourcing book selection in public and school libraries”, Collection Building, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 160-6.About the authorColleen S. Harris is an Assistant Professor and Head of Access Services at the University ofTennessee at Chattanooga’s Lupton Library. Her work appears in Library Journal, Journal ofAccess Services, and various others. Colleen S. Harris can be contacted at: colleen-harris@utc.eduTo purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints