Turning the IT Dept.
http://bohyunkim.net | @bohyunkim
Associate Director for Library Applications and Knowledge Systems,
Health Sciences and Human Services Library
University of Maryland, Baltimore
LITA Heads of IT Interest Group Meeting, ALA Midwinter Conference,
Boston, MA. Jan 10, 2016
Traditional Role of the IT Dept.
Behind the scene
Systems and applications
Hardware and Networking
Desktop and other tech equipment/device
Additional Work by the Library IT Dept.
Public computes, scanners, photocopiers, etc.
Technology-enabled classroom & meeting room
Mobile device management for check-out
Makerspace; Maker programs
Commonly Experienced Issues
The short-staffed IT Dept. is unable to handle all
requested projects satisfactorily.
Difficulty in communication OR different focuses
between IT dept. and Other depts.
Traditional IT Operation
Not necessarily creative or exploratory, rarely
interfacing with patrons, relatively outside of
frequent collaboration with other depts.
Not always user-centered / flexible /
More focus on stable, secure, and proven
Add technology functions to a non-IT department
Duplicated efforts, Communication/Priority issues
Expand the role of the IT dept.
Change and uncertainty & How to transform an IT
dept. to be more flexible, user-oriented, and more
involved with front-facing projects and work.
‘Outward-facing’ IT Dept.
: The New Role and Expectations
More interaction with patrons and involvement in front-
More creativity, flexibility, and proactive initiatives by the
Stronger focus on UX
Work in partnership and collaboration with other depts.
Broader understanding of the IT dept.’s work in the
context of what the purpose of a library is.
Instruction for library patrons & Training for library staff
Design and implement new programs & services
Turing the IT Dept. Outward
: At UMB HS/HSL
Makerspace (3D printing & 3D scanning)
Develop & conduct workshops, orientations, consultations
User-focused classroom renovation with the new AV
UX improvement based upon feedback, how-to guides,
Statistics dashboard (Proactive initiative)
Poster printing service (Collaboration with other depts.)
Need for a broader perspective and different skill
sets for the staff
Interaction with patrons / Customer service
Focus on users & their needs & priorities
Instructional Skill (Teaching materials,
Assessment & Feedback)
Initiative, Creativity, Flexibility, Collaboration
Shared vision & Changing expectations
Kotter’s 8 Steps
to Transform an Organization
1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition
3. Create a Vision
4. Communicating the Vision
5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision
6. Planning for and Creating for Short-term Wins
7. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change
8. Institutionalizing New Approaches
Source: John P. Kotter, “Leading organizational change: Why transformational efforts fail” (2007).
Kotter, John P. “Accelerate!”
Harvard Business Review,
The Reality of Change Management
: Far Messier
Re-orienting the IT Dept. while libraries themselves are changing and
Example observations from the Univ. of Utah Library
Persistent resistance to change
“The disconnect between their belief of not being heard and the fact
that we made efforts to listen to them led us to speculate that the IT
employees were confusing ‘being listened to’ with ‘being agreed
Source: Catherine B. Soehner, “Leading Change in Libraries: A Case Study.” Library Leadership & Management 29,
no. 2 (January 20, 2015). https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/7095.
Making the Change Worthwhile
Libraries are changing; Changes in the library IT Dept. is
We need to think ahead and advocate for the changes that
will best align the library IT Dept. with the changing role
Qs for further research:
What kind of role would an IT department be expected
to play as an outward-facing unit?
How would a mandate to be outward-facing change the
traditional role of a library IT department?
What would be the best way for the head of an IT
department to manage such a change?