Are you facing a "jurisdictional battle" between librarians and information technologists? The difference in philosophical perspectives between the two is sometimes blurry and can lead to friction. Learn some of the principles of working with IT departments and receive tips for successful cross-departmental collaboration. This is a portion of "Creating Alliances with Overlapping Fields of IT & Librarianship" presented at the 2012 Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston.
Public Libraries & ITPortion of “Creating Alliances with the Overlapping Fields of IT & Librarianship” presented at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston April 2012 Kelly Brouillard, MSSW, MLS Adult Services Librarian Lewisville Public Library firstname.lastname@example.org @libgirl28
Public libraries are chock full oftechnology!• Computers • ILS/OPAC• Internet/ Wi-Fi • Online databases• Printers & Copiers • DownloadablesAnd the list goes on….As librarians, we see first hand howtechnology supports and enriches the livelihood ofindividuals and families, as well as supporting ourcommunities and local business.
We are sometimesseen as technologicalsuperheroes to ourpatrons, but we stillneed support from ITcolleagues. Ideal Library-IT relationship: •Inclusion •Collaboration •Open communication •Sharing ideas and knowledge
IT support comesfrom a variety ofplacesMajority of technologysupport in publiclibraries comes from:•Public service staff•System-level IT staff•Outside vendor Source: Public Library Technology Landscape, ALA’s Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2010-2011, www.ala.org/plinternetfunding
Librarians and staff in public libraries may feel stuck in the middle. IT Fru strastaffer patr on ted
What kind of relationship do you have with IT?• Ultimately the kind of relationship you have with your IT staff affects your patron’s experience and satisfaction with your library• If the library and IT aren’t working together effectively, chances are technology needs are not being met and problems persist unhappy patrons• Unsatisfied patrons begin to have a negative perception of the library and ultimately your city or county
Libraries & IT often differ in focus--Try to understand themand let them understand you!•Convey the libraries goals, purpose ,and technology needs•Share the benchmarks for technology among public libraries•Communicate the value of the technology services that you provideThis understanding will take time and some training•Educate your IT department—share what the library does, what the public wants/expects•Invite IT to shadow your staff so they may see your tech issues first hand•Help IT keep the library context in mind when working on technology projectsEducate your staff•Invite IT to give a training for library staff on how your system is setup and basictroubleshooting•Follow the latest technology trends, learn some“techie speak,” play with gadgets•Learn the “map” of your IT department so you knowthe appropriate person to contact•Find out if there is a library liaison, someone in ITdedicated specifically to the library’s tech needs
Clear, open communication is essential.• Work with your IT department to setup a system of communication Examples: webform for reporting/tracking issues, weekly status update, procedures for follow-up• Use consistent and precise terminology• Give detailed descriptions of the problem and what you’ve already tried in an attempt to fix the problem yourself Poor communication often erodes good will and poisons working relationships. Misunderstandings can lead to wasted time and effort, so put some effort into developing a system for communicating with your IT support.
Come togetherCollaborate on technology projectsWhen making decisions/plans for the library, involve IT staff fromthe start–don’t include them as an after thoughtWhen you form a team to work on a technology project, invite anIT staffer to be a team member—get their input and make themfeel apart of the library’s goals.Collaboration also ensures that you’re able to help IT keep thelibrary context in mind when working on technology issues orprojects.
The first answer from IT staff is likely always “no” – Since IT staff are sobusy, they use “no” as a gating mechanism. If they say no and you actuallygo away, they assume you didn’t need them that badly to begin with. Youhave to decide whether you are going to accept “no” for an answer.Pick your battles—Some things are worth fighting for and others aren’t. Ahelpful clue…if your library customers will not notice any difference if youget what you want, then drop it.If you decide to battle it out, be part of the solution. Do your homework.Come up with alternatives to a problem and present them to IT in a detailedplan or proposal. Sometimes librarians know about stuff the IT departmentdoesn’t –learn from library colleagues how they resolved a similar tech issueand then share it with your IT departmentIT staff aren’t insensitive to your needs, they’re just really busy and havetheir own job responsibilities and priorities. If you make it clear to them thatwhat you’re asking them to do is very important to you, your library’smission, and to the people you serve, and if you offer up a solution, chancesare they will be more like to help.
Follow the Golden Rule…treat others how you want to be treated. You may not understand what IT does, but keep in mind that they do have other customers that demand their time .•Try to be patient and give IT a realistic amount of time to respond.•Ask nicely. Respect and courtesy can go a long way in making yourrelationship with your IT department a pleasant and efficient one.•Show appreciation. Everyone likes their work acknowledged. Remember toinclude IT staff when hosting library staff appreciation events or holidayparties.•A simple thank you note goes a long way.
ResourcesBrewster, Tom. “Why Everyone Hates the IT Department.” PC Pro. November 25, 2011. http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/371254/why-everyone-hates-the-it-department.Null, Christopher. “How to Work With Your IT Department.” Executive Travel Magazine. Mar/Apr 2011. http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/articles/how-to-work-with- your-it-department.“Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries.” Sponsored by University of Washington Information School, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Institute of Museum and Library Services. March 2010. http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/OpportunityForAll.pdf.“Public Library Funding & Technology Survey 2010-2011.” Sponsored by American Library Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. http://www.ala.org/plinternetfunding.Schone, B. J. “Working Harmoniously with Your IT Department (Yes, It Can Be Done!).” The eLearning Guild Annual Gathering. April 2008. http://www.elearningguild.com/showFile.cfm?id=2809.TechSoup for Libraries http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/ “nonprofit devoted to making technology and technology education available and affordable to nonprofits and libraries”Tenant, Roy. “How to Work Successfully With Your IT Department.” The Digital Shift. November 21, 2011. http://www.thedigitalshift.com.