NITLE Shared Academics: Examining IT and Library Service Convergence


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Colleges and universities face a variety of pressures. Two pressure points are adjusting to the evolving landscape of higher education and using finite resources efficiently and effectively. Technology-enhanced “flipped” classrooms, the rise of digital scholarship, and a keener focus on assessment are examples of the former. Space, time, money, and staff expertise are examples of the latter. These pressures become even more pointed at smaller institutions. How have academic library and information technology organizations been contributing toward effective solutions? Some have embraced a path toward greater convergence of IT and library services. Has doing so enabled institutions to adjust sooner and more quickly to shifts in our higher education environment? Has it stimulated innovation? Has it helped eliminate duplicative effort?

NITLE Shared Academics seminar leader Terry Metz delves into these questions, explores why and how the work of technologists and librarians is growing more and more similar, and highlights some colleges that have aligned technology and library talent in more integrated ways. Examine the benefits and challenges of converging IT and library services and consider future implications.

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  • Thank you, Georgeanne. Welcome everyone. We’ll spend our time today exploring how some NITLE-like institutions have chosen to provide information services to their students, faculty, and staff in a non-conventional way. That way is to converge IT and library resources and services into a single administrative unit. The goal is to achieve more effective outcomes than when these two units operate separately.
    One of the reasons this topic interests me is because for nine years I led at effort at Wheaton College, Norton, MA to combine the services of IT (including what was then referred to as administrative computing, academic computing, media services, the language lab, and the library) into a single administrative unit that was collectively more optimally aligned with the strategic needs of the college than these various service units may be been able to accomplish independently.
  • IT/library service convergence is referred to with a variety of terms. Do any of have other terms you think might be added to this list?
  • As many of you may already know, NITLE decided to focus its energies along five “lines of inquiry” in 2013-2014. Last fall NITLE’s executive director, Michael Nanfito, contacted me and asked whether I might offer a Shared Academics seminar on the topic of my choosing that addressed one of these lines. That invitation evolved into the seminar you’re attending today. I selected the topic of IT/library service convergence and decided it was best aligned with the line of inquiry you see on this page.
    Expanding capacity to adapt amidst continuous change
  • When I consider the topic of IT/library service convergence at liberal arts colleges, I do that within the context of two conditions that I’m referring to today as “Big Assumptions.”
    There are two things that many of us working in IT and libraries would give an arm and a leg for:
    First, wouldn’t we love to have a magic lever, dial, button, or switch that would make the rate of change slow…or even stop…for a while?
    Second, wouldn’t it be marvelous if we had a crystal ball that could predict with some level of certainty exactly where the world of information service provision will evolve over the next decade or so?.
    So one of the assumptions I work under is that change for IT/library professionals will be perpetual during our professional work lives.
  • Besides the overall rate of change, we could collectively probably come up with another two dozen or so pressing issues that those of us in IT and libraries are also trying to improve. I’ve listed just a few of them here.
    I’m willing to wager than each of you can identify a time when at least one, if not more, of these factors influenced an information services decision or action in some way at your institution.
    As email and other information services migrate to the cloud, colleges’ information-technology employees are spending less of their time running complex in-house systems and more time helping faculty members and administrative colleagues—as well as students—make the most of services provided by companies like Google. That shift sets a higher premium our “softer skills” in communication, consulting, and project management.
    That’s one finding of a recent EDUCAUSE report, “Today’s Higher Education IT Workforce,” that was based on a survey of more than 2,000 people by EDUCAUSE the education-technology organization. I’d be willing to wager that there is a similar transition occurring in some of our libraries, too.
  • Now that I’ve set some context for the topic of service convergence, I’d like to ask members of today’s audience what motivated them to attend. Let’s take a minute for some of you out there to share with the group. Do any of the three motivations listed on this slide describe you?
  • Thanks to those who provided feedback to that previous question. Now I’d like to take a minute for you to participate in a flash poll that I hope will give us some collective insight about perceptions of of IT/library service convergence.
    Thank you; now let’s consider and discuss for a moment.
  • Because I believe many of the challenges facing IT and library organizations on our campus have much in common, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare what two of our professional associations consider are the most pressing issues or trends among their respective memberships. I asked myself would their be some overlap in what these two professional associations discovered.
    Make note that the 2014 version of the EDCAUSE checklist will be published next month in the EDUCAUSE REVIEW.
  • The EDUCAUSE report appear annually each spring in the March/April issue of the EDUCAUSE REVIEW. The 2014 list will be published next month. Give time for audience to read and react…
    These items are listed in rank order.
    For those in IT, does this list seem to ring true in your experience? Does the ranking seem reasonable?
  • These items are not listed in rank order.
    For those in libraries, does this list ring for you? Does the ranking seem reasonable? Which might you rank nearest the topic if your were to prioritize them?
    Mention the ACRL Environmental Scan 2013 document
    Demonstrating outcomes/value
    Curating data
    Cloud strategies
    Online learning/flipped classrooms (really?)
    Changing business/operational practices
    Funding efficiencies
    Convenience, particularly access and mobility
    Online learning/flipped classrooms (really?)
    Links between access to scholarly information and improved student outcomes?
  • In addition to the potential areas of similarity/overlap we can see in these EDUCAUSE and ACRL reports, there may be other motivations for embracing greater IT/library service convergence. Here are a few examples.
    Users don’t find it easy to distinguish clearly between the tool and content, and they can be confused about whom to consult for help in accomplishing their work.
    Much confusion can be resolved by blending the operations of the IT help desk and the library reference desk; by collocating IT and library functions in a single campus location (often the library); by undertaking integrated visioning and planning; and by fostering joint instruction programs for students and faculty; and by designing new professional positions that combine the expertise of librarians and technologists
    Putting academic technologists’ offices in the library augments the library’s capability of meeting a continuous need—promoting library services and resources. Academic technologists who become more familiar with the library’s digital resources become another pool proselytizers for library services, especially with faculty.
  • COMMENTS: It’s rare to have converged organizations formed organically from within the IT and library organizations themselves.
  • Sharper Focus:
    analyzing user’s service needs
    providing consulting and technical assistance
    designing and using networked resources
    developing training tools and documentation
    instructing students, faculty, and staff in all of the above
    retraining IT and library staff in new technologies and developing new skill sets
    Innovation: (1) Kenyon College experiment with Information and Technology Consultant model, and (2) Steven Bell’s Blended Librarian model
  • Sharper Focus:
    analyzing user’s service needs
    providing consulting and technical assistance
    designing and using networked resources
    developing training tools and documentation
    instructing students, faculty, and staff in all of the above
    retraining IT and library staff in new technologies and developing new skill sets
    Innovation: (1) Kenyon College experiment with Information and Technology Consultant model, and (2) Steven Bell’s Blended Librarian model
  • If saving money is the leading motivator for change, this nearly always leads to downward spiral in service quality and IT/library staff morale—which can quickly become debilitating.
    Real ROI is achieved in longer term, through more efficient use of resources, increased capabilities, and cost avoidance.
  • [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be nice to be able to display both a checklist and administrative graphic image log on this page.]
    [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be better to be able to display only graphic images on this page., i.e., to make comparison verbally combined with graphic symbols?]
    Administrative integration encourages more shared information, coordinated planning, and joint approaches to decisions, with heads of separate information units reporting to same person.
    Should CIO report to Provost, CFO, or President?
  • [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be nice to be able to display both a checklist and physical dimension graphic image log on this page.]
    With increased physical integration, campus community can be offered services more seamlessly regardless of ways in which IT and library organizations are otherwise combined
  • [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be nice to be able to display both a checklist and collaboration graphic image log on this page.]
    Often has greatest impact on “middle” of converged organization, especially overlapping public-service domains of each (e.g., IT help desk and library reference, instruction and pedagogy, classroom support, planning for public and other learning spaces, virtual services)
  • [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be nice to be able to display both a checklist and administrative graphic image log on this page.]
    The management expert, Peter Drucke, famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast.  If strategy is for breakfast then your structure is for lunch.  Culture will overcome any structural chart or any reorganization.
    Variations of the three challenge factors and the interplay of the four dimensions of readiness vary considerably from campus to campus. Campus leaders need to understand and explore these principles through amply discourse before making a decision on where and how best to integrate, and they then need to adapt and tailor the principles appropriately to the local setting
    Awareness of these dimensions helps to understand:
    nature of potential for integration
    where most fruitful possibilities might reside for leading the effort
    overall likelihood for success
  • [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be nice to be able to display both a recipe or ingredients graphic image log on this page.]
    [GRAPHIC: If possible, it would be better to be able to display only graphic images on this page., i.e., to make comparison verbally combined with graphic symbols?]
    Why consultant might be helpful:
    Additional professional development opportunities might be needed in areas of change management, appreciative inquiry, cultural change, or leadership training
    NOTE: Nearly all of these ingredients require action from campus senior leadership…
    With ineffective leadership or inappropriate leadership (i.e., leadership that doesn’t match the needs and culture for that particular organization and institution) dysfunction is a likely result.
    Ultimately, it’s whether a professional defines himself or herself and their work around what they do, rather than how they do it, that determines their ability successfully navigate cultural change in the information services profession.
    Professional boundaries must be porous.
    Bad: What become most important is “what” one does, not “why” one does it. When attempting to foster change in an organization, the more individuals who can define themselves around “why” they do what they do, the easier the change management process will progress. Individuals who instead spend their time defining themselves by “what” they do will inevitably have a difficulty transition to make, and more often than not will also make the transition difficult for others around them. Defining professional identity around “why” is not a natural path to choose. A key to growing and nurturing this important perspective is intentional leadership and mentoring—perhaps the most critical piece of staffing in a converged organization.
    Institution must be willing/able to acquire necessary assistance for integration efforts (e.g., retaining consultants trained in organizational development and redesign)
  • This is not a comprehensive list. It reflects both current and previous NITLE members, as well as a few other institutions.
  • Group member representatives—known as the CLIR CIOs—first met in May 2002 at CLIR’s invitation.
    Some important concluding questions about IT/library service convergence:
    Has doing so enabled institutions to adjust sooner and more quickly to shifts in our higher education environment?
    Has it stimulated innovation?
    Has it helped eliminate duplicative effort?
  • Solicit 4-5 responses from the audience.
  • NITLE Shared Academics: Examining IT and Library Service Convergence

    1. 1. Examining IT and Library Service Convergence: One Path for Embracing the Future NITLE Shared Academics Seminar Terry Metz, Seminar Leader March 18, 2014
    2. 2. Nomenclature
    3. 3. 2014 NITLE Line of Inquiry  How might we increase our environmental awareness to improve planning and decision-making and expand our capacity to adapt in the midst of continuously changing conditions?
    4. 4. Big Assumptions  Managing and coping with change is the biggest challenge for both IT and library professionals at our colleges.  IT units and libraries that cultivate and building strong, collaborative relationships with one another will find themselves at an advantage when dealing with change.
    5. 5. Examples of Issues Facing Campus Information Service Organizations  increasing complexity  some lack of clarity (or confusion) over information resource management  silos and duplication of effort  pressure from senior leadership to become more efficient, e.g., “do more with the same and/or less”  shift to “cloud computing”  insatiable expectations
    6. 6. If you’re attending this seminar, are you…  working at an institution that’s already converged information services  working at an institution that’s begun considering convergence of information services  concerned or anxious that your institution might move in this direction
    7. 7. Poll: What do we mean by “IT/library service convergence”? a) a wishful-thinking gimmick used by senior administrators to save money b) either the IT or library operation becomes subservient to the other unit c) all—or nearly all—library and IT services are aligned under a single leader d) a plausible result of increased pace of technology adoption—as well as scholarly publication changes—in higher education e) a viable option when considering how to enhance service to students and faculty f) a fad that’s run its course
    8. 8. Comparing Professional Perspectives IT Issues Panel’s Top-Ten IT Issues, 2013 Research Planning and Review Committee’s 2012 Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries
    9. 9. • Leveraging wireless and a growing variety of mobile devices • Leveraging technology to improve student outcomes • Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy for better right sourcing and solutions • Developing staffing and organizational models to accommodate changing IT environment and facilitate agility • Facilitating better understanding of info security; balance between openness and security • Funding IT strategically • Developing sustainable strategy for online learning • Supporting IT consumerization trends (e.g., BYOD) • Transforming business processes with IT • Using analytics to support institutional outcomes
    10. 10. • Communicating value with compelling evidence • Curating data—especially developing standards, institutional repositories, and cloud-based solutions • Preservation of digital collections • Adapting to rise in online instruction as effort to increase higher education ROI • IT-driven change • Accommodating expectations for highly mobile environments • Normalizing patron-driven e-book acquisition—and subsequent licensing and e-book lending challenges • Keeping pace with rapid changes in scholarly communication and publishing models • Staffing—hiring, and redeploying and retraining existing staff • User behavior and expectations of convenience
    11. 11. Sampling of Objectives for Embracing IT/Library Service Convergence  Enhancing capacity to meet needs and expectations of users in world rapidly transitioning to digital modes of scholarly communication, teaching, and learning  Improving user experience by providing services more elegantly, seamlessly  Seeking greater efficiency; streamlining both oversight and control of expensive tools and resources; reducing overlap in missions, structures, and budgets  Positioning institution for challenges of an increasingly digital, technology-reliant future
    12. 12. Other Motivations  Resolving serious crisis in one of the organizations  Peer/competitor institutions trying it/adopted it  Using opportunity of vacancy in either the IT leader or library director positions, or both
    13. 13. Potential Benefits of Converged Approach  Increased alignment with institutional mission and goals  Clearer, sharper focus on users and their overall needs  Nurturing of flexibility, adaptability, and innovation  Greater budget flexibility and more efficient use of resources  Richer, more forward-thinking professional development opportunities for IT/library staff  More effective responses to to emerging technologies
    14. 14. Potential Areas for Greater IT/Library Collaboration
    15. 15. Challenges/Other Considerations  Leadership  Maintaining a delicate balance  Incentive primarily to save money, reduce staffing, or trim numbers of direct reports  Outcome cannot be easily predicted with certainty
    16. 16. Sampling of Convergence Readiness Conditions Administrative dimension—extent to which administrative responsibilities, governance structures, and budgets are merged in ways idiosyncratic to institution
    17. 17. Conditions for Readiness (cont’d) Physical dimension—ways in which space for people, services, and functions are shared, as well as proximity of these spaces on campus
    18. 18. Conditions for Readiness (cont’d) Operational/collaborative dimension— extent to which IT and library staff and leaders already work cooperatively on projects, share financial resources, and delivery services jointly
    19. 19. Conditions for Readiness (cont’d) Cultural dimension—extent to which participants experience significantly separate organizational cultures, have evolved understandings about working together, or are actively developing joint values, service philosophy, and organic sense of purpose, and unified/shared service models
    20. 20. Some Ingredients for Success  Senior leaders help campus community understand rationale/reasons for adopting convergence path  Campus community, especially faculty, understand why path was chosen and what expected and desired outcomes might be  Leaders must help staff of existing IT/library units understand value of integration for that particular institution–as well as define success  Encourage IT/library staff to visit/consult other institutions where convergence is succeeding
    21. 21. Sample of Locations Employing Converged IT/Library Operational Approaches Allegheny College Bates College Beloit College Brandeis University Bryn Mawr College Bucknell University Carthage College Colby-Sawyer College Connecticut College DePauw University Dickinson College Hamilton College Kalamazoo College Kenyon College Lafayette College Lake Forest College Lehigh University Luther College Mount Holyoke College Middlebury College Occidental College Ohio Wesleyan University Pacific Lutheran University Rhodes College St. Lawrence University St. Norbert College St. Olaf College Sewanee: The University of the South Southwestern University SUNY Brockport University of Richmond Ursinus College (just adopting) Wellesley College Wheaton College (MA)
    22. 22. CLIR CIOs Group  Informal group of about 25 liberal arts institutions with merged IT/library service organizations that routinely engaging in dialogue about these issues
    23. 23. Thought Experiment If we could completely redesign a user-centered information support model for our colleges, what would it look like?
    24. 24. Discussion/Question & Answers:
    25. 25. Some Suggested Readings ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee (2012) “2012 top ten trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education,” College & Research Libraries New, 73(6) (June): 311–320. Online at: (accessed February 6, 2014) Each trends includes a brief discussion and references to further reading. A follow up Environmental Scan 2013 document was based on this trends report. /files/content/publications/whitepapers/EnvironmentalScan13.pdf Susan Grajek and the 2012-2013 EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel (2013) “Top-Ten IT Issues, 2013: Welcome to the Connected Age,” EDUCAUSE Review, 48(3) (May/June): 31–57. Online at: (accessed February 6, 2014) Presents top-ten IT-related issues facing higher education institutions. Frames each issue with discussion and set of strategic questions.
    26. 26. Suggested Readings (cont’d) EDUCAUSE Online Library search results for “IT-library Merger” tag. Online at: (accessed January 29, 2014). Provides access to articles, reports, presentations, and podcasts on this topic. Chris Ferguson, Gene Spencer, and Terry Metz (2004) “Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: The Integrated IT/Library Organization,” EDUCAUSE Review, 39(3) (May/June): 38–47. Online at: (accessed January 29, 2014). Provides brief overview of issues to evaluate before considering a merger of IT/library organizations.
    27. 27. Suggested Readings (cont’d) Susan Heid Culture Morph: Campus Technology. Chatsworth, CA: Campus Technology, June 1, 2007. Online at: (accessed January 30, 2014). Offers brief overview of possibilities made available through library/IT collaboration. Arnold Hershon (1998) “Integrating computer and library services: an administrative planning and implementation guide for information resources,” CAUSE Professional Papers Series #18. Boulder, Colorado: CAUSE. Online at: (accessed January 27, 2014) Although published 16 year ago, many of the basic topics discussed and considerations raised remain relevant today.
    28. 28. Suggested Readings (cont’d) Christopher D. Barth (2011) Convergence of Libraries and Technology Organizations: New Information Support Models. Chandos Information Professional Series. Oxford: Chandos. This is the best single comprehensive, published source on this topic.
    29. 29. Contact Information Terry Metz    (401) 529-0366
    30. 30. Graphics Credits All graphics from the Noun Project •Slides 1, 6, 31 – Jeremy J Bristol •Slide 2 – Michela Tannoia •Slide 3 – NITLE •Slide 4 – Pieter J. Smits •Slide 5 – Thomas Uebe; Piotrik Chuchla Brady Clark Andrew Forrester (and Slide 11) •Slide 7 – Ariel Liu •Slide 8 – and •Slide 7 – Ariel Liu •Slide 8 – Michela Tannoia •Slide 11 – Simple icons OCHA Visual Information Unit Duke Innovation Co-Lab (and Slide 12) Leonard Ellom Quist
    31. 31. Graphics Credits (cont’d) • Slide 12 – Luis Prado; OCHA Visual Information Unit; San Salido Martinez; Venkatesh Aiyulu • Slide 14 – Jakob Vogel • Slides 15 & 16 – SuperAtic Labs • Slide 17 – Juan Pablo Bravo • Slides 18-21 – Hrag Chanchanian • Slide 18 – Hubert Orlik-Grzesik • Slide 19 – Michael V. Suriano • Slide 20 – Duke Innovation Co-Lab • Slide 21 – Baruch Moskovits • Slide 22 – Juan Pablo Bravo • Slide 24 – CLIR logo • Slide 25 – Rediffusion; Qing Li;; http :// • Slide 26 – Daniel Llamas Soto
    32. 32. Graphics Credits All graphics from the Noun Project •Slides, 1, 5, 33 – Jeremy J Bristol •Slide 3 – Pieter J. Smits •Slide 4 – Thomas Uebe; Piotrik Chuchla Brady Clark Andrew Forrester •Slide 6 – Rediffusion Qing Li;; •Slide 7 – Ariel Liu •Slide 8 – Michela Tannoia •Slides 10 & 11 – Venkatesh Aiyulu Simple icons OCHA Visual Information Unit Ugur Akdemir •Slide 17 – Jakob Vogel •Slide 18 – SuperAtic Labs
    33. 33. Graphics Credits (cont’d) All graphics from the Noun Project •Slide 20 – Juan Pablo Bravo •Slides 21-24 – Hrag Chanchanian •Slide 21 – Hubert Orlik-Grzesik •Slide 22 – Michael V. Suriano •Slide 23 – Duke Innovation Co-Lab •Slide 24 – Baruch Moskovits •Slide 25 – Juan Pablo Bravo •Slide 27 – CLIR logo •Slide 28 – Froz Daniel Llamas Soto