Alchemical Thoughts

What Library Administrators Need to Know About Technology: Some Thoughts

Posted on: October 2, 2009

Roy Tennant wrote a list of "The Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology." What caught my eye on this were the items dealing more with people. Maybe it is because I am not a "techie" librarian like a lot of the celebrity libloggers are. Or maybe because I tend to think that your technology is only as good as the people you have running it. The idea of good people managing your library's technology has been on my mind lately, and if I was passing this on to my boss, I would especially highlight the following items from the list:

  • "Maximize the effectiveness of your most costly technology investment — your people." Mr. Tennant makes a good point about making sure you have good resources for your people. Don't bog them down with cheap or less than the best equipment. But I will also say to turn that equation around. Don't go around skimping on good people either. You need to hire good people to manage your technology. Just like library administrators have a specific skill set, which may or not include technological prowess, tech people also have a unique skill set, and it is one not all librarians or library staff have or desire to have (and I say this in terms of temperament, not unwillingness to learn). If you know you are going to need a good systems analyst or similar, hire one. Don't try to skimp by tossing the responsibility to another overworked professional in your library who may not have the full range of skills or the temperament to do it. And don't say "they can learn it" when you define "learning it" as just hand them a folder and hop to it. That's not right.
  • "A major part of good technology implementation is good project management." Indeed. Again, this goes to the idea that everyone has different skills. It also goes back to the idea that you need good planning, and that you need to be proactive, not reactive. In other words, plan ahead and don't wait for the crisis to happen.
  • "The single biggest threat to any technology project is political in nature." I think what Mr. Tennant wrote here pretty much speaks for itself. To administrators, he asks: "Are you willing to throw your political support behind it? Are you willing to invest the resources required to make it a success? Will you marshall the entire organization to support, promote, and use this new site or service? If not, simply don't bother." As I always say, put your money where your mouth is, otherwise, shut up. 

Anyhow, my quick two cents. I may add to this later, or probably just add it along to another post with a few other things about library managers.

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October 2009
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