Yesterday I presented "Technology and Innovation: The Librarian's Dilemma" at the TechConnections7 conference held in Dublin, OH. The conference was attended primarily by public librarians. The challenge in presenting theory at such a conference is that many librarians and IT support staff are looking for practical solutions that they can apply today. Of course, I really had nothing to help them out.
Some of the issues and concerns expressed in my presentation were highlighted by a question I received at the end from a gentleman from a (I'll assume small) public library in rural Ohio. He framed his question by stating that his library keeps on adding more and more computers and technology, but not more staff. He was essentially a part timer. At the same time, he was instructed by the library director to go out and find new and emerging technology that the library can use.
Few library directors would extend library hours without adding additional library staff to support that service. Yet, all too often not much thought is given to adding additional staff when adding more technology and electronic services. Too many fall into the thinking that an organization can keep adding technology without additional human and fiscal resources. The reality is the more an organization uses technology the more resources they need to invest into technology.
I felt bad for this gentleman since he was simply expected to do everything he was already doing plus come up with new technology and add that to his workload as well.
With all the other responsibilities that a library director has with dealing with budgets, staffing issues, crisis management, political matters, etc. it is no wonder they do not really understand technology. Technology professionals can hardly keep up, how can a director? At the same time, it is also all too common for a library director to make technology decisions in relative isolation. They hear or read about a technology then turn to their IT staff and say make it so. Or worse, they authorize the purchase of more machines or a system without engaging the IT staff!
Again, it would be a rare event for a library director to turn to the head of the circulation department and say add more hours but then provide no additional human resources.
It is a really an unfortunate reality that technology is often taken for granted. Library IT professionals are a hard working and creative group that has learned to do more, no, had to do more with less. Yet, there is a breaking point. I simply do not know how any library director today can expect to provide any services without investing more resources into human IT support.
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