Friday, January 19, 2007

Viewing Technology with the Proper Eyewear

An issue that I have been thinking about as I prepare for some upcoming presentations is that IT is often a world of mystery for library directors. Yet, IT is at the core of everything we now do in libraries. If one were to turn off all the computers, as one may experience when a network segment goes down, little gets done.

Since our customer's expectations and the pace and complexity of technological change going on all around us demands that library directors change the way they think about and manage IT.

It is all too common that technology discussions with colleagues around the country turn into discussions about how directors do not view technology as a primary tool for library services, but as a utility. They discuss how their library provides ample resources to resource development and public services but IT struggles to get what they need to keep pace with change. They discuss how their staff approaches technology as a strange and mysterious creature than only a few technology geeks can deal with.

Given the fiscal and administrative functions and responsibilities of library directors it is nearly impossible for them to keep up with technology. As an IT professional even I am challenged. Still, the library director sets the vision for the organization. If that vision does not make IT a critical part of the equation the library will be slow to develop or innovate IT based services. The staff will continue to view technology as a mystery.

If a director is not IT savvy, they need top rely upon someone else when it comes to issues involving technology. The relationship between the library director and this technology leader is becoming more critical than ever. This technology leader needs to be a part of all strategic planning and decision making processes.

As I read over position descriptions for library directors I see phrases like "require a record of establishing relationships and positive communications with coworkers and superiors in a collaborative, cooperative work setting" or "knowledge of and experience in financial, budget, human resource management..." or "documented managerial and administrative effectiveness."

It is rare to see descriptions that include phrases like "provides leadership in the application of digital resources" or "oversight of library information technology, particularly in the area of the effective development and application of technology tools for teaching, learning, and outreach."

While many librarians may be in denial, libraries of the 21st century are all about IT. It is therefore essential that directors are recruited with an IT vision, or at least with the proper eyewear.

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