What administrators need to know about technology

Roy Tennant, Senior Program Officer for Research, OCLC

People love top 10 lists.  Decided to write top 10 things that library administrators should know about technology on his blog in 2009.  Had a tremendous response to the post.

1. Technology isn’t as hard as you think it is.  Was much more difficult in the past.  Now services are much easier and more available.

2. Technology gets easier all the time. There are advances in software development, libraries of utilities. BitNami will allow you to deploy server software with web applications you can run locally or in the cloud.

3. Technology gets cheaper all the time. Suggests you have a computer catalog mailed to you, to compare.  For $59.99, can have an external hard drive with a terrabyte of storage.  We carry a gig on our person.  What’s bad is that we forget about this – storage used to be very expensive. Storage is now off the table for anything we do.

4. Maximize the effectiveness of your most costly investment – your people. Why would you have your most costly investment waste their valuable time on a resource that is your least valuable – a PC.   More RAM will help make an old machine look like new.

6. Iterate, don’t perfect. Librarians tend to want everything to be perfect. Thinking you need it perfect before you get it out there is you never know until it’s out there.  Put it out and get feedback, then iterate.  For example, Netflix went through 13 iterations of its mailing envelope before it came to the current version.

6. Be prepared to fail.  Failure can be a useful teacher.  If you’re out on the edge – which is where you need to be if you’re innovating – you’re going to fail. Innovative organizations know they’re going to have a lot of failures. You have to throw a lot of things against a wall before something sticks.

7. Be prepared to succeed.  We’re not very good at telling our story, telling people what you’re doing.

8. Never underestimate the power of a prototype. A prototype can be anything, but he’s a big believer in functional prototype. You can have your own server to mess around with. There’s nothing standing in your way to build a prototype if you want to.  Has his own proto site where he plays.

9. A major part of any technology implementation is good project management.  Don’t just assign your top geek to do project management.  That may not be the best person to manage the project.  The right person may not be your techie.

10. The single biggest threat to any technology project is political in nature.  It can be not getting key stakeholders, for example.  If you have enough resources you can make a project successful – it’s the politics that will kill you.

Bonus Round – Twitter responses

– No platform is forever.

– Vendor solutions still require knowledgable staff to make them work.

– You won’t solve any of your problems without proper staffing and management policies.

– Just becasue a staff member can support certain tech doesn’t mean they can support all tech.

– Allow your staff time and resources to experiment – even if nothing comes of it.  Innovation comes with risks.

– Believe a staff member’s opinion over a vendor’s. Always. ALWAYS.

– Never depend on technology alone to save your library. Ask why and how instead of, and/or in addition to, when and how much.

– It’s not scary; the youngest people on staff aren’t automatically techno-geeks.

– Delegate the discovery phase to those who can dedicate more resources to coming up with concise answers to “how” and justify “why.”

Asks of the audience: What do YOU think administrators should know about technology?

Technology is easy but people are hard. The culture change is an enormous task, much more so than the new technology.

Q: When is it better to hire out your tech requirements rather than hire or train your staff?  A: Depends on how core that technology is to your work; if it’s really core to your business you should have in-house expertise. If you want to move faster, you can hire out and then train your staff to manage from there.

Avoid the herd mentality in the library community and stay focused on your patron’s needs.

“Benchmarking for best practices” – book. One of the pages includes a 10 things to ask administrators, including how what they’ve implemented worked for them.

Administrators and technologists need mutual respect.  Collaborate and cooperate. The most important thing is that when the administrators hire a technologist, it needs to be someone they can trust.

The reference staff can be your best resource. They work directly with the users, and so have a better understanding of what their needs might be.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Staff needs constant, ongoing training so that their skills are kept up-to-date.

Technology takes you only so far, but you need people.

Q: Is there a life cycle for open-source software? How do you figure cost and timeline? A: There are places that will do the open source implementation and support it for you. Otherwise, it’s a bit amorphous.  It also depends upon how robust the community is.

Audience member taking exception with the idea that you should believe a staff member over a vendor always. If you always say your guy is right and another guy is wrong, you may be also doomed to failure. There are a lot of factors that may be involved. As a blanket statement, it’s wrong. However, if you’re overruling your internal staff, there should be a good reason for it.

Administrator is coaching her tech staff on project management, because everything they do is a project.


1 Comment

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

One response to “What administrators need to know about technology

  1. Pingback: Wholesale Computer Supplies – Your Guide to Accessing the Latest Technology at a Wholesale Price! | Micro Tech

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