Two sides to that “who’s the boss” coin

In my last post, I talked about how your technology department shouldn’t really be the one making system-wide decisions for the library.

There’s a couple other sides to that coin, I think. They include:

Sometimes, IT should make those decisions. For example:

  • They’re the technology experts, and probably know what will work the best for the library. Listen to them!
  • They know what they can and cannot support. Not to say they can’t learn new things – that’s what techie types do every day – but some things might not be within reach.
  • They can be highly creative people with great ideas. Make sure they’re part of the process.
  • Sometimes the answer has to be no. For example, in the kids department at my library, we can’t just put computers anywhere. The floor is a concrete slab, and requires lots of core drilling, routing concrete, and cabling runs that don’t exist. So the answer from us is: sure, if you want to spend $10-20,000 more on the project. Or – how about let’s rework that idea?

Sometimes, the rest of the library needs to make the decision (but isn’t). You might have this happening:

  • Admin/management is not tech-savvy, so IT has stepped in and is making decisions.
  • Admin/management is being passive, not great at leadership, not great at strategic planning etc … so IT stepped in.
  • There’s simply no strategic plan – so guess what? IT (and reference, and collections, and youth services, etc) will step in and create their own strategies. I’m guessing there’s a better way to do this!

If you’re one of those library staffers saying “IT won’t let me do this” – step back from that immediate problem, and ask yourself “why do they get to decide this?”

Then work on fixing that issue first.

Pic by Garrett Coakley

IT is Not the Boss of Me

More than once (ok, actually quite often), I’ve heard librarians say “IT won’t let me do that,” or “IT said no, so I figured out how to go around them,” or simply “IT won’t support that product.”

And I always respond by asking why they’re allowing IT to control decisions?

IT guys and gals, please remember – we are in the library to:

  • support whatever the library wants to do, to the best of our ability
  • find better ways of doing things when possible
  • make sure the technology is easy to use, helps meet the library’s needs, and stays as out-of-the-way and transparent as possible, so staff don’t have to think about the tech (unless they want to)
  • And make sure nothing crashes and burns, backups are in place, the website works, etc.

We are NOT there to dictate what library staff can and cannot do.

Sure, there will be staff computer use policies in place. Sure, there are budgets to consider.

But we don’t have to say “no.” Instead, work on saying “yes.” Here are some examples:

  • Yes.
  • Yes, but give me a month. We need to work on other priorities first.
  • Yes. It needs to come from your supervisor, so talk to them first and have them email me.
  • Great idea! We didn’t budget for that this year. Let’s get a discussion started and see if we want to do it next year.

These are all positive, and a version of “yes.” The last two sound a bit like “no” – but (and I know this sounds sorta passive, but it’s really not) it puts the decision-making back where it belongs, with the employee’s supervisor, or with a larger group looking at options. It’s not just IT saying “no.”

Does your IT department say no? What do you do about that? Please share!

image by Berkeley Lab

Helpdesk Ticket Tracking Software – what are your options?

IT helpdesk ticket tracking software – my library uses it. Right now, we use Track-It by BMC. But it’s clunky, hard to use, and isn’t quite meeting our needs anymore. So it’s time to start exploring our options!

Guess what? There are a TON of options out there. But first, what would we want in an IT helpdesk software package? Here are some features you should think about:

  • incident management – basic “track that IT problem” function
  • Searchable knowledgebase – document the fixes and answers … and create a powerful database of “what to do when”
  • Reporting – for managers like me. You need to keep track of # of tickets, # of closed tickets, # of still-open tickets, who worked on the problem, who had the problem (for potential follow-up with training if needed), etc.
  • Windows software, server-based, or web/cloud based?
  • Other functions that might be useful, depending on your setup, include LDAP/Active Directory integration, asset and contract management, email integration, and scheduling.

These hosted services seem to be all the rage right now, and I have to admit – they look pretty good (at least, compared to what we currently have in place):

I also recently asked for recommendations, and what other organizations are currently using, via Twitter and Facebook. Here’s what some of you mentioned:

So there’s a good list to get you started. Anyone have experience with any of these? Like or dislike them? Sound off in the comments!

pic by michaeljzealot

Kick Starting IT Collaborations – Internet Librarian 2012

Title: Kick Starting IT Collaborations
Speakers – Michael Porter, Helene Blowers, and Carson Block

Michael Porter:

It isn’t about the departments, it’s about the library. Our mission. Our patrons.

We sometimes hyper focus on the things we know…

When we see a baby crying, we have empathy.

Sometimes librarians, directors, IT departments … are just fussy.

Emotional intelligence
– The ability to accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others
– Use emotions to facilitate thinking
– Understand emotional meanings and manage emotions

Thinking about & incorporating emotional intelligence helps staff succeed.

So … Ask, listen, understand, empathize, chill, process, and keep perspective. Focus on these things with staff, and focus on our unique missions as libraries. This can help trump people differences and interpersonal struggles.


Helene Blowers

Helene doesn’t have an IT or a librarian background. It’s in organizational communications” that has really helped her in her career.

Strategies – you have to deal with the culture. Organizational culture.

Tie your IT strategies to the library’s mission.

Make it believable!

Tailor to your audience.
– Have to change the message to communicate with higher-ups sometimes.

Create alliances.
– Engage staff at all levels
– Have IT user groups, emerging tech committees, transition teams – let non-IT staff help collaborate on these ideas

Communicate the plan.
– Meek a usual roadmap of IT, web, technology plans and share that with staff.
-It shows staff and leadership teams that you really do have a plan

Be a collaborative leader.

It’s not about showing your knowledge or your expertise. Instead, keep that communication open and be a team player.


Carson Block

Collaborations r us
– Libraries are all bout collaboration, so it’s weird when libraries and their IT departments don’t collaborate.

Why is this?

The server room – completely controlled by IT, neat and tidy, etc. In the other IT closets, they are messier.

Often, the library and the IT is separate. This should not be!

Some questions:
– Do you understand your library’s real mission in the community?
– Is your language inclusive or exclusive?
– Do you have trust?
– In your library, is the IT department considered an IT store (just something that other departments pull from)or a strategic partner?

Q&A time:

Planning for Success Cookbook from MaintainIT

From Brenda Hough at MaintainIT:

“The MaintainIT Project is happy to announce the latest Cookbook!
“Planning for Success”

It’s a free online resource with current ideas and best practices for
planning, building, and managing your library’s computer technology.
Librarians around the country have contributed their knowledge on
topics ranging from security solutions and strategic maintenance
practices to community building experiences involving Web 2.0 tools
and vital partnerships. And the Cookbook is FREE.

Cookbook topics include:
–       Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
–       Evaluations and Metrics
–       Talking with non-techies
–       Standardizing your IT infrastructure
–       Leasing computers
–       Disk-cloning in libraries
–       Remote desktop software
–       Hiring the right techs
–       Selecting and configuring a firewall
–       Gaming in Libraries
–       What to Consider When Evaluating and Implementing Web 2.0 Tools in
Your Library
–       And more!!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to all three Cookbooks. These
resources reflect the impressive work you all do, and we’re so happy
to share them with everyone.

Don’t forget to check out the FREE webinars MaintainIT offers, too:”


Go check it out – there’s lots of good stuff here!