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

More on Community

Nicole Engard (great blog, by the way – y’all should be reading it!) just left a comment on my post It’s About the Community. I was starting to reply to her comment when it dawned on me that my reply might work better as another post, so…

Nicole says: “David, I totally agree! But what about those public service librarians who are “too busy” to maintain these tools? I know that that is the case in many libraries – the staff who should be in charge of the project claims to be too busy (or are too busy) and then the maintenance is passed back to the IT staff – who probably are too busy – and then the whole thing falls apart … sometimes it’s not that the IT staff wants to control the technology – but that they were the last resort.”

Yep – that’s true! How can you deal with that sorta backwards philosophy?

Here are some suggestions (please add yours!):

  • The biggest challenge, in my mind, is getting staff over the fact that the new service resides on a computer. Think about it – Telephone reference is a great example. Does the library’s switchboard operator answer telephone reference questions? No – even though those questions come via phone. But there seems to be a disconnect with web-based interactions. Blogs, Social Networking tools, flickr accounts… those come from the computer, right? Wrong. You are interacting with real people, just like with telephone reference.
  • “I’m too busy” – this isn’t the fault of front-line staff. I think this excuse (that’s what it is, after all) falls squarely into management’s lap. Is a blog important to your library? Is the interaction and growth that can be had via a social network part of your library’s strategic plan? If not… you should talk about it. If so… you should be setting priorities and goals for front-line staff. Maybe the staff member needs to NOT be doing something, so they can focus more on the blog.
  • If participating in and supporting your library’s community via emerging online tools is important, why not add it to job descriptions? Why not include things like “post to the blog,” “respond to comments,” or “create a weekly videocast?” We do that with other important job duties – don’t just tack on an “oh yeah, do something with the web, too” line. Focus on strategic goals, and realign job duties to meet those goals.

Any thoughts?