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?