Twelve Steps to Optimize Technology in Your Library
How do we implement, sustain and report on new technologies in libraries?
How do these new social tools help us? How do they fit into the library landscape?
First, any technology planning must be grounded in the meeting the Mission of the Library. Ask yourself: Is using this hot new technology part of a bigger mission & vision? Does it fulfill a goal or objective? Is it the best solution? If so, go forth and plan, implement, review, evaluate and move on to the next innovation.
What follows, then, are twelve steps to optimizing technology in the library setting. I have been giving versions of this presentation since last fall in London and these tips resonate deeply with me.
#1: Control your Technolust
I love sexy technology. Give me an iPod, wifi finder, Treo, Airport express and a slick Powerbook and I'm a happy camper. But wanting tech for your library because it's so cool could lead to disaster. Ask: How does it fit into the plan or mission? If it fits, implement!
Understand Techno-Divorce as well. Can we let go of dead technology or a failing service. We must if we are user-centered! Sometimes it's hgard for librarians to say "we failed" - when really we should say "We tried it and it didn't meet our standards of success" and cut the cord!
#2: Plan for your Users
I've sang this song before! So hgere's what Ken Weil had to say about serving his users at South Huntington PL:
"We want to provide another way for people to take out audio books that would be more convenient and in a timely fashion. And reduce costs." Library Director Ken WeilSouth Huntington PL, NY - "the Shuffle Library"
#3: Do Your Research
Don't come to the planning meeting with just an opinion and a vague idea of the discussion: do your research! Try evidence-based decision making, which is collecting data, reserach, articles, proof if you will, which allows us to make better decisions and make better plans.
Resources abound: blogs, journals, talk to other librarians and ponder a field trip to a nearby library that has the service or technology you may be looking at.
#4: Focus on the ROI
What does the initiative ACTUALLY cost? Add together the cost of hardware, software and these "hidden" costs: training, staff time and promotion. Try some simple formulas adding costs, staff time costs, etc to see what a new service may truly cost.
#5: Manage projects well
Learn to have effective meetings try "Death by Meeting" Patrick M. Lencioni and try thses tips:
Establish a point person who's responsible - on The Apprentice, this is the Project Manager, and yes all eyes turn to this person if things go awry.
Keep in mind these key components of any library technology initiative:
These all need to be in place or your project may fail! What if just one fell through the cracks? Could IM reference survive if no one knew the service was available? Or if staff never logged in, would the service succeed?
Look for High Impact Projects:
Finish what you start
Plan for evaluation
Low Cost/High Impact
Add blogs externally and internally
Offer an IM reference service
Train your staff! (the return is priceless!)
#6: Use the proper tools
A Planner's Resource List:
Wired for the Future, Mayo & Nelson
New Planning for Results: A Streamlined Approach, Nelson (PLA)
OCLC Pattern Recognition
Get these folks together: Admin + IT + Librarians + Front Liners
All stakeholders must be involved
Use IM to communicate internally
Build a wiki for that BIG project
#8: Create Staff Buy-In
A few tips to generate staff buy-in:
Give them numbers, show them some stats about the project
Be transparent with the details as much as you can
Report & debrief the project via a blog or wiki
Offer training for staff first!
#9: Train Your Staff
Deliver training in person, online, off-site
Make it part of their development
Make it part of the culture
A well-trained staff can carry your message to your users
#10: Be Discoverable
Stephen Abram, from The Google Opportunity, LJ:
"Push content out: Use alerting services, blogs, and RSS feeds and aggregators. These tools are cheap and easy. Let's get more one-on-one with these services and delight our users as individuals and not just as market segments. While we're at it, make sure they know that it comes from their library."
Help your users find your stuff
Check your search rankings
Offer access via handhelds
Use RSS to offer feeds of content
Get out into the community
Place your content, resources and IM info on other local sites!
I also believe you need to get your staff into RSS. If they get it, it will help in educating the public. Then incorporate RSS into your public technology calsses, right?
Selling RSS to your Staff/Users:
Teach them about it
Promote your feeds
Use them yourself!
Be ready... it's going to be big
#11: Establish Your Presence
You are discoverable
You go where your users are
You utilize IM externally & internally
You share with flickr and other tools
Your Message is clear
The staff "gets it"
Some notes about Presence:
Feeds of new materials
Feeds of programming
Feeds from your library blogs
Presence: Web Site
Localized & User-centered
Have a marketing plan
Brand your services
Use blogs for various services
Aggregate content via RSS
Teach your staff and your patrons how it all works
Give users a downloadable toolbar
Presence: Ponder JYBE
Web plug in co-browsing
Choose what fits for you
Presence is not just for your library but you as a librarian too!
#12: Embrace Change & Learn
"We've always done it this way..." Maybe it's time to reconsider that.
"Never stop learning..." Oh yeah!
"Challenge yourself..." Indeed! Look for ways to expand your comfort level with technology: programming, setting up a blog or a wiki, creating a toolbar, learning to IM, etc.
Get away from the computer.