Implementing Technology Solutions in Libraries: Techniques, Tools and Tips from the Trenches

Robin Yeates (E‐library Systems Officer, London Borough of Barnet Libraries, London, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 27 September 2011

139

Keywords

Citation

Yeates, R. (2011), "Implementing Technology Solutions in Libraries: Techniques, Tools and Tips from the Trenches", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 475-476. https://doi.org/10.1108/00330331111182157

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Many libraries, especially public libraries, face increased financial challenges and limited staffing. This concise, practical manual advises those facing the management of library technology planning, procurement and implementation, perhaps for the first time. As the subtitle indicates, this is a no‐nonsense, structured collection of first‐hand insights and wisdom.

The work of a new author, ITSiL (as the title is shortened to on the book's website at www.karencknox.com/itsil), discusses the management of large and small projects to implement new library technology systems such as library management systems, self‐service systems and CCTV. It is based on around ten years of the author's work at public libraries in Michigan, USA, but is general enough to be relevant especially to public libraries globally.

Each of the first twelve chapters follows the same format, with the book proceeding from project planning and assembly of teams through research, implementation, testing and training. There is a brief discussion that should manage to link the theory presented to the reality of most public libraries. Key points are then outlined and commented on without any of the off‐putting detail that more specialised books might include. The storytelling approach is then used to illustrate the points made and again reinforce links with reality. A fictional small public library is implementing a new technology solution and staff members go through each stage of the process, learning from their mistakes. This text is based on experience, very concise and engagingly written and could form the basis of internal training and discussion sessions.

The writing comes across as fresh and lively, covering topics such as meetings and agendas in a down‐to‐earth, modern and sensible way, putting across real insights that deal with many everyday challenges and disappointments.

During such technology projects some staff are inclined to see processes very much as personal and emotional interactions. The work helps to stress how projects can be team efforts that benefit communities and not merely personal achievements or disasters.

An unusual but very useful way to conclude the work is its chapter called “Reality Check”. Instead of summing up what has been said, the author acknowledges that many readers will simply want to get on with the job. She explicitly assumes readers will be questioning whether all the effort encouraged towards thorough planning, documentation, testing, training and evaluation is really worthwhile. She then analyses a number of common project types, such as redesigning your website, replacing public computers and accepting credit card payments online. Advice here highlights relevant issues and relates back to points made already to provide a novel and essential conclusion to the work.

In the introduction Knox makes the point that “it is difficult to keep up with the changes” in technology to use library funds effectively. One possible weakness of many libraries is the lack of any formal method of developing and sharing staff expertise and skills relating to technology, as staffing is often so limited and staff are so busy in public libraries that serve many types of communities. In such an environment it is vital that technology projects are run by those with the right skills and knowledge of the whole process.

This is the sort of book that experienced managers wish that all involved in projects would read, learn and inwardly digest to make things so much more straightforward than they usually are. How often is everyone singing from the same project hymn sheet? How often is the project manager left on their own to make all kinds of inappropriate decisions without the benefit of adequate research or contributions from other staff, probably because these staff feel they are too busy or too lacking in understanding of project management to contribute effectively? This book does not really explore how projects originate or on what basis they were conceived, which is a topic worthy of more attention, but it does cover in sufficient details for novices the conduct of innovation management at the coalface. Any inexperienced library manager should find the time to read this, because it could help resolve some of the management challenges that are becoming ever more acute.

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