Who Do You Trust?

6/25/2005

RUSA/MARS User Access to Services Committee

Do You Trust Your IT Staff? Do They Trust you?

Talk about a topic close to my heart! Though somehow, in thinking about it before the conference, in my mind it morphed into “Does Your It Staff Hate You?” In fact, around Wednesday, I had to talk to someone in IT via phone, and I asked him if he hated me. He said no. Do I trust him enough to believe him? /humor

This program was held on the fourth floor of McCormick, which had had a power failure. No elevators or escaltors, few lights, no A/C. I felt like I was in a Gibson novel as I traveled long, seemingly endless, dark service corridors and stairs. Maybe it was Stephenson? Heinlein? When my friend and I finally encountered humans, I said, “Our kind!”

There were four panelists. If you want the names, see Genny’s post. Two were from Chicago Public—their IT director and a public services person. They pretty much love each other. Basically, they feel they are entering a much more comfortable period, where the pace of library technology change is not as overwhelming as it was just a few years ago. Kareem, the IT guy, talked about how IT must service needs, like a utility. He talked about taking out the human element when it doesn’t add value; but when the human element does add value (i.e., reference work), honoring, respecting, and supporting that. <3

The next speaker was an IT director from an academic library in WV. He felt the tension between IT and public services is improving, in part because newer technology is more reliable.

The A/C started working–hurray! I still haven’t gotten over the trek up, though.

The last panelist was from an academic library. She was a techie before she went into public service, which has been useful, as she can translate between the two languages/cultures. She said that the PCs belong to the users–the users are the focus. The relationship with IT has a push me-pull me quality. The tension between security and access; standardization vs. creativity. The planning process needs to be intertwined. Active partnership. However, there does need to be work around IT accepting anecdotal information from librarians. The reference interview as a usability test.

There were good questions and comments. The topic obviously resonated. Librarians still primarily deal with users F2F. It’s not as sexy as digitzation, or chat, or RSS. But IT needs to be reminded to treat public service staff as important customers.

I loved some of the ideas: librarians as translators; user needs as primary focus; bulletin boards for public service staff to discuss technology.

I still feel the “tension”, such a nice word, dealing with IT. My feelings were a bit hurt by Kareem saying that librarians shouldn’t do any troubleshooting or anything on PCs. I have years of experience. I can take apart a CPU, a printer, I have little screwdrivers, tweezers and needle nose pliers; I know what proportional versus fixed means in a variety of settings. These aren’t my primary skills, but still. Now you don’t need or want me involved?

Our staff PCs are so locked down–as much as the public–seems like someone doesn’t trust me. I have come a long way since I threatened an PC/LAN technician with a paring knife if he tried to touch “my” PC (long ago in a distant land; believe me, I had my reasons.) I’ve learned that the best way to deal with IT is to bake them brownies and offer personal interest. I do not hate IT staff–they are among my work friends. But can I tell you about the last IT committee I was on? No, I won’t, but trust me; I do not trust IT. Do you?