LITA Heads of Library Technology (HoLT) Meeting

January 13, 2008 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[Apologies for the delayed posting]

Introductions and Announcements

The meeting was called to order by Michelle Robertson – Chair. We went around the room and introduced ourselves. We had representatives from the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Library System, Drexel University, Boise State University, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, the University of Arkansas – Little Rock, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Brooklyn College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Syracuse University, LexisNexis, the University of New Brunswick – Saint John, Temple University, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Alberta, Tri-Colleges (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore), and Anne Arundel Community College.

LITA & HoLT Business

Michelle explained the purpose of the interest group. From the HoLT website:

“Established in 2001 and renewed in 2004. To provide a forum and support network for those individuals with administrative responsibility for computing and technology in a library setting. Programs and discussions will explore issues of planning and implementation, management and organization, support, technology leadership and other areas of interest to library technology managers and administration.”

Michelle further explained that the interest group is a discussion forum. Many HoLT members are information technology people and may or may not have an MLS. HoLT has a web page under the LITA Interest Group section. We also have a listserv (information available at http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/lita-holt) that has relatively low traffic.

Richard Wayne – Vice-Chair – presented a summary of the program planned for ALA Annual in Anaheim, California. The topic is “Transformational Change: The Evolving Role of Library IT Departments.” We have finalized three speakers who can represent different points of view on the topic. Robin Hastings is the Information Technology Manager at Missouri River Regional Library. Carole Kiehl is the Associate University Librarian for Information Technology and Technical Services at the University of California at Irvine. Terry Nikkel is the Director, Information Services and Systems at the University of New Brunswick, Saint John.

HoLTalk (Discussion)

Our first HolTalk topic was the issue of ‘Information Commons’ and the various roles played by its supporters. Here are responses offered by a number of members:

We have a new Dean and have experienced some reorganization as a result. Our Information Commons is not formally an Information Commons or IC. No one entity is responsible for the IC. It’s a part of a larger effort.

The library was constructed in the 1960’s and renovation plans are being discussed. A new Law School is being planned and the 3rd floor may become the Law Library. They are trying to make the rest of the library’s public areas like an information commons. They are trying to get as much technology as possible for the IC areas.

We are just starting to plan for an expansion to accommodate an IC.

We don’t use the term IC. We try and use the term ‘library’ as much as possible. We are about to implement our 4th IC that will be in front of the reference area. The four IC areas have 60, 120, 115, and 85 computers respectively. The one with 85 computers is 24 X 7.

Please define the concept of ‘Information Commons.’

I have been involved in two projects related to the concept of Information Common or Learning Commons. These concepts are not just a cluster of PC’s on the main floor of the library. They are also the services that come with the computers. Some examples are reference services, technology services, and other services. Some of these other services might be writing assistance, homework help, tutors, statistical consulting, and research services. Furnishings are very important as well. Students like to work together. You need to create clusters for them. Buy chairs on casters that can be moved. You need to create a comfortable, inviting environment. Not a quiet environment. Some places have emphasized the services instead of the technology. The unifying element is that information services are more easily accessible. People can connect with librarians, IT people, and each other more easily. If you are building a new Information Commons, you can do it right from the start. The biggest trick to convert an existing area to an IC is usually acquiring the appropriate funds. In both of my experiences, the IC was a huge success. Students just get it. It works. It works at this time. The IC may evolve in a few years.

Our University learned from a neighboring University. Some of the IC is not technology driven. People want dining style booths.

At our institution, it has been part of the undergraduate library. Now it basically is the undergraduate library. We have incorporated a new classroom and re-modeled an old classroom. There is lots of ‘loanable’ equipment available to students. Our IC has been very popular and very successful. The library is almost at 24 X 7. Our scholarly commons area will take over the traditional reference area. It’s not clearly defined at this time but we would work with faculty and researchers. The scholarly commons is also tied in with our institutional repository and the School of Communications. Part of this area is technology, part of it is reference. There are also subject specialists available.

We are using the concept of ‘Research Commons.’ We engaged in a master planning process to see how space could be re-designed. There were several phases to this. The first phase was the development of a café. It opens tomorrow. We tried to take the existing furniture and make areas more group-friendly. We ripped down the circulation and reference desks. We now have desks where trained library personnel can help users find information and circulate materials and help out with technology too. Sort of one-stop shopping. We ripped down our glass walls. The space is much more open now. An Internal Development Officer is looking at various areas of our master plan to try to get funding. We are collaborating with campus IT to put more computer labs in the library to get more use. IT staff will also be helping students in some cases.

Originally our lab was run by a collaboration with Academic Computing. It was not just a technology thing but the way that services were provided in those days. We are rethinking this based upon the way that users are working with us.

There are many different models. Let me throw a few things out. At my last institution, Library IT had a presence. There was quite a bit of discussion about supporting personal devices. For example, getting a student’s personal laptop to work with the campus wireless network. There were a number of group study rooms for four to ten students to work together. Some groups used the computers, some did not. We provided multi-media capabilities and presentation rooms. A student that had a PowerPoint for a class could practice with the PowerPoint prior to his or her class. One of the most popular pieces of furniture was bean bag chairs. We purchased around 15 and they have been extremely popular.

We provide facilities for audio and video editing. It’s all about providing services many of which already exist in several places on campus.

Our DVD burner is very popular. We have Macs in rooms where you can close the door. The rooms can be loaned for several hours. We have Adobe suites on some of our computers. There is more specialized software too. We have about 100 PC’s and 8 or 9 servers. We maintain this with 1.5 FTE.

The discussion shifted at this point to how can you maintain an Information Commons with limited staff?

The first response was ‘get a larger cup of coffee!’

We partner with central campus IT.

But our central campus IT is 20 miles away!

We also rely on central campus IT in many cases.

You need to involve campus IT into the planning process. For example, you need to discuss the sorts of applications that campus IT can support.

We are getting rid of our library [Windows] domain.

Central campus IT Departments still don’t get the concept of the Integrated Library System (ILS).

We have 400 computers in campuses all over the city and just 2 technicians.

Money is not coming for more people for the IC.

The IC is starting to break the camel’s [library’s] back with the increase in support needs.

How do you find [to hire] good technology people?

Recent applicants have been deplorable. They don’t even have basic technical knowledge. We are a consortium and the money offered is reasonable. The applicant pool has not been our students.

Is there much competition for these people in your local community?

Perhaps you need to advertise differently.

At our institution, it took us quite a while, but we found some good people. We went through 2 or 3 cycles to hire good people.

That was our experience as well. It takes some patience.

A lot depends on the market at the time of advertising.

You might look also at how human resources categorizes a job posting. In some agencies, it is not clear what the posted job really is.

There are many potential listservs where you can post jobs.

What should HolTalk discuss at ALA Annual?

We might continue the Information Commons discussion. Perhaps we can survey members with a short survey prior to the next HolTalk to see where they stand with their Information Commons.

Future Program and Publication Ideas?

Michelle read from our list of potential programs:
• Panel of new managers of systems departments – share experiences
• Managing IT staff and librarians
• Handbook for library IT managers / supervisors
• Systems departments’ relationships / involvement with other Library IT projects
• Stakeholder’s expectations
• Hiring, recruitment, and retention of IT staff
• Continuing education for IT staff and library employees
• Keeping staff current with technologies
• Doing the most with the resources that you have
• Cross-training, internships, volunteers
• External funding (grants, gifts, etc.)
• Purchasing versus leasing
• Research & development role of systems departments
• Project management
• Centralized versus decentralized
• Workflow issues
• Establishing collaborative relationships with others outside of the library
• Strategic planning
• Establishing priorities
• New and evolving role of library IT departments and personnel
• Attracting potential IT personnel from current library staff
• How to get others to understand what Library IT does
• Image of systems librarians to the rest of the library community
• Body of knowledge for best practices in systems
• International Computer Drivers License (basic IT literacy)

Please think about these ideas for the next meeting. A new LITA committee (Assessment and Research) may also help provide topics for future HoLT discussion and programs.

Wrap Up

We will need to elect a Vice-Chair at the next meeting.
Please sign one of the membership lists.
The Editor of Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) is here. A member of the Publications Committee and one of the co-authors for an upcoming publication – Making Library Web Sites Usable – is also in attendance. They are always looking for potential topics as well.
Our author – Terry Nikkel – asked how many libraries have something in place for usability:

  • A few hands went up.
  • We hired an anthropologist for that activity.
  • There was also a LITA pre-conference on this topic that was excellent and well-attended.
  • Adjournment

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