10 things

Roy Tennant posted an article over on TechEssence regarding the top 10 things Library Administrators should know about technology in which he makes the point that library administrators are usually appointed more for their skills in running a section/organisation than their knowledge of technology.

He then highlights what he thinks is important for Admin’s to know:

1. Technology isn’t as hard as you think it is.

At least compared to years ago it isn’t. Any reasonably competent library technologist can take a server from scratch to a fully-functioning web site in a day.

2. Technology gets easier all the time.

Now installing applications and any required dependencies can be as simple as a one-line command (e.g., “sudo apt-get install X”).

3. Technology gets cheaper all the time.

Just keep breathing and what you can buy for the same amount of money gets better all the time.

4. Maximize the effectiveness of your most costly technology investment — your people.

I can’t believe how many administrators skimp on hardware and make their staff make do with inadequate amounts of RAM and processors when they are the least expensive part of the equation. Believe me, you do not want your most expensive resource sitting around waiting for your least expensive resource to boot up.

5. Iterate, don’t perfect.

Librarians seem to love perfection. We don’t want to put any technology out for the public to use until we think it is perfect. Well, we need to get over ourselves. Savvy tech companies know the path to success is to release early and iterate oftent. Do not be afraid of a “beta” or “prototype” label — people are now accustomed to such, and it can provide the necessary “cover” to being less than perfect.

6. Be prepared to fail.

The twin to our tendency toward perfection is our fear of failure. But just like the pursuit of perfection is the enemy of progress, so is our fear of failure. This means you must be prepared for some experiments to fail. Just learn what you can and move on.

7. Be prepared to succeed.

Full administrative support that is communicated throughout the organization is essential. Publicity is often key, to alert your user community to a new web site or tool. Don’t make the mistake of implementing a technology well but fail to get it out the door properly.

8. Never underestimate the power of a prototype.

Prototypes are simple implementations of a new site or service that can help demonstrate what a fully-developed site or service would be like. Since many of us find it difficult to imagine a new site or service from a text description, prototypes can spark understanding in a way that few things can.

9.A major part of good technology implementation is good project management.

Many  technology projects require good project management to be successful. Keep in mind that your best technologist may not be your best project manager

10. The single biggest threat to any technology project is political in nature.

In the end, technology is the easy part. What’s difficult is the people part. That’s why your role, as library administrator, is the single most important role in any technology implementation. Are you willing to throw your political support behind it? Are you willing to invest the resources required to make it a success? Will you marshall the entire organization to support, promote, and use this new site or service? If not, simply don’t bother. If yes, then welcome to what will likely be a successful project.

I realise that I haven’t been in this library game for very long – only 6 years, which is about 4 days in Library-Years  – but in those 6 years I’ve seen Library Admin’s who have clearly never even though of Roy’s 10 tips.They complain that technology changes to fast; they make understanding their tech talk sound like deciphering Klingon; they don’t investigate ways to get things cheaper; they are FOREVER waiting for the site/program/interface to be perfect and so it takes years for them to finish it, by which time the site/program/interface is old and obsolete; they’d rather NOT do anything than risk failing; they feel uncomfortable when something is a huge success and they very rarely play the political game correctly, preferring to work in isolation and do not seek out champions for their projects in other departments.

Reading Roy’s article made me realise, however, that these are not just tips for the administrator in the library – the rest of us can listen up as well because more likely than not either all or more than half of his tips will resonate with your section as well.