I found the readings useful–but repetitive–although the repetition reinforces the idea that a current technology plan is crucial to an organization’s strategic future, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness and user impact. Poor project planning, unrealistic time-lines (and resultant vendor failure), lack of management buy-in, and ineffective training of staff/users could all be addressed by the use of a solid technology plan. 1 And a technology plan can also curb either technophobia or its admittedly more fun opposite, “technolust.” 2 In the mid-80s I worked for a boss that had technolust, and it was indeed fun to always be exploring the latest software and technology, especially with the rise of PCs; but my time was spent moving our data from program to program, and machine to machine, always in search of the latest and greatest software/ hardware, rather than actually DOING much with the data in terms of writing articles/reports or influencing policy.
Since I’m new to library science, the readings about technology funding and e-rates were basic information I need to know, so I’m glad to have read it. I did not realize the government had made such an investment in technology for libraries. 3
As far as this week’s reading, the idea of “environmental scanning” was the most interesting and helpful to me, although the term was new to me — I guess I would have thought of it as “market research” or contextual analysis. I found the “2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition (Executive Summary)“, Alane Wilson, ed. OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. (2003) to be the most interesting and useful of the readings. I thought the report did an excellent job of breaking down the environmental scan into categories or “landscapes”: social, economic, technology, research and learning, and library social/technological trends.
The social landscape describes the new technology user who is: self-sufficient, satisfied, and wants a seamless information experience. I definitely see this in the college students I teach.
- They are self-sufficient (or want to be): They do not want to go to the library and ask a reference librarian for help; I beg and plead with them to do so for their research projects, but they rarely do. Actually, I am the same way: I rarely ask a reference librarian for help, even with my Ph.D. research, unless I am at a special collection archive.
- They are easily satisfied. It is hard to get them to drill down into research results or searches to find the exact data that would make their argument; they take the first results they find from a google search (often Wikipedia). I have to require them to use the library databases, and they seem frustrated by the process; they lack the perseverance to pursue good data.
- They want a seamless experience; they want to cut and paste info into their paper; they want to be able to search lots of databases from one search box (and even have the computer figure out which databases to use); they will not click through more than about 2 levels of menus; they will, I notice, use a live chat with a librarian (or me) if it is available at the moment they are looking for something. They are as likely to query other web resources as they are to use library resources. My students would rather use their smartphone or their ipad for their work than a computer at the library.
The economic landscape shows that staff (knowledge workers) may be the the primary asset of libraries, rather than their collections. I thought this was an interesting point. Knowledge is getting interconnected/created in ways that make the limits of the physical collection somewhat arbitrary. The knowledge workers that make the data accessible to many different users in many different forms are the most important resource libraries currently have (and presumably why I’m in this DigIn course). Along with that, the technological landscape is moving toward interconnected, open-source software that enables this intelligent knowledge creation. The research and learning landscape is also evolving, as digital repositories of data and on-line publishing of results supersede the traditional hierarchical channels of peer-reviewed journals and academic publishing, and as adults continue to be life-long learners outside of academia.
The challenges of these changing landscapes to the library culture are manifold. Having a technology plan that takes these shifting landscapes into account is really important if the library is to continue to evolve to meet the needs of its users rather than becoming merely an artifact and repository of print culture. I especially see this as an issue in the humanities; although we obviously value book culture, there are other cultural artifacts that need to be considered as we study cultures and histories; and as the humanities become less valued (and less funded) in our business-oriented market-driven culture, moving archives and data to the digital realm makes sense since the information is thus seen as more accessible, more useful, more quantifiable, rather than arcane and magical.
1. Whittaker, Brenda. “What went wrong? Unsuccessful information technology projects.” Information Management & Computer Security v(7)n(1) 1999 pp.23-‐30).
2. Stephens, Michael. “Technoplans vs. Technolust.” Library Journal, November 1, 2004.
3. Bertot, Carlo et al. “Study Shows New Funding Sources Crucial to Technology Services.” American Libraries. March 2002 v(33)n(2) 2002. 57-‐59).