Category Archives: Project Management

Unit 12: Project Management

I knew very little about the burgeoning theory and practice of project management until this week’s readings. I learned about “project management body of knowledge” (PMBOK) containing policies and best practices, and the most common project management models. The readings I found most useful were:

  • Cervone’s Project Risk Management” – for its clear description of various categories of risk and how to assess and manage it. I found the risk matrix a very useful idea.
  • Cervone’s “Making Decisions: Methods for Digital Library Project Teams” – for its analysis of what inhibits teams from making decisions and how to overcome that reluctance.
  • Keil’s “Pulling the Plug: Software Project Management and the Problem of Project Escalation” – for its cringe-inducing portrait of a project development trainwreck, along with an analysis of what went wrong and why the project was continued long after it was obvious that it was not going to be successful. Talk about a cautionary tale!
  •  McDonough’s “Cross-Functional Teams” – for its interesting and useful literature review about what makes cross-functional teams successful (and the converse).

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References

1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Third Edition.

2.  Cervone,  H.F.   “Making  Decisions:  Methods  for  Digital  Library  Project  Teams.” International Digital  Library Perspectives, v21n1 (2006):  pp.  30-­‐35.

3.  Cervone,  H.  F.  “Project risk management.”  OCLC  Systems  &  Services,  22  (4),  256-­‐262.

4.  Keil,  Mark  (1995). “Pulling  the  Plug: Software  Project  Management and the Problem of Project Escalation.”  MIS Quarterly, v19n4, pp  421-­‐447.

5. McDonough  III,  Edward  (2000). Investigation of Factors Contributing to the Success of Cross-Functional Teams.  J  Prod Innov Manag (2000): 17:221-235.

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Unit 11: Course Retrospective

This (SIRLS 672) was my first course in the DigIn certificate program, so I did not quite know what to expect of myself or of the program, especially because I do not have professional experience in a library or with collections, except as a frequent user. Although I have a technical background, I had not worked as a programmer or database administrator in years. I discovered that although the course was more technical than I had anticipated, it was still within my capabilities. The examples of digital collections and the library-specific assignments were enlightening as to the scope of the kinds of projects involved and the kinds of skills needed to manage digital collections in a library or archival environment. 

I have learned new technical concepts and skills in this course that will form the basis of a new and expanded conceptualization of digital collections. For example, I knew little about the inner workings of the internet before taking this class; now I understand the various data protocols and standards used, and the procedures used to get data from one node to another. I also did not know anything about the component parts underlying a digital collection (except a little about databases): now I understand, using the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack as an example, the basic relations between the operating system, the web server, the database management system, and the scripting language underlying a digital collection. I already knew some HTML but I learned a little more, and I learned about XML as a way of describing and structuring data, which was completely new to me. I had professional experience with the concepts underlying relational databases and database design, but it was a good review; and I was introduced to the specifics of MySQL and the scripting language PHP.

In addition to the technical aspects of the course, I learned about the controversies and issues surrounding digital information, such as the argument for open-source software, and the advantages/disadvantages of various system interfaces, such as the CLI  (command line) versus a GUI (graphical user interface). I especially appreciated the opportunity to try tasks using a variety of methods and interfaces so that I could come to my own conclusions about my preferences.  I also learned skills and methods related to project management, the importance of a technology plan, and a little about how technology projects are funded, especially through the e-rate program.  Through the examples and the discussions, I learned about how all of these issues affect libraries, and the issues surrounding the creation and maintenance of digital collections in a library or archival setting. I have also learned about some of the initiatives in the digital humanities.

I especially have a new appreciation for the technical aspects underlying digital collections, and the prodigious amount of work that goes into designing, creating, and maintaining such collections. This knowledge gives a counterweight to the arguments in favor of free access for digital collections: while I agree that access should be as free as possible, I realize that digital collections do not come into being without a large price tag in terms of people-hours and expertise. I think that librarians will have a increasingly large role to play in creating and maintaining these collections, especially in this era of financial constraints.

As I write this I am impressed with how much I have learned, yet I feel a little trepidation because I’m afraid I may have learned just enough to be dangerous.  I realize how far I am from being really proficient in any of these areas; but since the course description states that “this is not a course in network administration, web development or programming!” I feel a little better. I feel that I have achieved the stated goal, which is to learn “about server technology supporting digital collections in libraries, archives, cultural heritage organizations and other institutions.”  I think I have indeed “gain[ed] confidence in [my] ability to learn new technologies as they are developed” and I have come to “understand basic information management architecture.”  I hope and expect that this course will prove to be a firm foundation to build upon as I pursue my future in the digital humanities.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, LAMP architecture, Library science, Project Management, SIRLS 672, Ubuntu Linux

Unit 8: Technology Planning

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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).

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Amazing web sites providing technology for non-profits!

 I learned about TechSoup.org  and TechAtlas.org from my readings for class this week:

TechSoup is a nonprofit with a clear focus: providing other nonprofits and libraries with technology that empowers them to fulfill their missions and serve their communities. As part of that goal, we provide technology products and information geared specifically to the unique challenges faced by nonprofits and libraries.

TechAtlas is a technology planning tool that helps non-profits do a technology assessment and come up with a technology plan. 

I am really excited, because our family is involved with refugee resettlement in Tucson, and my husband has been trying to provide tech support to newly settled refuges. These sites will make a huge difference, I think, in our efforts to help refugees get technology resources, training, and equipment! The need is overwhelming, and the resources are so stop-gap; the various refugee resettlement programs in town are reliant mainly on volunteers, and the case workers are overloaded. I can also think of some local literacy groups that could use these resources.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, Library science, Project Management, SIRLS 672