IT services & the library

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Libraries are digital whether we like it or not; you’re not going to get far these days without the help of the OPAC, unless you’re not very discerning. Academic libraries are even more digitally dependent; a lot of our content is online, and we offer a lot of “services” online. That said, none of this negates the value of a paper book, CD, DVD or any other thinkable medium that a good library would deliver (it’s all about delivering the right content to the right person — think of content delivery as a service), it’s just that we’re totally dependent on computer systems and IT in order to make the content available to customers.

Now, any good library will provide services in a variety of ways because not all customers are created in the same mould; hence, you need a variety of search options, information sources and a good way of deploying these. And this is where the problems start. The rhetorical questions are: to what extent are IT people interested in library IT, and to what extent do they “know” enough about library IT? The answers to these questions in all cases except those where the IT people in question are dedicated library IT people will be…null. That’s right, not nil, but null — no value for “level of interest and knowledge” will even be registered. That’s a big problem when you only have outsourced IT services.

Libraries are IT heavy, they use specialized protocols and software and the staff that use these systems are experts within their fields — they will invariably know a lot more about what they’re doing and why than the IT people who support them. Again, it takes a library IT person to get this fact. The experience gained from outsourcing everything is that IT becomes inflexible, exhausting and ultimately works against progress.

My advice? Keep your IT department, hell increase its size by employing people who know about AJAX, FRBR, SRU, SNS, whatever, just don’t outsource library IT.

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One Response to “IT services & the library”

  1. Carleton Place Public Library Says:

    We used to do that, as a very small public library in a small town, but found that having IT people who were 4 hours away, wasn’t practical. It meant sacrificing a computer for weeks at a time if something went wrong, shipping it back and for with great expense, and having to relocate the computers we were left with to provide the services we needed. Once we decided to stop outsourcing, things run smoother for the most part, and everyone knows what is going on at all times. I would highly recommend getting your own IT staff, or at least doing most of the IT work in-house and sending the bigger problems out if cost is the problem.

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