Looking at Library Information Technology, Leadership, and Culture
New Issue Brief from Dale Askey and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
Last year, I wrote on the changing organizational structure of academic libraries. Across my interviews with the former and current directors of large research libraries, I found a number of areas where these leaders were taking similar approaches—in redefining the role of the AUL, reallocating the staffing and materials budgets for general collections, and experimenting with new approaches to outreach and engagement roles. Their approach, however, was not as uniform when it came to library technology. And indeed some directors were uncertain how best to manage technology resources strategically or tended to collapse technology-enabled services with information technology.
Perhaps this uncertainty reflects a larger issue within academic libraries. As Dale Askey and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe argue in the issue brief we are publishing today, IT staff—and the IT function itself –are too often confined to the periphery of our academic libraries. In “Finding a Way from the Margins to the Middle: Library Information Technology, Leadership, and Culture,” Dale and Lisa describe the “lingering divide between the culture of the information technology unit and the library culture at large.”
This divide can have serious ramifications on both the ability of libraries to meet their users’ needs and to retain talented staff. Moving IT to “the middle” is imperative if libraries are going to continue to transform in a fast-changing environment. To begin, as Lisa and Dale argue, “Library leaders need to have a vision of and commitment to library information technology as a strategic asset and not only an operational utility.”
I’m thankful that Lisa and Dale chose to further develop their CNI talk on this topic into this publication. I invite you to join in on the conversation with your own comments: how do these observations about the place of IT within the library resonate with your experience?