BCLA 2017: IT in the Library: The Power of Networks

Notes from the BCLA pre-conference session.

Survey Results

Respondents: mostly public, sizable academic; equal number of technical and IT, most said “all of the above”

41% have IT services in the library, 30% shared or centralize, 32% combination, 5% contracted

Quality of relationship: 14% excellent, 80% good or fair, only 1 rating of poor.


  • disaster recovery: > 80% have or working on one
  • technology plan: > 80% have or working on one
  • digital strategy: 15% have, but > 50% working on it
  • digital literacy curriculum: < 20% have, but 40% working on it

Projects & priorities:

  1. 70% website renewal/replacement
  2. 54% staff IT skills development
  3. 50% technology learning space
  4. 43% digital content creation space / desktop management
  5. 40% print or session management / mobile device management

3 Main Issues (top 3 really stood out):

  1. HR and skills development
  2. Budgets and resources
  3. Communication and relationships
  4. Security
  5. ILS issues
  6. Network bandwidth and speed

What we should talk about today?

  1. Technology planning
  2. IT project planning / staff skills development
  3. IT and library staff relations
  4. Managing technology
  5. PC vs. thin clients / training for front line technology help
  6. Digital strategy / network connectivity / SaaS/Cloud services
  7. Other: IT Department structures; web development and UX; mobile device management; recruitment; intranet development; ILS stay or go

Voting ensued and we ended up with these 7 topic:

  1. Tech planning
  2. Digital strategy
  3. PC vs thin clients
  4. Staff training
  5. IT structures
  6. Intranet
  7. IT/Library staff relations

Main points that came out

Technology Planning

  • scope: tech involved, what’s covered, roles/staff
  • keep it relevant to users: regular review of technology
  • tool for inventory, rolling renewal schedule, related to budgeting

other notes:

  • management of internal controlled vs. externally
  • how to get buy in
  • identifying and addressing gaps
  • determine maintenance of existing technology

might include:

  • disaster recovery
  • staffing
  • maintenance: how often renew of hardware, software (e.g. ILS); review at least 5 years
  • licensing management
  • gaps: green, yellow, red flagging
  • strategic planning

Digital Strategy

  • defining what a digital strategy is
  • aligning with larger organization’s priorities and strategic planning; getting included into the larger plan
  • identifying short term fads vs. long term plan
  • needs to be a living document
  • how does it related to technology plan

PC vs thin clients

  • Citrix vs. Deep Freeze; newer virtual image management
  • wifi use up; desktop use down
  • need for more bandwidth

Staff Training

  • defining scope for tech support provided to users
  • setting aside paid time for training e.g. self-paced modules, lynda.com, Google MOOC
  • tie into strategic plan to get support and buy in

other notes:

  • staff assume that they can move up, but involves different skills set
  • need education and experience
  • some places lack technology course, not a “core” course
  • tie into strategic planning
  • allow staff to give definitive answers
  • searching google improved from going through google mooc
  • certificates to put into employee files
  • basic troubleshooting documentation/information

IT structures

  • efficiency
  • skills
  • recruiting/retaining a big challenge


  • scoping/defining what goes into intranet to meet needs
  • need for reference: static documentation vs. interactivity: conversations where you can comment on topics
  • resources for managing intranet

IT/Library staff relations

  • library only sees a small part of the work, need that explained
  • security, infrastructure, etc. vs. service; why can’t have it
  • get to common goals and shared values
  • reach out to find out

Other notes:

  • service catalogue: who to contact
  • ITIL implementation
  • when want something new: put forward together a “charter”
  • collaboration between IT and program/service staff
  • voice at the departmental levels
  • cross-team meetings
  • IT or library might bring in consultant, contractors
  • make sure to include IT early on


Christina Castell, VPL

  • not the same perspective as IT or librarians, a little bit different from either group
  • interested in how people use technology, making the experience better, building real things
  • what matters in library IT: processes & methodologies, broader side of IT: difference in development, support, infrastructure; relationships; values & goals
  • began outside libraries; IT environment

Processes & Methodologies

  • standardized methodology doesn’t happen much in libraries, but can be very important and useful
  • project management: initiate -> plan -> execute & control -> close -> (initiate)
  • methodology important for all projects regardless if IT related
  • planning can take up to 30% of project time
  • regular status and project updates; reporting up with what accomplished this week, what’s coming next week
  • take what you need based on budget, scale, culture, value; will need to provide variation

Broader Side of IT

  • one of the biggest pain point was development requests that went to support
  • was no concept of saying ‘no’ because public services seemed to take over and is the highest priority; now changing to saying whether it will be a priority
  • understanding the difference between development & support
  • support: tracking services requests
  • managing new work intake differently; needs to be a format process
  • involving IT in problem/need evaluation; need to spend more time in collaboration with IT to understand problem and provide solution vs. implementing public services staff’s solution
  • prioritizing public vs. staff; in libraries, mostly prioritize public
  • operations: infrastructure replacement; security: control vs. access; reason for implementing technology to “save time” but takes a lot of IT staff time.
  • need to acknowledge



  • power of managing IT is relationships
  • core relationship is with City IT: infrastructure, planning, PMO, finance, risk management
  • spending the money given, providing reports on time
  • moved to coordinated approach
  • communicate regularly, report regularly, spending properly means building trust

Within the library

  • consider the whole strategic plan, goals, values
  • understand each department’s goals
  • explain constraints (budget and time)
  • need business analysis: understanding the best way to implement a project
  • can you “reveal” the work? e.g. if we’re doing our jobs, they’ll never notice. 80% spam, 20% real

Values & Goals

  • strategic plan: more than half involve technology at a core level
  • Internet Governance Forum: even in very technology environment could understanding and support public access
  • individuals have the right to privacy
  • we make that happen

Scott Hargrove, FVRL

  • previous IT meetings found a lot of the problems are common across systems
  • 3 themes: how to leverage the resources you have or can easily get, can’t do networking without networking, need IT and libraries working together

Leveraging Resources

  • organization has limited resources
  • trick is to know how to get it through
  • work with finance, IT
  • models of services: none are better than others; all have pros and cons
  • looking at how to leverage resources to get goals met
  • see a problem, how to solve it; best way to convince stakeholders and backers
  • present problem, solution, and business plan on how to achieve the solution
  • secret to success: give, and give more; have to compromise; what needs to be done sooner and what can be done later
  • same thing at the individual level
  • IT touches everything
  • Strengths Finder: go read the book
  • find other people to do the weak stuff
  • need to continue learning
  • work out how to work out systems, processes to be more efficient; just don’t forget people and redirect their energies
  • library staff bring customers’ view, library business, community


  • large percentage of introverts
  • need to build strong relationships
  • huge value in bridging the gap
  • need to build trust, can’t do without communicating
  • #1 complaint: acronyms and jargon
  • should involve IT from the beginning
  • joint planning is critical

Cross between IT and Library

  • users and IT are both critical
  • Pew research: user trend analysis 2016: most important is technology skills training and support
  • library staff need to turn towards more technology support
  • more IT people in place, and more library staff learning more technology support
  • where else do users get technology training and support? Go to libraries because trust, accessible
  • need to constantly reassess, and keep on top of changes, trends
  • help organization develop strategic priorities, and helping users
  • research on how to build innovation: only thing of successful technology figures had in common was that as children, all read sci fi & fantasy
  • need to make sure we remain viable on the global stage, making the world a better place
  • need to work together to talk things over, ways to overcome problems, turn problems into innovations and solutions

Q&A for Panelists

  • public access in libraries: be a safe place for ideas be expressed; privacy vs. anonymity: privacy is important, absolute anonymity might not be; giving users choice on where their information is stored e.g. cloud vs. local
  • libraries are respecting privacy; how to protect against surveillance: think about Library Freedom Project: programming element, educate people; part of the problem is sites visited, and what users decide to do.
  • libraries and marketing: need to do better at telling our story to technology vendors. One of the primary gateways to technology. Not a commercial enterprise so need to walk a fine line.
  • Tech firms looking at libraries for seeing how to continue to be viable and how to adapt; lack of recruits: seeing libraries as place to start recruiting and seeing libraries where people start learning their skills.
  • get involved at community and especially global level.

So Far Today and Last Group Discussion

  • Really liking: networking, collaboration aspects
  • When are we going to talk about:
  • working together on projects,
  • implementing ideas and solutions,
  • advocating for resources,
  • keeping the conversation going,
  • future trends and directions,
  • specific skills and standards.

Group Discussion: Concrete next steps

Staying Connected

  • set up a listserv
  • place to post discussions?


  • it’s a big topic

Resources, Toolkits, Mentorship

  • discussion forum: searchable, threaded
  • regularly connect over voice/video, in person

Getting More Resources

  • ask for money from external organizations: charities, foundations, grants, government
  • PR piece
  • for program and services vs. capital: hardware, etc.
  • may sometimes have to match or contribute money
  • what happens for maintenance, refresh
  • work with other libraries
  • other departments within university or city
  • partnerships with other organizations
  • know your audience
  • users to pitch (vs. reporting back): in person or videos
  • make your case, how to present information and data

SAAS/Cloud Services

  • it’s complicated
  • are all looking at pros and cons
  • really have cost savings?
  • need to ensure stable, fast internet connection, etc.
  • allow refocus of staff time on other things

Disaster Recovery Plan

  • use a service, hire consultant vs. doing it on your own

ILS Migration

  • involve staff early on
  • grieving process for what’s been lost

End of Day

cat and owl

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

2 thoughts on “BCLA 2017: IT in the Library: The Power of Networks”

    1. The survey was sent out to the attendees ahead of the session. Deb (who presented the results and facilitated the session) did preface the results with the fact that the results might be a bit skewed depending on whether multiple people from the same institution responded or not.

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