Thursday, May 24, 2007

Technology and Libraries

I have been thinking about the use that many libraries are making of new technologies with some degree of envy. Libraries are taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology, adding MySpace pages, publishing podcasts, creating RSS feeds and library blogs. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have even instituted a Technology Scholars Program to allow staff to pursue technology projects to advance library goals and interests (thanks to Sarah Houghton-Jan, LibrarianInBlack, for the heads-up on this news)--a program I am extremely jealous of.

With the exception of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's vast array of tech projects, it seems that many libraries put their technology emphasis on catalog updates and web pages which are visible to the public, but neglect to make changes which might increase staff productivity. This is especially important for larger, urban library systems, in my opinion, because there is a danger of bureaucratic deadness and inertia for these institutions.

When staff members are sending hand entered lists of discards to other branches and departments for potential exchange, this is a waste of staff time--this is something that should be handled automatically through a centralized list. When every branch is creating their own reference manuals or computer training materials, this is also a waste of time--this should be handled through a wiki. An institutional IM service would also be useful on a day to day basis.

Most of this would seem obvious to many of the more adventurous library systems out there, but inertia is difficult to overcome--especially when institutions are creating 5 year plans for technology which changes every 5 minutes.