The Library Technology Services: Organization, Management, and Assessment e-Forum was held on September 12-13, 2023. Rebecca L. Mugridge, a Distinguished Librarian at the University at Albany, SUNY, and Janetta Waterhouse, the Associate Dean for Collections, Discovery, and Information Technology at Kansas State University, served as the co-moderators.
The forum invited attendees to build on research conducted by the moderators to share/determine how libraries manage their technology, considering a dozen types of IT services. Participants discussed how information technology is organized and managed at their institutions, the pros and cons of centralized versus decentralized responsibility and organizational structures, how information technology services are assessed, and their top challenges.
On Day 1 of the e-Forum, the moderators posed questions about whether libraries have IT staff, what technology services are provided, and whether the library or organizational IT is responsible for some or all of the services. They also asked whether the library’s IT unit collaborates with organizational IT, how well those collaborations are going, and whether there is any centralization of services with the organizational IT.
It was great to see a variety of institutions respond! While the majority of responses were from medium-size academic libraries, some smaller academics and several public/county libraries that ranged in size from small to system-level also responded. As far as IT employees, several people reported having a single person handle things, several have libraries with a unit or team, and there was a smattering that reported relying on organizational support or having a combination of library and organization IT support. Services supported by libraries tended to be what you would expect (library systems and library-specific applications and services), while many reported having an organizational-level support for networking and security. Several people referred to cloud based services, which is an expected trend for library IT services. Regarding collaboration, a couple of people reported good collaboration between the library and the organization’s IT but some reported problematic relations, generally around staffing levels and responsiveness. Centralization of IT support to the organization level was reported but not common.
Day 2’s discussion focused on the level of satisfaction experienced with technology services and whether satisfaction was impacted by who provides the service. Some libraries reported that the working relationship between the library and the institution-level IT unit is working fairly well. Others reported on perceived problems that relate to the length of time to resolve problems, lack of consultation, and communication issues.
Participants also discussed how their institution assesses IT services and activities. One participant mentioned that their institution-level IT unit conducts periodic 360-degree surveys to evaluate the help ticketing process; they also track a variety of IT activities to evaluate success. Another reported that their library is shifting to a customer service-oriented model to improve satisfaction.
Several participants addressed a topic from Day 1 about centralizing IT services at the institution level, with several noting anxieties about who does what and lamenting the loss of control and acknowledging that service and response time have degraded. Another participant mentioned that IT liaison meetings have been helpful in keeping all IT staff informed of updates and other IT changes.
Finally, participants discussed the biggest IT challenges they face, and how they’re positioning their libraries to address them. Some of the challenges mentioned include computer replacements, integrating new services, staffing concerns, and inadequate budgets.