On business and libraries and technology and …

Do you read Harvey Mackay’s weekly column “On Business“? It’s always full of great advice on running your business better. There’s nothing cut-throat, devious or flashy in his advice and that’s why I like it. His advice is based on his own success in business and is centered on meeting customer needs. Find out what the customer wants, give them more than they asked for and they’ll come back for more. (Well, that’s my capsule summary!) His advice translates so well to library service.

This week’s column (Jan 13, 2008) ended with this advice about technology:

The Internet is like the computer was before it. Both are tools. They can revolutionize how you administer and publicize your business, regardless of the size of your bottom line. But there is no substitute for the product itself. Stay abreast of the trends, but stick to the business of keeping your core products and services competitive.

Such a good reminder for techy geeky me! Even though I love technology and all the latest shiny new tools and toys, when I recommend a tool to a library it needs to help them meet a need, solve a problem, work smarter, create a new service or enhance an existing service.

When I’m teaching classes I can often hear the stress of people feeling overwhelmed by new technology. I try to emphasize:

  • You don’t need to implement all the latest, coolest stuff.
  • Just by exposing yourself to new ideas and tools you’ll be adding new strategies to your problem solving ‘tool kit’.
  • Keep up with tech trends, but don’t let it take over.
  • Always keep your patrons needs and service goals in mind.
  • Keep learning, keep an open mind and have some fun.

Simple stuff really, still I love it when I hear sighs of relief! I don’t want people leaving overwhelmed and feeling like they have to implement everything. If they try that, they’ll fail and likely do nothing!

These issues came up in several discussions and planning sessions this week. Dee Portzer (Questar III BOCES), Mary Ratzer and I are working on a weekend workshop retreat for school librarians focused on developing ‘inquiry based learning’ projects and possible uses of technology to support the projects. The technology emphasis really is on ‘support’. We don’t want people blogging just to blog or wiki-ing just to wiki. Gotta say, I’m psyched! I know I’ll be learning as much (if not more!) than everyone else.

2 thoughts on “On business and libraries and technology and …”

  1. Polly, when are you going to do a conference presentation on teaching and training librarians? Better yet, when are you going to clone yourself and send out an army of Pollys to train everyone? This is exactly the kind of attitude we need in our training and classes, especially the tech-related training.

  2. Thanks Kate. But when it comes to cloning, I think we need to clone YOU first! And the other sane voices out there who are trying to make sense of the current transistions in libraries. Finding that delicate balance between reaching out to engage new users and their needs, while continuing to meet the needs of our existing users who may or may not want new services and staying sane, what a challenge. Willy nilly application of technology is not the answer – as you so wonderfully put it in your recent post, we can’t just “slap a wiki on it and call me in the morning” Love reading your thoughtful and sane posts. Keep it up!

    I’ve been a bit hesitant to have the “library 2.0” phrase attached to my classes, there’s such an unfortunate divisiveness that’s developed around it. I was recently catching up with an old friend and colleague who asked me what I was teaching these days – her response “oh no, you’re one of THOSE people”.

    Nevertheless, the debates and reexamination of what we do and why we do it, have all been good. I just try to reassure the folks in my classes that they really are already “library 2.0” if they’re asking their patrons what they want and trying to respond to that. Really, just a reinvigoration of what our best is all about – meeting patron needs and engaging with our patrons.

    And as for the cloning, I’ll happily clone myself if at least one of me can spend some time on a warm beach with a margarita in my hand! Cheers!

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