Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

By Michelle Boule | The PacificFrom Internet Librarian 2006, Monterey (Monterey Peninsula), California...

The theme for the first day seemed to be libraries using their funds differently when planning for program offerings and technology needs. More libraries are saying "no" to large, expensive turnkey, out-of-the-box products and "yes" to more money for staff who can build unique, flexible products.

Out-of-the-box products create more silos and information gateways, which may not be integrable with other items in a library's virtual presence. Though these products may save your library time, it forces the user to invest more time in finding what he or she needs. “Save the time of the user,” Ranganathan said, not save the time of the library staff member.

Any Customization Takes Time
Any follower of Library 2.0 knows integration of information into many different places is a key tenet of this movement. Most turnkey products only talk to themselves. Customization is available for many out-of-the-box products, but customization takes staff time. If this is the route your library has taken, your library is spending money twice—once on the product and then again for staff to enhance it.

Row of Laptops by Michelle BouleIf your staff is spending time tinkering with out-of-the-box products, some of that time may be better spent building on, or adapting, open-source products. Open-source products are "free," but you will need to spend developer time to customize it to fit your library. Library directors and administrators truly dedicated to creating robust virtual spaces are employing developers to create a reality of their visions. This breed of library director, as the saying goes, is putting the money—and time—where her/his mouth is.

Building New Services from Within
This shift in thinking was apparent in many of the sessions I attended Monday at Internet Librarian 2006. Below is a list of sessions and how I believe they illustrated the movement toward an investment in self-built systems.

Opening Keynote with J. A. Jance
J. A. Jance talked about telling the stories of our lives. What is the story that your library‘s technology is telling about you?

Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and More: Transforming Libraries the 2.0 Way with Dr. Paul Miller
This session was about taking services to users in new ways. From its Mashup contest to new ways to display traditional catalogs in many places online, Talis is leading the way in helping libraries develop better, more useable products.

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff: Competencies & Tips with Sarah Houghton-Jan and David Lee King
Sarah discussed training competencies. A library that wants to reach their users using technology should expect to spend time and money to properly train staff members. David gave the audience ten ways to keep library-techie staff happy. Techie staff members require a supportive environment, which takes investment of funds for gadgets and play time.

Cool Tools and Mashups for Webmasters with Frank Cervone & Darlene Fichter
Many of the tools highlighted make our programmers' and techie players' lives easier. A happy Web staff often can translate into a better Web presence for your users.

Library 2.0: Going Where the Users Are with the Alliance Second Life with Tom Peters, Lori Bell, and Michael Sauers
Tom Peters (the standing speck in white shirt)I am not sure there is a better example of how doing something unusual can bring library services to people in a unique, useful way. This project takes a lot of time, and the panel noted that many library administrators may not see contributions to Second Life Library 2.0 as “work.” The services the librarians in Second Life are offering mirror the ones we offer in real life. I cannot think of a reason why we should not start to consider this form of outreach work.

The leaders in our profession are looking to our internal talent for new programs and ideas. Instead of relying on vendors (that may choose to comply or not with our requests), libraries should continue this trend of growing new products from within. Essentially, we need to start putting more time and money into our core values in order to serve our users in the best ways possible.
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