10/3/11

Bridges, Sign Posts and Directions

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Scott Preston and I wrote a piece for ILTA's Peer to Peer Magazine this month entitled "Building a Bridge Between IT and Library Services." This was the third piece of our collaboration of helping IT and Library Services (LS) understand that we are working toward the same goals, and that our abilities actually compliment each other more than we think. We held a webinar for AALL in April, and followed that up with a breakout session in Philadelphia for the PLL Summit where we fielded questions from the audience and defended some of our more controversial comments from the webinar. In the past few weeks, however, I've found that the divide between the technology side of law firms, and the library services side is still pretty wide.

I've talked with a number of technology leaders as well as other administrative personnel that are having a hard time understanding the direction that the libraries are going, and how that promotes the overall goals of the organization. What's worse, I've heard from more than one person that they simply do not talk with the librarians any more. That is just not good.

In a way you can think of this as a simple language barrier. We all joke about how IT staff speaks in "techie" instead of English. Unfortunately, we law librarians may be guilty of doing the same type of jargon speak that inhibits the conversation and prevents us from explaining, in clear terms, what value we bring to our organization. If you can't explain how a library catalog brings in value, in simple English terms, then why should you expect the organization to continue supporting it? If you can't explain, in simple English terms, why a Serials Librarian is needed, then why should HR continue keeping that employee on the payroll?

We all hate playing the game of "Prove Your Worth." In a way, we've been waist-deep in this game since at least the end of 2008. If you are not fully engaged in playing this game, or if you are still trying to figure out the rules to the game… then you're way behind.

It's not just about building bridges between the library and others, it is about adding sign posts that moves others in the right direction and warns of challenges that lie ahead. It is about being there giving directions on where we are and where we need to be heading as an organization and how we can help get there in a safe, efficient way. If you know that you are being excluded from the conversations of where the leadership is taking your organization, you need to find out why you are not in that conversation, and work to get included. Trust me, everyone that is included in those conversations has a plan for what to do with the library, just as soon as they can figure out how to push you out of the organization.

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