• September 4, 2015

IT's Role in the Library of the Future

Sue Stroyan

Sue Stroyan

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Sue Stroyan

Many institutions have merged their information-technology and library operations, sometimes resulting in a clash of cultures. Sue Stroyan, information-services librarian for Illinois Wesleyan University, talks to the Tech Therapy team about why this trend is likely to continue, and what tomorrow's college library might look like.

Download this recording as an MP3 file, or subscribe to Tech Therapy on iTunes.

Each month, The Chronicle's Tech Therapy podcast offers analysis of and advice on what the latest gadgets and buzzwords mean for professors, administrators, and students. Join hosts Jeff Young, a Chronicle reporter, and Warren Arbogast, a technology consultant who works with colleges, for a lively discussion—as well as interviews with leading thinkers in technology.


1. micahvandegrift - February 03, 2011 at 09:25 am

This is a great topic and thanks for posting it. I am an MLIS student and have somehow become incredibly interested in building better connections and conversations between librarians and IT staff. I'm glad to hear that others are discussing this as a larger issue, and I hope that the collaboration continues. I'll be writing a blog post on this topic in the coming weeks, thinking about it from a students perspective. Thanks again!

2. cindyellen - February 03, 2011 at 09:38 am

Another similarity between libraries and IT is the service component. Both provide help to students and faculty; librarians provide help with content and access to that content, while IT folks provide help with technology hardware, software, and productivity software--which points to a difference that some have difficulty overcoming: the library usually reports to the academic side of the house, while IT in many cases reports to the financial side of the house. Regardless of the reporting structure, a culture of collaboration, collegiality, and communication means that it is indeed, as Sue mentioned, a win-win situation when the library and IT departments work together.

3. keef033 - February 03, 2011 at 02:35 pm

Good report. I can attest the this working - the Library is part of the Information Systems & Technology (IS&T) group where I work. It has been not for some 6 years. We think in that regard we were running at the head of the pack. While there are some discrete areas of operation for areas represented in IS&T, there are great synergies between the two, that covers more than the fact that there is so much digital information. Having both perspectives at our management meetings is beneficial to the whole campus. There can also be benefits from funding perspectives. I think it works well when there is great collaboration all around - academic, technology and library services.
The perspectives of all areas helps progress overall.

4. bookman51 - February 03, 2011 at 02:37 pm

I think Sue adequately described some of the complexities of bringing IT and libraries closer together. While Warren said focus on the similarities, one better also take account of the differences. As an IT person told me some years ago, "We do not make good bedfellows if we are forced to snuggle too closely together." And, one needs to consider carefully just what problems one hopes to solve by bringing them together. Saving money is usually not one of the problems solved. So far much of the discussion and emphasis is on the various forms of "merger." I have not seen much as far as serious studies as to why some "mergers" have come apart. Those things do not make news but we could learn alot from the. Collaboration and cooperation--yes; forced marriages of convenience promoted from the top down--no.

5. delonix - February 03, 2011 at 05:05 pm

In my experience a lack of understanding of specific needs of IT departments by library staff and librarians, as well as a lack of understanding of relative importance of library programs and structure of services by IT has resulted in political inefficiencies. IT has long been a whipping-boy for its constituencies because the resources are lacking for the wishes of its users. Often the dictum is "The demands increase to consume the available resources."

Interaction even in excellent universities has been hampered by rather commonplace resource provision and allocation issues rather than lack of planning. Librarians have been unwilling to appreciate the difficulties. In this they are not different than faculty and administrators.

IT seldom has adequate resources and the cultures lack adequate similarity. I doubt whether merger will help.

6. chuck_osmund - February 04, 2011 at 09:06 am

I've worked in both academic IT and in libraries, and have observed an asymmetry in how they view their knowledge and competencies. Librarians on the whole understand that their expertise is in Information and not in Technology, while IT professionals believe that they are experts in both Information and Technology. Thus IT sees little reason to engage with librarians, since they feel they have nothing additional to bring to the table.

7. blendedlibrarian - February 04, 2011 at 04:32 pm

No disrespect to anyone who participated in this conversation - a nice job all around - but I hope that the Chronicle can come up with a more cutting edge topic for its next library-oriented tech therapy than an issue we've already debated and analyzed for 20 years or more. What about exploring the phenomena of LibGuides and how that is changing instruction and collaboration? What about the challenge of integrating streaming media into library services - and how that requires collaboration with IT? What about new options for delivering textbook content and how libraries are collaborating with bookstores and faculty? There are plenty of new and challenging topics out there that would make for a good conversation.

8. eugene859 - February 07, 2011 at 06:35 pm

Quite right, blended -- this is old news indeed. I am reminded of the adage that by the time a trend makes the cover of TIME Magazine, it's already passe.

Chuck, your description could not be more true. IT folks (and managers and others) think they know what "information" is -- yet they often have no clue.

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