A colleague and I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking and chatting about libraries’ use of SaaS solutions and free, third party proprietry cloud-based services to host their systems and software. We’ve thought about it so much that we decided to take that one step further and do a spot of research.
At the VALA 2010 conference (one of Australia’s leading ITish conferences for librarians), we’re presenting a paper called ICT as core business: will we prosper or drown? Here’s the abstract:
Information Communications Technology (ICT) is core business for libraries. Every day, libraries deliver ICT services to their customers, in the form of public access computers, wireless Internet connectivity and technology training programs. We increasingly rely on the Internet and the World Wide Web as a core service and collection delivery channel. And ICT is the single most important set of tools in allowing us to carry out ‘traditional’ library functions such as collection management and circulation.
At the same time as we are seeing our dependence on ICT reach new heights, we are also seeing IT departments locking down and standardising organisational ICT environments in response to an increasing need for control in order to meet efficiency and governance requirements. Often, these efforts occur in response to the organisational needs of the parent organisations to which libraries belong, not in response to the library’s needs. The move towards shared service models for ICT services means that libraries have to compete for ICT services and support, and as a result, do not always obtain the needed support.
Libraries are surrounded by tools and systems that provide new and exciting options for service delivery, but that require a move away from the traditional ICT model. The authors’ conversations with colleagues throughout the industry, commentary in the biblioblogosphere, and even the library literature, suggest that with the proliferation of these new tools and their uptake by libraries, there has been a disconnect between some libraries and their IT support groups. Many libraries are adopting, or at least investigating new models, including Software as a Service (SaaS) options for major systems, cloud computing for hosting of services and resources, and open source systems and software solutions. How does this fit within the broader ICT framework of parent organisations? Often, it simply doesn’t fit at all.
Why is it that libraries have chosen to position services in the cloud, to move core systems to SaaS environments, and to seek out open source alternatives to proprietary software and systems? This paper considers whether the adoption of these tools and environments by libraries has occurred as a result of a lack of appropriate and necessary ICT solutions and support within our corporate ICT environments. Did the disconnect cause libraries to seek out new models and tools, or did our adoption of the new models and tools cause the disconnect?
Given that libraries are adopting strategies and implementing services in this new ICT sphere, what do libraries need to consider in order to ensure sustainability, supportability, and ultimately, success? As the end users become controllers of ICT – as libraries implement ICT solutions quite independently of the ICT groups within their broader organisations – is it enough for library staff to be able to depend on the intuitiveness of the tools, or are there skill sets – ICT, writing, publishing, design and other skill sets – required by library staff, skills that have perhaps been taken for granted as being provided by the organisational ICT group?
If you work with IT in libraries, if you adminstrate a library management system, if you’ve ever implemented a blog or wiki or Facebook page for your library, then we need your input to get a clear understanding of why libraries are looking for alternative models for system and software hosting, and what that means for skill requirements.
If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, we’d really appreciate you taking the time to complete our survey.