Archive for the ‘schools’ Category

Web 2.0 – What does an Organization Really Need to Get There?

July 28, 2007

This was originally written to update my “About Me” page. But it turned into this. These are the posts that prompted this post – MLS and Library Technology, a post on Why require an MLS for library technologist about a post on code4lib regarding an MLS degree for library technology postings (which unfortunately is currently unavailable since all sites are down). And here is an interesting post about an opposite perspective called I Didn’t Get an MLS to do That and another about the MLS degree in general called The Embattled MLS in the Library Journal. Which begs another question about whether or not an IT degree should be a requirement for librarians. But that is a post for another day. Anyway…

I said I am a coder. But it is better to say I was a coder. I did love to code. But honestly, I’ve gotten less interested in it since I’ve retired. What I really love to do is to listen to what people want to do and then translate that into something that solves their problem and/or enhances their technology environment.

For as long as I worked, I was what was known as a Programmer/Analyst. That means that the majority of my time was spent conducting client interviews, learning the ir processes, creating client/IT teams to discuss what the goal is and then doing a lot of analysis and design to get to where they want to go. The coding, although fun, is the easy part.

I had to take a concept that someone had and translate it into something functional that transcends their original thought and turns it into a working, creative, useful application. You might not realize what this involves. Most of the time, people don’t know exactly what they want, they just know they want it. This is actually the best scenario. It is really harder when people think they know how to design what they want. There is a reason why there are special IT analysts/architects. We spent a lot of time and have a lot of experience designing technology solutions.

Just as people are experts in their own field such as financial organizations or non-profits or libraries, so are IT analysts experts at translating what someone else does into a technology based solution. And just as I could not tell you the formulas for calculating statistical risks for life insurance, neither would a risk assessor know how to take what they do and make it user-friendly and technologically innovative.

I think one of the problems organizations are having with going Web 2.0, is that they don’t recognize that they need a person who can look at their processes and design a Web 2.0 solution. I’ve done that for many, many years and I really find it surprising that other organizations (such as libraries) that say they are wanting to have an online presence and to go Web 2.0, don’t even seem to realize the need for someone with those skills.

I worked with various functions in life insurance most of my IT life. And I have little to no background in life insurance. It is not my field. But it never needed to be, nor should it have been. There were ample experts in all facets of life insurance that could determine the formulas needed and the results expected, and could take me through the processes. My expertise was knowing how to listen to what people want, to learn how they currently do it and to design a technologically progressive solution that goes beyond what they envisioned and yet still satisfies everyone and is not intimidating. It’s really a very complex job.

I have to confess, I find it funny (sad) that the IT positions for libraries all seem to require an MLS (master of library science) degree. That makes no sense to me. There are plenty of people with library skills and knowledge already in a library. What is lacking is anyone who is able to look at the processes from an IT design perspective and to pull all the areas and processes together into one, creative, innovative and functional design.

I also hear the arguments that you can’t talk to a librarian or understand a librarian unless you have an MLS. How can that make sense? I’ve talked to actuaries and lawyers and accountants and life risk assessors and all sorts of people with their own expertise and language and ways of thinking. Why would a librarian or academic or anyone else be any different? I’m not stupid. I think I can grasp how most jobs and functions work and I think I can talk to most kinds of people and be understood and understand them. And I know how to create a team that includes expertise from all areas so that everyone contributes in ways only they, with their knowledge, can.

Next time your or your organization are thinking about hiring an IT person, think about what you are trying to accomplish and what needs you have that you don’t have internally already. Then look for someone who can determine where you are, where you are going and how to get there in a way that includes everyone and appreciates their expertise while contributing their own expertise. Be understanding of each other and teach each other. Then sit back, let go of the reins and see how far you can go.

~Susan Mellott

Politics 2.0 and the Digital Divide

July 24, 2007

So politics and the presidential campaign is going 2.0. While I am certainly a strong proponent of this, it does raise the question that this is slanted towards the technologically advanced and/or those who have the means and knowledge to use the Web 2.0 technology. This potentially excludes large segments of the population. Many people who were not raised in the era of computers and PCs do not understand even what is available, much yet how to use it. This would seem to greatly lean towards and garner a younger audience then. And those who are older who do know the technology are probably those who work in technology and/or have had access to and knowledge of all the new Web 2.0 technology. Therefore, this would encompass a primarily white-collar, upper-class population and exclude those who have not had the means or did not work with technology.

I think this is one area where our school system and our libraries play a huge role. Our schools need to provide training and funding for every student to learn and be able to apply technology. And our libraries especially, can educate and enable everyone, regardless of age, ability or economic status. I think this is a direction that libraries need to go and I think they need to get the funding to do it. I don’t know that I think the libraries are where the sole responsibility for this lies, nor do I even know if they are necessarily the places that should take this responsibility ultimately. But I do know that if the Public Libraries don’t do it, there will be a large portion of the population that will be left behind.

I cannot think of a public organization / facility that could come anywhere near the ability that libraries have to reach and educate the public and to provide access for all people. I know what a difference it has made to have public computers in the libraries and when I see someone who probably isn’t sure where they will be sleeping that night, come in and sit down at a computer and and be the equal of anyone else, I am proud of what our libraries can give and this is something that I think we all need to encourage and promote and consider when funding is needed for our public libraries.

I find it interesting that of any or all of the public institutions that we have created, I can really only think of libraries as one that has the capacity to serve the entire public in so very many ways, regardless of age, means, ability or any differentiating quality.

And the only problem that someone might run into with using a library is that they have difficulty getting to the nearest branch. So I think it is very important for libraries to keep their small neighborhood branches, including (especially) those in poorer areas since they can serve a population that perhaps can’t easily get farther than they can walk. I do worry that the tendency may be to improve the branches in the richer areas and neglect the ones in the poorer areas, especially since the richer branches may be more used. But the poorer ones may be more valuable. Actually, I remember when the bookmobile used to come down our street. They are no longer running and I think that is a mistake. But this is fuel for another post ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, along the digital divide lines, here is a post from the teachers blog where after a June debate, the political candidates were asked about this. Here is a quote from that post “After the event, I had a chance to speak with four of the candidates about their perceptions about the digital divide and the role schools might play in bridging it. The lesson learned: itโ€™s hard to get more than a sound bite when the candidates are in spin mode.” And here is a link to this very interesting post.