Have you ever tackled a big project on your own...only to find yourself confused and flailing, wishing you had someone to turn to for advice? If so, you know firsthand the importance of an advisory committee. As you dive into this important topic, be sure to review our 10 Rules for Building and Maintaining a Technology Team.
Why Create an Advisory Committee to Help You Create Your Tech Plan?
- There’s a lot you don’t know about technology. No one person can keep track of it all, so hearing from techies within your library and outside your library can inform you about what’s possible, what isn’t and what the real costs are.
- There’s a lot you don’t know about your community. Community members will give you a better idea of how patrons use computers, what they can find elsewhere (e.g., at home, at school) and what they’re missing in terms of technology access and technology training. Frontline librarians will also know a lot about patrons’ computing needs.
- There’s a lot you don’t know about your library and your fellow librarians. What are their successes and frustrations with technology? What tools, training and support services do they need?
- You need evangelists. The librarians and community members on your tech team will communicate your technology vision to other librarians and other patrons.
For libraries that feel a tech team is a little beyond their reach right now:
- Try to develop some informal feedback loops if you can’t create a formal advisory committee. Make technology a part of the regular conversations you have with your staff, your trustees, your patrons, and your friends.
- Get in touch with techies in your area and invite them to have lunch or coffee.
- If you can’t find the right conversation partners locally, get online and look for mentors in the WebJunction or TechSoup discussion forums.
For libraries that feel they can pull off a tech team:
- Begin by defining the mix of roles you’d like on your tech team. This can include such roles as tech evangelist, a technology skeptic, a frontline librarian who deals with patrons and their computing needs, someone who understands the library’s budget and strategic plan, etc.
- Then think about the folks you know within the library and outside of the library who might fill those roles. Some folks will fill more than one role.
- Start with modest goals. Try to find three or four interested individuals (not all of whom have to be techies) who can meet three or four times a year. That might be all you ever need, especially in small and mid-sized library systems. If you find you need to meet more often, or if you need more points of view on your team, you can always make those changes down the road.
Stories from the Field
I have a department of five people so we all get together and we go over the plan that’s been done for the library as a whole and we talk about different things that we need to do to support those goals. Some stuff is pretty much the same every year, honestly, replacements and that kind of stuff. But then we talk about other ideas that they might have that support the goals that aren’t on there. So first it goes through my department and then, of course, I run it past the supervisors. This is going to sound terrible and I mean absolutely no disrespect in any fashion, but most of the supervisors don’t really care. They just want it to work; they don’t care how it gets there. But the director certainly likes to see what we’re going to do because that helps her with her budgeting and that kind of stuff. The public services people tend to be more interested in it than some of the other supervisors.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
When you create a team, it needs to be made up of people who are willing to work. If you have someone who only complains and thinks that being on the committee is a way of complaining about stuff, you're never going to go anywhere. But you want people who will see things differently than you...They don't have to be technology whizzes...but they [should] be interested in supporting that type of thing....[Getting] different viewpoints...really helps when you're trying to build something that's going to be accepted by everybody. I had people from different branches and I had a person from the public, which is recommended...because they have a different perspective on your library.Claire Stafford
Madelyn Helling Library, CA
For additional references and tools on building and maintaining technology teams, check out the Further Resources section.