One of the most interesting blog posts that I have read over the last week is Ryan Deschamps’s What the Library 2.0 Crowd is Trying to Say about Technology. Overall, I really like Ryan’s enthusiasm for libraries and technology. I so often find his enthusiasm infectious. In this particular post, I understand (or at least think I understand) what Ryan is trying to get at. He is trying to figure out why technology is so often a problem. Ryan concludes early in his post “that technology problems are ultimately organizational culture problems.” His solution? “Technology has reached a stage that any idea to implement a technology ought to begin with a “yes.”
I’m not convinced that just saying yes to ideas that involve technology is going to help resolve organizational issues. Really, I don’t disagree with anything else in Ryan’s post other than this point. Ryan has 10 great reasons why librarians need greater freedom to play, test and monitor new technologies. I think this means that we need to make technology play a more central role in our organizations – make it seem fun – try and make technology less intimidating – integrate it into our work more fully. I love Ryan’s take on playing and having fun. I think following this suggestion could be the key to helping people be much more comfortable with technology. Without changing the organizational culture, I have a suspicion that actually just saying yes to new ideas involving technology – and then worrying about the actual plan – might actually cause deeper cultural divides within the organization. And isn’t there already a divide that we are trying to overcome?
Additionally, just saying yes doesn’t take into account a whole set of other issues, like technical support or impact on support staff. I admit to often being baffled why some seem to resist simple enhancements that don’t require any resources from those saying no. However, sometimes there are important reasons for saying no. Library 2.0 isn’t just about (or shouldn’t be just about) technology. The technology needs to fit the situation, the library and the people.
I agree with Ryan about the impact of organizational culture on technology ideas. However, it seems that it is imperative to try and change the culture. Technology is only a tool to try and accomplish something. I think that simply saying yes to technology doesn’t take into account the human aspect, the human resistance to change and to technology, and/or the human fear of the unknown. I don’t think it should be about the technology.
Ultimately, it seems that people are trying to figure out why the answer to proposals dealing with even simplistic technologies is more often than not no. This is tough question. I deal with it constantly – sometimes as the one who says no and sometime as the one who gets told no. In many ways, librarians need the freedom to make some of these decisions for themselves without always answering to an outside department. The library needs to have an organizational culture that accepts and even embraces change – one that encourages testing and trial by error. It is easier to say yes to ideas in a testing environment and it may be less threatening to those who don’t take well to change.