Thursday, 18 June 2009

Library 2.0 at McMaster

I'm in Limerick at the moment for the INULS conference - Connecting People to Information. Tomorrow morning I'm giving a talk on our Information Commons. I was rather rather surprised a few minutes ago to read in the programme that PCs are available for delegate use in the Information Commons area of the University of Limerick Library. Must go and have a look.

The first session was given by Jeff Trzeciak, University Librarian, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada on Tough Times, Tough Decisions, Managing change during economic crises. Very topical! McMaster has been through significant administrative changes over the last 3 years, and also and faced a significant deficit. Jeff knew that in times like this services such as libraries tend to get lost, so he decided to set a bold vision for the University Library and institute a major change programme.

It was a fascinating talk, and although about how a Library reinvented itself, the principles could be applied to any professional support service, and particularly IT.

First principle - marketing is crucial. In times of crisis, if people don't know what you're doing you won't get support or resources.

The mission, vision and reasons for change need to be clarified at the outset.

Roles and responsibilities to drive the change need to be established. They set up a transformation team to get to where they wanted to be - Library 2.0. These were mainly staff from "the ranks", not senior managers. They were tasked with identifying what functions could be stopped, and then staff postions lost(voluntarily), and new positions created - all for new functions. They created for example a digital technologies librarian, a digital strategies librarian, and my favourite, an immersive learning/gaming librarian.

An innovative approach to retaining staff was adopted - a 12 week programme was developed and delivered mainly online about Learning 2.0. - how to use blogs, wikis etc. It wasn't compulsory, but all staff were encouraged to take it, and everyone who did complete it was given an MP3 player, and at the end of the 12 weeks there was a draw for a laptop. It seemed to work as 95 completed it and many staff are now blogging, wikis are used for project management, blogs are used to communicate with the academic community, and Facebook groups are in use.

As part of the transformation to Library2.0 Jeff started a programme to make them more visible to the campus community. Major capital renovations and investments created a number of Learning Commons around the campus. Laptops are provided at the circulation desk and are now the biggest circulation item. Of course they then faced the problem we all have which is the provision of power sockets to plug them in. They solved that by putting in drop down cables from the ceilings which provided a cheap and easy solution. Interestingly they have taken out their PCs and put dual boot macs everywhere, with students mainly using MacOS rather than Windows.

There were lessons in the talk I think we can all learn, especially the importance of PR, both internal and external. They focused a lot on "being first" and getting local and national coverage.

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