Book Review: Implementing Technology in Libraries
Elizabeth McHugh reviews a first published work that she feels is a straightforward, jargon-free guide on how to implement technology solutions in libraries.
At some point in our careers there may, indeed in these fast moving technological times, will be a period or periods when we will be required to be part of, lead or manage a project implementing technology solutions in libraries. At 173 pages long, with 13 chapters and 5 appendices, the author seeks to provide the reader with a clear, practitioner-written, jargon-free guide to doing so.
The author, Karen Knox, is a public library librarian who has been working in the sector for over 10 years. Although this book is written from the perspective of implementing technology in public libraries, it could be read by librarians of all sectors.
The Contents pages clearly show the chapter headings and subheadings, allowing readers to see which of them would be most appropriate for their needs. The book is not too heavy on references – there are approximately 10 in total split across three chapters and the introduction to the book.
This book is about the process of identifying technological needs, implementing them via projects and following the projects through to conclusion. It avoids using project management jargon and as such could be used by both the experienced and inexperienced practitioner alike. Anyone looking for the words “Prince 2” will not find them in this book. The author points out (p. 120) that the book does not seek to be the ultimate solution to the needs of librarians, nor does it take account of the project implementation requirements and methods of their organisation. However, although the author does not herself state this, the book can provide the experienced practitioner with an aide-mémoire and the inexperienced worker with an accessible introduction to the process.
There are a few “Spotlight” sections in the chapters. These sections move the reader away from the topic at hand and highlight in more specific detail an issue connected with the chapter. However, they do not interrupt the flow of the chapter overmuch.
To provide the reader with an example of how the process of implementing technology solutions in libraries might be achieved, the reader is introduced to “Info City Public Library”, a fictitious library where one project is implemented and followed through. While this device is used to provide a worked example of the points highlighted in the chapters, and is helpful in places, there are times when the chapter concentrates overmuch on the worked example and not enough on expanding the chapter heading – Chapter 6 being a case in point.
Chapter 13 provides a small selection of other projects (Web site redesign, online credit card payments, etc) which are used as examples of how they could be implemented. Again, the author does not claim that the list is exhaustive (p.110) and encourages the reader to consider adapting these examples where necessary.
There are six appendices starting from page 121. Four of them provide a Sample: Technology Plan; Request for Proposal; Review Tool; Recommendation for Vendor Solution. The remaining two provide example templates for constructing an IT Inventory and an IP Planner. Again, they should be considered as being adaptable to company circumstances.
Supplementary Web Site
There is a Web site  which should provide access to the resources referenced in the book, along with copies of the documents in the appendices. A disclaimer at the bottom of the page points out that the Web page is subject to change or discontinuation without notice. The Web site contains links to a short biography about the author, the appendices (which can be downloaded) and presentations given by the author.
The fact that cost information in the appendices are expressed in $US while technology specifications are equally US-based does place British readers at something of a disadvantage. While this might not daunt experienced UK practitioners, their inexperienced UK counterparts may find this information less helpful than it could might have been. Some might consider that the price, at $35 US or £26.85 for the paperback edition, is steep. Although the Kindle edition is cheaper, it is not cheaper by much - £20.53 at the time of writing, with the cheapest used version currently showing in Amazon at £17.90. That said, the book is a useful, well-written, easily read work on project management for implementing technology solutions in libraries and is recommended on that basis.
List of Chapters
Chapter 1 Identify the Library's Needs
Chapter 2 Project Teams and Initial Research
Chapter 3 Research Further and Identify Vendors
Chapter 4 Contract With a Vendor
Chapter 5 Plan for Implementation
Chapter 6 Step Through the Implementation
Chapter 7 Plan Again
Chapter 8 Customize and Finalize the System
Chapter 9 Train Staff, Prepare Users, and Promote
Chapter 10 Launch the New System
Chapter 11 Smooth Out the Rough Edges
Chapter 12 Take a Look Back
Chapter 13 Reality Check
Appendix A: Sample Technology Plan
Appendix B: Sample Request for Proposal
Appendix C: Sample Review Tool
Appendix D: Sample Recommendation for Vendor Solution
Appendix E: IT Inventory Template
Appendix F: IP Planner Template
- Karen C Knox: The Book: Implementing Technology Solutions in Libraries
Electronic Resources Manager
University of the Highlands and Islands
Web site: http://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/libraries/e-resources
Elizabeth McHugh is the Electronic Resources Manager for the University of the Highlands and Islands, a federated university in the north of Scotland. She has been in this job since 2005. Prior to this she worked in Further Education in England and Scotland for 9 years. Her current role involves acquiring and making available all online information to support teaching, learning and research. Her professional interests include resource discovery and access, e-resource licence agreement development and the expansion of e-book use in Higher Education.