working with IT

Getting the best out of your relationship with your IT team

05 October 2020 • Emma Wilson-Shaw, e-resource manager

Hello, I’m Emma, the e-resource manager at OpenAthens. I’m also a qualified librarian and worked in UK higher education libraries for over 20 years. Working with a range of IT teams and colleagues over the years, I found it can be tricky if you’re not accustomed to talking ‘tech’ to understand each other’s perspectives. It can get in the way of working towards goals you might have for your library service.

In celebration of Libraries Week, here are some hints and tips to help you get those conversations going.

Can you demonstrate the benefit to your user community?

Talk to your users [virtually] about your project. Establish their needs and test out your hypothesis. Our simple guide will help you get started on Guerrilla research with your users. It’s easier to ‘sell’ a new project if you can show what the end goal is for your library users.

Build relationships with your IT team

Who are the key stakeholders? If your IT team knows your goals and what your plans are well ahead of time it’s more likely that things will go smoothly. Equally, you can often help out your IT colleagues with queries about library services and systems.

Start early – find out about your IT department’s planning cycle

This may be the same as the library, or it may not. But you need to get in with your new project before priorities and budgets are set for the year. If it’s hard for you to tell the amount of technical input needed this is especially true.

Ask about acronyms and jargon

Every field has them. They can be a barrier and a reason for misunderstandings. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Your IT colleagues may also need help with library acronyms and jargon. Better yet try and avoid both!

Try and find a non-technical explanation for your tech question

Try and breakdown technical concepts before you talk to your IT team, so you feel confident in what you’re talking about or asking for. For example, we recommend librarians read the Access to Online Resources – A Guide for the Modern Librarian.

Has another library achieved what you want to do?

Show your IT team examples of what you’re hoping to achieve. Not sure if someone else has done what you’re working on? Try asking your community by posting on relevant mailing lists, list-servs, or social media threads.

Can you demonstrate any benefit to your IT team?

This can be a great way to ‘sell’ your project to your IT team. It could mean that you won’t need to ask for so much of their time in the future. Will your new project result in a more reliable service where less support needed? For example, your staff or students could be more self-sufficient.

Know your information security and data protection teams

Both can be super helpful in the early days of any IT project. Technical and legal requirements can cause issues further into your project if they’re not dealt with early on.

Bring your IT team to meetings with vendors

If you’re considering introducing a new resource or system, consider including your IT team. This is especially true if you’ve got a requirement for them to be involved in set-up. It can save you from relaying complex technical information between the vendor and your IT team. Ultimately it will save you heaps of time in the long run.

Huge thanks to NISO and our technical support team for inspiring this blog.

Share your top tips with us for library IT projects #librariesweek.

Need more support?

We recommend librarians read the Access to Online Resources – A Guide for the Modern Librarian for additional support.

Read the e-book