Introducing Staff to Change; High Technology Can Be Frightening without Proper Planning

By Byerly, Greg | Computers in Libraries, December 1990 | Go to article overview

Introducing Staff to Change; High Technology Can Be Frightening without Proper Planning


Byerly, Greg, Computers in Libraries


C0039

The only constant in libraries appears to be constant change. While changes can be precipitated by numerous factors, it appears that "high-technology" is forcing an unprecedented number of them on libraries.

Unfortunately, the types of changes brought about by introducing technology into libraries are generally not self-contained. Change initiated by the introduction of one technology, such as an online catalog, frequently causes a ripple effect throughout many other aspects of library service.

Confusion and Disunity

While none of the individual changes caused by introducing a new technology are typically beyond the capabilities of a library staff, the enforced inter-relationships between new technologies can cause a discouraging, cascading impression of confusion and disunity. This can limit, if not totally negate, any positive outcomes from the introduction of the new technology.

Change itself is often frightening. Three factors resulting from the introduction of "high technology" can greatly exacerbate these fears. First, the speed of the technology and the volume of its potential transactions can be disconcerting. Librarians are now expected to use various types of technology to provide information more quickly and in greater volume than before.

Second, the technologies being introduced are frequently foreign or unknown to those people who are being asked to not only supervise their use, but also to actually provide instruction and training to users. This foreignness is evident in both the physical appearance of these new tools and in the terminology, or jargon, used to explain them.

Finally, the rate of change has been greatly accelerated with the proliferation of microcomputers and related technologies.

Positive Progress

Library administrators and managers must develop mechanisms for dealing effectively with the changes caused by the introduction of automation or technology projects within a library. The following guidelines, known as the "Six Points of Positive Progress," are recommended when staff must he introduced to change caused by technology.

The "Six Points of Positive Progress" are:

* planning

* participation

* preparation

* preview

* prudence

* patience

An examination of these six points offers a practical approach to implementing change. Clearly, any type of major change or reorganization, whether it involves technology or not, must be carefully implemented. Virtually any library situation, from system-wide automation to staff reorganization in branch libraries, could benefit from applying these six points.

Planning

Planning is the necessary first step in any successful project, but it is not a fast process. It will inevitably slow down any project. However, it is essential.

Unfortunately, many librarians have not had experience in planning a major project and, in fact, in many cases, previous change has been mandated with little planning. Although it may not be necessary to have a formal planning process, some type of organized plan must be developed.

It is also not necessary to hire an outside consultant to manage the introduction of high-tech into the library. Faced with a rapidly changing environmen% many libraries turn to consultants as a "quick-and-dirty" answer and as a way to avoid real planning.

While there are many circumstances when consultants are appropriate (for political reasons or to obtain a specialized type of expertise), in most cases an internally directed planning process may produce the best results.

Regardless of the time required to undertake the planning process, it is an essential element when introducing change into an organization.

Participation

Planning guarantees participation and, like planning, such participation frequently slows down the process.

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Introducing Staff to Change; High Technology Can Be Frightening without Proper Planning
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