Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Five Steps to Help You Determine If You Need the New 'It' Technology

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Five Steps to Help You Determine If You Need the New 'It' Technology

Article excerpt


Do your eyes sparkle when you see new technology? Mine often do, especially in my position as educational technology specialist at Boston College Law Library. As technologists, though, we may find ourselves alone on the bleachers trying to find supporters for the next "it" technology. Despite our enthusiasm, many times "it" ends up unused because a thorough evaluation was not performed prior to purchase. Before you lobby for approval or support of a new project answer the following five questions. They will help you to critically consider the effect the new technology will have on your department and prepare you to answer the inevitable questions from those in control of the budget. Being organized, planned, and stress-free will allow you to focus on what's important--introducing useful and current technology to your community.

Question 1: What need does 'it' fulfill?

The first, and often the hardest, step is research. As information professionals, we have the benefit of being able to navigate through information that could seem overwhelming to others. Keep reputable sources handy so you can immediately identify new products that could fit into your arsenal. If you carefully craft a procedure to receive news and updates from quality sources, this part of the research becomes almost automatic.

The next aspect of researching new technology is critically analyzing those resources. I immediately turn to reviews--and often focus on the negative ones--as well as competition for the product by asking questions such as, "How does Product A outperform Product B?" In many cases, this can shift your research from the original product to a different one that has been rated better or has more features.

The final part of this step revolves around your own community. Knowing what people need, want, and will use is an important part of adopting new technology. Your research may be promising, and the reviews may convince you to pursue the product. However, if your audience won't adapt, your efforts could be wasted. It's better to make this judgment sooner rather than later.

Question 2: Why can't you live without 'it'?

Building on the first step, answering this question helps to shore up your proposal for the new product. I work at a law school, and every suggestion is immediately confronted with a series of questions. It's better to be prepared with answers (or to answer the questions before they're asked) than to play the "I'll get back to you on that" game. Put on your skeptic's hat and challenge the proposed product. Pull from those negative reviews and competing products to answer questions that haven't yet been asked. Another avenue to explore is reaching out to peers at similar institutions; review their websites and ask what they're using. I've stumbled upon great ideas (and avoided poor ones) just by looking at what my neighbors are doing.

Question 3: Whom can you use as a guinea pig to test 'it'?

I keep a list of people within my community who have needs that are not currently met or who would like an improvement made to a current offering. To find the perfect guinea pigs for the pilot phase, I turn to my notes. If I have spoken to people who specifically need this product, I contact them. …

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