Culture Clash: IT Experimentation, Innovation, and Failure in Libraries

Askey, Dale and Jordan , Mark and Steeves, Catherine and Suhonos, MJ (2013) Culture Clash: IT Experimentation, Innovation, and Failure in Libraries. In: Access Conference 2013, September 23-26, 2013, St. John's, NL. (Unpublished)

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Celebrating failure is hip these days. Yet, library administrators have traditionally been circumspect about admitting failure — or taking risks that may lead to failure — perhaps for good reasons. An unfortunate result of avoiding failure is that doing so often precludes experimentation and innovation. Within the predominant organizational culture in libraries, numerous subcultures exist side-by-side. The core subcultures — technical services, public services, and collections, to name three — tend to define the overall culture, while the subculture of library IT often remains on the periphery. The pace of broader IT innovation also far exceeds that of the library’s natural evolution, creating an inherent conflict of pacing that must be constantly negotiated. Experimentation is common within library IT subculture and potential resultant failure is not typically perceived as negatively within IT as it is in most other areas of the library. Systems librarians are generally pragmatic and don’t trust potential solutions until they experiment with them. They learn from failure and try something else. Library IT administrators are sometimes caught between the try-it-and-see-what-happens culture of IT staff and the usually more cautious practice of library management. The members of this panel will share their views on fostering a culture of innovation and why library administrators should embrace experimentation and risk and develop strategies for managing failure in positive ways. While the panelists may describe specific examples from their experience, this session is not intended to be a series of case studies. Panelists will take a cultural approach to exploring risk, failure, and innovation to suggest ways to build more productive, agile, and relevant libraries.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Item ID: 5991
Department(s): Memorial University Libraries > Access Conference 2013
Date: 24 September 2013
Date Type: Completion

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