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* Tuesday, October 24, 2006

20061023 06 IL - Synergy for Better Services: IT and Library Cultures

Kathryn Deiss and Matt Gullett

new technologies are changing possibilities and roles for both IT and library cultures and for library customers
a fluid discussion

culture is a set of assumptions that a given group runs on because the assumptions have worked in the past and are considered valid by that group

“…the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration…” – Edgar Schein

easier to describe who “we” are by saying who “we” isn’t (IT says it’s not “us” and librarians say it’s not “us”)

what assumptions drive your organization’s culture?
– individual work vs. team work (libraries espouse teamwork, but the reward systems are built for individual work)
– deadline driven vs. all the time in the world

what three words would you use to define your culture?
can change the climate of a library easily, but not the culture (which is the set of assumptions everything is built on, according to Schein)

historic common ground between IT and library cultures:
– desire to do the right thing
– intention to create security and integrity of systems, catalogs, servers, and networks
– concern for the stability of systems and services created
– hard work to develop services for others

Myers-Briggs book “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You”

tension in the story:
– disruption is the norm
– customers create their own solutions (2.0); very new idea in the IT world, along with the idea of constant beta and constant change
– diverging cultures

tribal differences – Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks (paid DD folks to spend a week at Starbucks and vice versa)
– tell it to me straight (small, medium, large) vs. make me feel special (tall, grande)
– we are family vs. we are all unique
– we want to keep moving (why would I go to a coffee shop to sit on the couch, we don’t want to hang around) vs. we want a third place
– keep it simple (no music) vs. give us new stuff
– we’re earthlings (we’re part of this community) vs. we’re members of the universe (global feeling)

even though IT and libraries have some shared values, there are divergent behaviors and how some groups define themselves by what they’re not

our special peculiarities (differences)
– library cultures tend to be focused on process and discussion
– IT cultures tend to be closed in their approach to sharing information for specific reasons – not because of mal-intent or evil motive (who has to know what is vetted for security reasons)

a word about the customer:
– user = a descriptor signaling dependency
– customer = clear need/desire for a service
– patron = customer with admiration for what you are doing
– public = customers who understand they are paying for the services they receive

we perceive uniformity in service delivery as a good and definite need
does the long tail teach us anything about such a perception? is uniformity the way to go when you can sell your services in niche markets or smaller areas?

jitterbug phone vs. treo – is uniformity really so important?

the customer tribe
– boundary leaping
– authority appropriating
– learning-oriented
– inventors of their environments

any assumptions these cultures are running on that are based on uniformity as an essential good could be erroneous

learning is anxiety-producing but can lead to deeper understanding

Matt likes working with youth on opening these barriers up because that is where a lot of these issues are coming up

reflection and inquiry help you overcome your mental models
“why” is the most important you can ask if you do it respectfully

showed the Ladder of Inference
test your assumptions

if you really want synergy, Peter Senge says:
– jointly develop guiding ideas
– share theories, methods, and tools across cultures as much as possible
– develop an infrastructure that supports innovation

focus on commonalities and on differences
have compassion for the other culture, as well as for your own
your culture has been around since long before you came into it because it worked

audience question: if your IT people are stonewalling you, what you should do?
Kathryn: ask them a question, e.g. what would work for them; try to figure out what is behind their answer; try to get to their inferential ladder, e.g. ask what they are assuming will happen if we do this

audience question: do you see a role for leadership/administration in this area?
Kathryn: need to develop leaders throughout the organization, not just department heads; they have to be able to allow and facilitate discussion/dialogue; need training to have a dialogue; leaders need to facilitate conversation-building
Matt: sometimes administration leaves decisions to those they feel know more about it, but they need to take a role; usually it’s a lack of resources
Kathryn: sometimes it’s just putting the elephant in the room on the table; it’s a process that needs investment

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