Today's Library Link of the Day points to a terrific audio entry from the Chronicle of Higher Education Techtherapy feature about Libraries and IT departments. I confess I'm not a fan of podcasts... reading is faster, and unless production qualities are very high, it just isn't compelling for me. This discussion between Scott Carlson and Warren Arbogast, the Chronicle's TechTherapy hosts, is 13 minutes worth listening to.
The discussion highlighted several differences, and even more similarities between the two groups. What caught my attention in this Mars-versus-Venus discussion is the Mission versus Task orientations of the respective communities. Librarians are motivated by the mission of providing access, whereas IT departments are driven by the mission and the tasks of others... the academy (and administration). Librarians often (not always) have faculty status and responsibilities, whereas IT workers are typically staff.
The similarities between the groups outnumber the differences, though, and these similarities are probably the greater source of tension between the groups. According to the dialog:
- the people skills of both groups are often perceived to be broken
- both groups work in a changing work environment characterized by uncertainty about their future roles
- resistance to change is widespread (sorry folks, but isn't this true for most everyone?)
- both communities are threatened by commoditized web services
- distractions of turf wars often impair effectiveness
- service flailing -- rapid deployment of services to see what sticks -- is common (not necessarily a bad thing in an environment of fast-paced change)
- second-class consciousness - librarians are not 'real' faculty... IT staff are just techies....
The podcast asks the question... why is there such a rift? Sibling rivalry is probably the easiest characterization. Sibling conflict has more to do with similarities than differences in my substantial experience (youngest of 4 strong-willed siblings). And the fight for the affections (resources) of the 'parent'.
Much of my time is currently engaged in response to the NSF DataNet solicitation, which characterizes the future of data curation as an activity that will be managed by organizations that do not currently exist, and for which the library is the organizational metaphor and the machine room is the operational model. An amalgamation of precisely these two cultures, brought together in a marriage of neccessity. Success will depend on a happy marriage of mission and tasks.
Latte Rorschak at the NaNung Cafe in the University District (December, 2008)