Handbook Highlight: Information Technology – You should have a plan and a policy

This information below & much more can be found in the Trustee Handbook.

Information Technology

Computer and information technologies continue to transform library service and the escalating change those technologies have brought shows no sign of abating. Indeed, to remain relevant, the library must assume a leadership role in the utilization of technology within its community.  Technology is not an end unto itself.  Its wise use, along with a professional and well-trained staff, brings the best tenets of library service to everyone, in every corner of the state.  Electronic resources extend, supplement and, in some cases, replace traditional print materials. Today the smallest and most remote rural library has much the same access to the same vast collection of library resources, databases and other information as the large urban library.

In practical terms, library automation is essential. Access to regional and statewide information resources requires robust technology and a knowledgeable staff. Meeting public expectations requires a library to be on the cutting edge with up to date hardware, software and technologically savvy services.

Boards must budget for equipment replacement on a regular basis. The practical lifespan of a computer workstation is about three years and funds must be available to replace it when it becomes obsolete.  Finally, directors must select and library boards must hire staff willing and capable of learning and teaching these new information tools to their patrons.

The provision of electronic services presents library boards with a number of policy decisions. Internet access, in particular, raises issues of privacy, intellectual freedom and censorship. Libraries must be ready to address the concerns raised by members of their community, as well as the challenges presented by laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

A formal technology plan is required of all libraries applying for telecommunications discounts under the federal e-rate program.  In today’s world every library needs a realistic technology plan, budget and evaluation process if they are to meet the expectations of their users.  Useful guidance, from the Suffolk Cooperative Library Systemexternal link opens in a new window

Lastly, all public libraries are required to adopt an Internet use policy and comply with state and federal laws regarding privacy issues.  As previously mentioned, clearly written, understandable and enforceable policies, grounded in the library’s overall philosophy of service, are essential.

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