Technology and media might be the biggest capacity concern for libraries in this digital age. It seems that no matter what, technology continues to advance faster than we can acquire the materials to give patrons access to the latest and greatest. It can be difficult to know which technology to acquire, and perhaps equally difficult to have the resources for librarians to learn how to use–and then teach how to use to their patrons–new media and technology. This section is here to provide a brief guide to acquiring new technology, using technology, and evaluating technology: all using the unique strengths of your community.
While many libraries big and small typically have less of a budget than they would like for acquiring new technology, there are many ways that libraries acquire new technology outside of their annual budget. These can include grants and other supplemental funding, but another way that libraries acquire new technology is through partnerships. While these can be grant-like partnerships with technology companies like Microsoft or Google, they can also be smaller community based partnerships with local organizations and businesses.
- Technology donations from community organizations
- Fundraisers hosted by local partners
- Items on “loan” for specific library programs
The biggest capacity challenge for using technology in the library is knowledge. Not only do the patrons need to know how to use the technology provided, but library staff must be knowledgeable enough in the use of the media to teach it to others. Many libraries may not have the required staff capacity in number, or in knowledge, for a large capacity in this area. However, there are ways around this including:
- Technology mentors: knowledgeable volunteers able to help with the teaching and use of new media in the library informally during regular operating hours
- Partner-led technology programs: formal library programs led by community volunteers who are knowledgeable in specific technology use
Another important aspect of the technology capacity of your library is evaluation. While the capacity assessment focuses on the capacity of acquisition and use of technology in your library, evaluation helps you to determine which technology to use. It also helps you to decide if your current technology is serving your library’s needs, and if not where the capacity might need expanding. This topic is covered in much greater depth in the Assessment and Evaluation module, but here are some capacity-specific questions to ask while doing evaluation:
- What are the technology needs of your community? Are there any gaps in technology knowledge and use in any parts of your community?
- How is the technology at your library currently being used?
- What are the positives and negatives of your current inventory?
While this is barely scratching the surface, these are important questions when assessing your technology capacity. For more information on technology evaluation in libraries, take a look at Tech Soup for Libraries’ information on Technology Assessment.