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Tech Planning Tips for Libraries of All Sizes

by on October 20, 2015

Tech planning: it might not be the most exciting task, but it’s a necessary and important thing to do as you look at the bigger picture for your library. But while that all sounds good in theory, actually putting together a tech plan might seem overwhelming or arduous. How do you even begin planning out everything you want tech-wise for your library?

Why Tech Planning?

You might be in one of two camps when it comes to tech planning: either you’re required to create one by your administration or board or you’re making one of your own volition. But in both scenarios, you should have an understanding of why you’re creating a tech plan and what it can accomplish for your organization. This understanding will help propel you through the process. In a blog for TechSoup, Kyle Andrei of Idealware frames tech planning like this:

“Technology should be helping your organization, not holding it back. Luckily, some simple planning can go a long way toward resolving problems and preventing future issues.”

Instead of looking at it as a chore, however, you could look at tech planning as a road map to all of the amazing things you want to accomplish for your library in the next three years.

Getting Started

Now that you understand why you’re creating this tech plan, you can start building one. Block off a few hours across a week or two because this is not something you’ll be able to get done in a single afternoon. You’ll need a good sense of what technology you currently have in order to get started. Therefore, reserve your first chunk of time for doing an inventory of your current technology (computers, software, online services, staff skills, your network, and tech-related programming.).

Next you’ll want to pick a few key areas that connect to your library’s overall goals and objectives. Do you want to increase your library’s online presence? Improve your public access computers? Amp up your technology-related programming? Focus on how these things might tie into your library’s strategic plan and mission.
As you’re building out your plan, be prepared to make multiple drafts. The first time your write something out won’t be the final version. Get input from other staff on your plan, since something you have down as a goal might already be happening or in progress. Additionally, inviting outside input can help drum up support for your plan and engage other staff.

What to Include in Your Tech Plan

Libraries are different in their needs, budgets, and sizes so your tech plan isn’t going to look identical to the library the next city over’s plan. Julie Elmore, library director of the Oakland City-Columbia Township Public Library in Indiana, made some recommendations for what to include in a tech plan during TechSoup for Libraries’ Technology Planning Tips for Small Libraries webinar.
1. Mission statement. Including a mission statement can help remind you what your library’s overarching goals are and set the direction for your plan.
2. Technology inventory. Make sure to include web properties such as your website, ILS, and social media profiles in addition to hardware and software.
3. Goals and objectives. Be explicit in what you want to achieve with this plan.
4. Professional development strategy. Staff training for new technology should be incorporated into your plan.
5. Budget. Stating your budget upfront can help you stay focused on what technology goals and plans are realistic.
6. Evaluation process. Be clear in how you’ll determine what technology or software to purchase.You can make those tech dreams of makerspaces, innovative STEM programming, and new computers a reality for your library. It just requires a little (tech) planning.

More Tech Planning Resources for Libraries

Technology Planning Tips for Small Libraries (TechSoup for Libraries webinar)
Tech 101: Tactical Technology Planning (TechSoup webinar)
Webjunction’s Tech Planning topic page

Templates, planning tools, and samples:
Indiana State Library’s template (automatic download) (your state library may have a different template – be sure to ask!)
TechSoup for Libraries’ Six-Step Technology Planning Tool
Thirteen Ed Online’s tech planning questionnaire (for schools, but still can apply to libraries)

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