Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale. I had a few thoughts. First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person. Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field. Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:
Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu
I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens. My thoughts with that product were:
1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.
The outcome? I did not buy that product.
It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.
Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out. But don’t think about that. You can always try again. But what if the investment in awesome people works out? You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.
A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org. About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site. We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it. Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it. Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page. All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team. The best part? It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site. Another great part? If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.
Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams? To me, that’s the way forward. Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community. A win in every area.