This Week in LIS - 13 December 2013

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Information Technology Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Headline of the Week: CLIR CIO Conference – Organization of the Future

Wednesday I attended the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Chief Information Officer (CIO) meeting. Twenty CIOs from colleges like Luther, with merged library and information technology organizations, met for a day in Washington D.C.  Also in attendance were four staff members from CLIR. Unlike the previous meeting last spring in Atlanta, this one leveraged a professional facilitator. The topic centered on change and the future of merged organizations.

The first significant exercise we did was looking back at the last 10-15 years and think about what has changed. Fifteen years back puts one right in the swelling of the Internet bubble, which peaked in early 2000 and burst in March of 2000. Ten years back puts us in a time when a good bit of economic recovery had occurred. This was the window of time where obscene amounts of venture capital were invested in building fiber optic networks around the world that after re-capitalization and the development of some extraordinary optical technology (DWDM) enabled the (relatively) cheap bandwidth and the ubiquity of the Internet.   This was the time that inspired Thomas Friedman to write “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.” We broke up in groups and enumerated changes. It was easy.  Some groups had half a dozen flip chart pages.  Much had changed enabled by digital technology and networks.

Participants shared changes to their institutions libraries. Space was being re-purposed for collaborative spaces for students and faculty. Projects were crossing traditional department boundaries. The range of services had expanded. People saw the library’s role in new information creation and in teaching and learning expanding.

The next significant exercise was looking forward. The facilitator asked us to look 10 years down the road. This was hard, 5 years is hard enough to imagine. Anytime in the past that I thought I could imagine the future something completely unexpected came in a side door and all the assumptions and predications had to be reconsidered. For better or worse people change slower than technology. This is a blessing and a curse. Technological change seems generally gated by people’s rate of adoption. Participants saw their role as being catalyst and helping with change.

A key takeaway is that relatively speaking, the organization structure matters much less than the nature of the team. The kind of projects and initiatives that mattered to the CIOs and their institutions generally required rich collaborative skills to work with people across the various offices and departments. That meant building trust and relationships remains important. There was a sense that we would need to be more system analysts and do consultative systems thinking. Key desired characteristics of team members included agility, ability to learn new things quickly and to develop operational competence quickly. It was encouraging to see others also feeling they needed skills like project management, negotiating skills, contracting skills, vendor management skills on their teams. Some tried to imagine how they would get along without a lawyer on their team given how they expected their work to continue to change. There was recognition that managing and enabling cost control was an important role.

The facilitator promised to pull together the materials and notes created.  I look forward to sharing that out with the LIS team to encourage further conversation and planning about the future we want to create.

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Council on Library and Information Resources


[email protected]

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS.

Upcoming LIS Events   

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

December 2013

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Content is made available under Creative Commons license.