Digital Managers Sound Off

This was the last session on Monday and one I was really looking forward to. It was a panel discussion with David Lee King, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Bobbi Newman, and Matt Hamilton as the panelists. They all manage the online presence of their libraries. They all work for public libraries. The format was question and answer with the first few questions being asked by the panel then opened up for questions from the audience.

SHJ’s notes from the session are here and they are, of course, very good. (update: More good notes by Heather Braum)

Question #1

(wasn’t really a question but for my purposes it will be)

What are the main responsibilities?

DLK – IT and Web services management. So it’s pretty much everything technical for his library. I knew about the web services but not about the IT management. Busy guy.

SHJ – Manage everything web + software (that’s new). She’s in a unique system. Her public library is merged with the local university so there is a person in a similar position representing the school. Sounds complicated.

BN – Digital branch manager…with no staff…or budget. She is responsible for training all staff and acting as a liaison between IT and staff. I wonder how much Tylenol etc she goes through in a week?

MH – IT manager and web services.

Question #2

What are the day-to-day duties? Or What do you do all day?

MH – Meetings (Management, PR, Digital Services). He tries not to micromanage staff. Server administration.

BN – Varies by day but she does a lot of training, managing of databases (troubleshooting), meetings (branch managers, YA, Children’s services etc) and she is currently looking for a new ILS vendor. She also spends a good amount of time explaining things to people.

SHJ – She spends half of her time in meetings (she’s on 16 different committees and the chair of 4! Yikes!). She’s on so many committees because they want a tech expert on hand to answer questions. It’s probably not the best use of her time. Lately she’s been working with others to redesign the library’s website. She also commutes 4 hours a day!

DLK – Basically, he types and talks a lot. He also spends half of his time in meetings but sees them as a good use of his time. He’s working on strategic planning. He answers a lot of emails (he’s answered a couple of mine) and works on project management. One of the things I found interesting about how he handles project management is that he will begin something and pass it along once it’s up and running. The example he gave was of his library’s Facebook page. He spent a ton of time on it at the beginning but now doesn’t really work on it much because someone else is in charge of it. One of the other things he does is listen to people vent. It’s mostly IT people complaining about public service staff. He listens and then tries to help them figure out a way to help with the “people stuff”.

Question #3

Did they have any formal IT training?

Almost all of them learned on the job or throughout life (MH was pretty tech focused since he was 10). They experimented a lot and were not afraid to try new things with technology.

Question #4

Treating the online space as separate/integrated from the physical? (This one was from the audience and I hope I got it right)

SHJ – Her library wanted their online and physical presence to be very similar. They have a very consistent theme within their branches (even down to the same type of chairs) so it was important for her to try to replicate the color scheme and other physical aspects of the physical branches online.

DLK  – For some people the “digital branch” is the only branch they will visit.

It is important to make a site that is accessible to a broad section and reflects your community.

Question #5

Who produces content on the site?

MH – He does very little content creation himself. Part of his job is to recommend best practices to the staff on how to do things. He encourages other people (local experts or creative staff) to create content. One of the important things he does is to have the staff realize that the website belongs to them and not IT.

BN – The marketing department of her library owns the website now so there is little content creation outside of that department (for now). After the site redesign there will be content created by staff that will be supervised by her and marketing. She will beg, borrow and cajole other staff to help her create content.

SHJ –  Marketing controls the site but they are controlling less and less. She writes very little content herself. She bets things started then lets other people take over. There are 70 different content creators in her system. They are brought in gradually.

DLK – He inherited his job from a very control focused person so he had to give control away at the beginning. He doesn’t create a lot of content but he does produce a weekly video blog. He discusses new projects with people who have new ideas about content. They discuss everything involved and he helps them get started if they want to follow through with the idea.

Question #6

Data retention – are you keeping everything/do you have to?

SHJ – Yes. It is required by state law. Not terribly happy about it. I wonder how they do it? Should have asked…

DLK/BN – No.

MH – No but looking in to it.

This was a great session! One of the things I got from this session (intentional or not) is that a big part of being a digital manager is having good people skills. It’s not all about technology skills. You have to be able to work well with people in order to get things done. The ‘manager’ is just as important as the ‘digital’.

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