Technology Needs Assessment
Understanding the technologies and telecommunications infrastructure that are needed to support staff and patrons in a public library is a critical piece of crafting a technology plan. These needs help to define the goals and objectives of the plan and every library should understand what resources will be needed to fill the expectations of patrons and staff.
A first step in preparing a technology needs assessment is to create an inventory of the technology assets that your library already has. This helps to better answer the question of needing additional resources. There are several ways to do this:
- If you already track a technology inventory in a spreadsheet, database, or other document, you can simply extract the relevant information from there for inclusion in your technology plan.
- If you do not already have a local inventory and want to explore a new tool, consider using the inventory functions in Spiceworks, which include tools to build inventories of:
- Computer networks.
- Individual computers and their installed hardware and software.
- Printers and other peripherals.
- Internet connectivity, including e-mail and web services.
- Telecommunications assets, including phone service and telephony equipment.
- Leased database subscriptions.
- If neither of the above solutions are practical for your own library's specific situation, or if you just prefer to build your inventory using a manual form, here are is an example of a Technology Assessment Form provided by the State Library & Archives of Florida.
The second step is to figure out how you are going to figure out what is needed in the library. You can conduct a needs analysis from several different perspectives and using different tools. Whether you are looking at staff or patron technology needs, the data collection tools can be similar.
- Interviews with patrons and staff to see where gaps or needs exist.
- Focus groups that meet to discuss the future of the library.
- Technology planning team brainstorming sessions.
- Surveys of the patrons and staff.
The needs assessment isn't the time to determine exactly what products you need to purchase and install, rather to clarify where gaps exist that can be met with technology. For example, if staff report that patrons complain about the sign-up process for using public access computers and that staff members at the desk are spending hours a day regulating computer use, then a result of the needs assessment could be that the library investigate time management and reservation software for the computers to alleviate these pressures. The need has been established, so now the library can pursue looking at the feasibility of implementing this type of project.
As part of the technology plan, keep track of how the library conducts and collects data as part of the needs assessment to help inform future planning processes.Those lessons learned can prove valuable down the road to both justify decisions and make adjustments.
This article was originally published in March 2012 and updated.
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