According to an article in the latest issue of Campus Technology (June 2007) titled “Culture Morph” higher education institutions can benefit tremendously from a merger between the library and information technology departments. In fact, it can be magical. As the article states:
When these two essential campus areas work together well, magic happens–and that is especially true in small, private institutions of higher education.
But the arrangement is not that common among liberal arts colleges. According to data attributed to CLIR, within the universe of US liberal arts colleges there are only about three dozen or so CIOs leading merged Library and IT groups. The article profiles three institutions where one person leads both the library and IT. All three organizations are smaller (less than 2,000 FTE), and there is a suggestion that the merged library-IT organizations may be better suited to this environment or specific cultural or organizational situations. In other words, the merged library-IT organization may not be for every institution.
The merged library-IT organization is the subject of much research, case studies and books. There are tales providing both sides of the merged library-IT organization story, and that includes both the successes and failures resulting from these mergers. While I have no personal experience with one of these mergers, I can’t say enough about the value of a great cooperative relationship between IT and the library where there is a mutually positive effort to create change that benefits the students and faculty using services of both campus organizations. It need not require one individual leading both IT and the library – though that may work well in some institutions – but it absolutely demands two individuals who agree to work together in mutually beneficial ways to create highly student-centered resources and services.
Who among academic library professionals hasn’t heard tales of conflict, tension and general lack of cooperation between the library and IT. When it happens the users are the losers. While this article may not apply equally to all academic institutions and perhaps presents too rosy a picture, it seems like a good read for both library and IT administrators. It certainly sends the message that when IT and academic libraries work together the users are the winners.