Is change really good? This is one of those phrases that is spoken like a truism. I wish it was one of those phrases that had been bastardized, like “money is the root of all evil.” Actually, “the love of money is the root of all evil” is more correct. Let me try this: “The love of change is the root of all disorder.”
Of course, I say this with a love of disorder. I believe that some of us are drawn to librarianship not out of a penchant for organizing things or out of some deep-seated anal- retentiveness (though I sorta have those, too). What we actually embrace is disorder and chaos. We are not nearly as organized as we like to think we are.
And boy are things chaotic now. I wanted to write about change today, because I still think change is good. I was surprised to see my colleague Roy Tennant caution against change recently: “I wouldn’t want to change vendors now for the world. For those of you who can wait for a bit, I think now is a great time to do exactly that.” His points about upheaval and the tenuous state of some of the vendors are spot on, but as a prognosticator in this market, I’m not sure I see things calming down anytime soon.
- Waiting to choose the “right system” is like waiting for the right time to get married, have a baby, buy a house, change jobs…are you prepared to wait forever?
- I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth is before. If one believes that the ILS is a commodity, what is the harm in choosing one over the other? If an end-of-life was declared for yours tomorrow, what would you do? I see lots of libraries out there that might as well have an end-of-life system based on what they are doing with it. (This is not meant to be a completely negative statement. Lots of us have better things to do than muck with a system that isn’t completely broken.) The system you have might not have a future, but if it didn’t work, you’d be frantic for a replacement.
- I guarantee that hindsight will always be 20-20. Buyers remorse will set in. Beatification of the old system is a natural stage of change.
I’ve met the new heads at SirsiDynix and Ex Libris North America. Good guys. Without being too critical of their predecessors, I think they get the market that they have entered. I hope we’re past the whole “what do they know about libraries” whining. At worst, anyone new to this market knows as little about libraries as libraries know about business. And this is, at the end of the day, business. I’ve told them both directly that they have to get a message out, not just to their customers but to their staff. More on that in a minute.
In the meantime, their competition is hardly slowing down or waiting for the dust to settle. In just the last couple weeks, LibLime has signed the INCOLSA consortium in Indiana and the Central Kansas Library Consortium. Other vendors are marketing themselves as the “stable choice.” Frankly, I don’t think stability automatically extends to those who have not had a big shake-up. Sometimes, on the contrary, they are simply next on the list for change. (This is only a general prediction and is not aimed at any particular vendor.)
I think “the money people” entering this market can be in danger of thinking they are getting into the software business when what they might really be buying is a relationship company. If your library falls under #2 above, then your vendor is in the relationship business. Would that more next-generation software came out of the library automation marketplace; but I still believe that it does not have to come from there. What these companies need now is strong leadership. Some of them have credibility issues to deal with as well. Combining good leadership, good standing, and good software is a tall order.
Maybe I love disorder because I see it as job security. For many others, it is the status quo and has meant security, but not so in IT. I think it’s worth reading what the director of the Digital Library Federation thinks about the status quo. There’s some provocative stuff in there. I agree 100% with 75% of it. Or maybe I agree 75% with 100% of it. I’m not quite sure.
Maybe it’s better to say that the hatred of change is the beginning of disaster.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]