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(Fire)Wallflowers Invited to Dance?

If you work in a hospital library, you probably don’t need me to tell you that hospital IT departments frequently block Web 2.0 applications due to concerns about privacy, security, and/or productivity.  As a result, hospital librarians have had precious little freedom to experiment with using blogs, wikis, and other social media to improve communication and enhance service. Here is some evidence to suggest that the rules are (just maybe) starting to relax.

This is all well and good, but what does it mean for you? For advice on negotiating your way around firewalls and blocked content, read this article by Medical Library Association (MLA) Past President Mark Funk:

Getting Beyond the Blocks

The advice is intended for leaders of professional organizations, but much of it applies to individuals as well.

Some additional suggestions:

  • Don’t stereotype.
    Not all librarians are sour-faced women with buns and glasses who enjoy shushing people all day. Similarly, not all IT professionals are clones of Nick Burns: Computer Guy. Don’t automatically assume conversations with them will be difficult or intimidating.
  • Be clear about what you want and how it supports what you do.
    If you don’t know what you want to do, sign up for a Web 2.0 Distance Learning class and request temporary access to the tools covered in the class. Geeks Bearing Gifts Online will be offered in the PNR again later this year. MLA is offering some free Short Courses on Web 2.0 as well. Here is a list of MLA Sections, SIGS, and Chapters using Web 2.0 for communication.

I’ve avoided blogging about this topic because there are no easy answers! You hospital librarians out there? You are the experts. Please share your tips for negotiating with IT staff and working behind firewalls.

3 Responses to “(Fire)Wallflowers Invited to Dance?”

  1. Hope Leman Says:

    Fascinating and important post, Alison.

    I have found that if you create Web services that are freestanding, Web 2.0 projects and well outside the hospital firewall, that tends to win administrative approval. Our projects Medgrab and ScanGrants are examples.

    Also, publishing in library periodicals about your projects (Computers in Libraries, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries for ScanGrants and Journal of Hospital Librarianship for Medgrab) lends gravitas to what you are doing and tends to raise comfort levels all round.

    It also helps if there is an obvious use for your Web project. For instance, most hospitals need some kind of grant funding at some point and it is nice to be able to have a homegrown, instantly accessible database of funding opportunities and scholarships that I can call up at moment’s notice on any Internet–enabled device. “Looking for a nursing scholarship? Let’s take a look at the scholarship category in ScanGrants…” Makes librarians look good to have created such tools and to be able to employ them in concrete ways. It is harder to explain something more amorphous like the value of a library presence in FaceBook.

  2. Ellen Aaronson Says:

    May I share this with MLGSCA members? We have a lot of people facing this dilemma! Thanks for considering!

  3. Alison Aldrich Says:

    That’s fine of course! It turns out we have a former Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona member right here in our office :)