ITPF 2012 Posting Series, Part 3: Thoughts on Solomon Roberts-Lieb’s Presentation, Research and Structure: Providing Fun and Function

Team building can be one of those subjects that conjures up thoughts of seminars on business that use lots of clever acronyms and inspirational talks. The College of Fine and Applied Arts though is currently trying to take the concept out of the seminar room and into real work life for their IT team. FAA has limited resources for IT compared to other colleges on UIUC”s campus. Roberts-Lieb, FAA’s IT director, explained that makes their time and resources precious. This has motivated them to take up practices that engage faculty in IT more and cut time taken to initiate policies and practices at the college. So far, Robert-Lieb claims that the efforts have been both efficient and successful.
Education, outreach, putting users first, and appealing to faculty are not always easy tasks. These tasks require a lot of work between faculty and staff and those two groups often have little to do with each other. Their jobs are simply too different. The FAA is changing that though. One initiative that has been put into place is research and investigative time for the IT staff. It is the same thing that faculty is required to do. Every member of the FAA IT staff is allotted 2-3 hours a week just to explore something that interests them in technology. An example would be researching what 3D printers could do for the college. Individuals choose their own research with no expectation on administration’s part for a product. Short reports are all that is required. Roberts-Lieb claims that better moral and more creativity is coming out of IT because of it. They didn’t even have to touch the budget. Other practices that have gone over well without straining their time and finances have been the new policy making practices. Meetings specifically for IT policy has to be made up of equal numbers of IT staff and academic faculty with clear outlines of the policy and goals made beforehand. Another kind of policy-making meeting is a “no meeting meeting” as Roberts-Leib puts it. They call is P³. The point of these not-meetings is to create rather than talk about a policy or practice. P³ usually lasts one hour, which is dedicated to one topic, and it should produce one product. The name comes from the point of the not-meetings, to produce policy with a product at the end. The outcome of practices like these has been an invested, involved, and, importantly, happier staff.
These practices would fairly interesting to try out in other parts of campus. Thinking especially of all the IT- involved people at GSLIS, research and investigative time would be quite beneficial. Librarians are naturally curious people and they are curious about everything. Perhaps in another life we would be scholars, researchers, and scientists. Instead, we dedicate ourselves to helping these people, which is very fulfilling. Still, it could be very exciting what we could come up with our own personal research time. Like Roberts-Lieb pointed out at his presentation, we may not come up with a practical use for using a 3D printer to produce a decorative piece of chocolate, but we never know what could be useful about that topic the not-too-distant future.

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