Demystifying IT: A Framework for Shared Understanding between Archivists and IT Professionals

by Seth Shaw, Richard C. Adler and Jackie Dooley


A follow-on to the popular Demystifying Born Digital series, this primer for archivists is intended to help digital archivists understand the priorities, techniques and culture of information technology so that they can be the most effective collaborators possible.

This report describes types of IT providers and the services they typically offer, offers insights on the software development process, provides guidance toward building partnerships and emphasizes the centrality of resource constraints. Many of the issues described are relevant to librarians and archivists who work with IT colleagues on issues other than born-digital management.

Key takeaways include:

  • IT staff must equate time with money, which often means utilizing formalized approaches to project management to develop timelines and guard against "scope creep."
  • All parties should clarify terminology and intended meaning to guard against misunderstanding and be prepared to explain themselves clearly.
  • Clients are more likely to be respected and valued by IT colleagues if they follow designated procedures (such as use of a ticketing system) and utilize documentation before seeking help.
  • IT must always be involved from the outset when acquisition of any product or service from an external provider—including open-source software—is under consideration. They will be asked to support it in future.

This report is a companion to The Archival Advantage: Integrating Archival Expertise into Management of Born-digital Library Materials, which describes ten core areas of archival expertise to help library directors, managers, IT professionals and other colleagues become aware of the benefits of incorporating archival knowledge into many aspects of digital library development and implementation.

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Suggested citation:

Shaw, Seth, Richard C. Adler, and Jackie Dooley. 2017. Demystifying IT: A Framework for Shared Understanding between Archivists and IT Professionals. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research.


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