In November 2001, Ling-yuh “Miko” Pattie was asked to take on the role of CIO for the Kentucky Virtual University, due to her knowledge of project planning, information standards, networks, and storage and retrieval systems. Since January 1999, she had been serving as director of the Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL), which she had developed with library directors from public universities, the Kentucky State Librarian, and the Council on Postsecondary Education. The KYVL provides every citizen with equal access to a single point of entry for information.
Pattie began her career as a cataloguer at the Kentucky State University Library. She advanced to Head of Cataloging and Automation at Eastern Kentucky University and then to Head of Cataloging and Assistant Director for Technical Services at the University of Kentucky (UK) Libraries. At UK, she coordinated the State-Assisted Academic Library Council of Kentucky’s Digital Library Project, which was KYVL’s inception.
Pattie is a respected authority on electronic library services. She was selected as 1994’s Academic Librarian of the Year by the Kentucky Library Association and served as a lecturer and consultant for the Information Research Institute in Beijing, China, among other honors. Her experience dates to the early 1970s, when she developed what she calls a “primitive,” but clearly ahead-of-its-time, online library catalog. Pattie is building the current KYVL user interface to cross-search 40-plus electronic databases and 20-plus online library catalogs.
Her team, which includes three programmers, is building the Kentuckiana Digital Library using a KYVL Digital Lab to make special collections and archives accessible online.
Another top project priority is a learning management system, which is in the testing stage of phase one. Pattie describes the project as “a learners’ gateway where users can get whatever they need—online classes, library resources, tutoring, help desk…in order to be successful learners.”
We interviewed Pattie about her unique career path, her philosophy as she’s moved up the IT ladder, and her plans for KYVU.
Q&A with Miko Pattie
TechRepublic: What has been your philosophy as you’ve moved into the IT arena?
Pattie: Two things: One is to learn as I go—you’ll never know it all in the IT field—and the other is to get staff involved every step of the way in project planning and implementation. Once they have a sense of ownership, no matter if it’s a successful implementation or not, they’ll be there with you and you’ll all learn together from failures or successes.
TechRepublic: What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received?
Pattie: “Find a stable job.”
TechRepublic: Why has that been particularly bad advice for you, and who gave it to you?
Pattie: This advice was given by a friend of mine, and what she was trying to say was, “Why do you want to go into a job with a lot of risks?” or “Why don’t you want to stay in or find a stable job?” That really surprised me because I never did think in terms of a stable job. In fact, I was tenured as a librarian at three universities: UK, Eastern, and Kentucky State. But I left all three of them to come to KYVL as the director, which is not tenured at all, so in a sense it’s not what you’d call a stable job.
I think everybody’s different. Once you’re tenured, you say, “shew [in relief].” Some people feel more secure in a job situation like that, but for me, I jump. It’s nice to have that academic freedom but to me, if you’re looking for a challenge and it’s not there in your tenured job, you have to do something.
TechRepublic: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Pattie: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself; sell your skills.”
TechRepublic: Why has that been particularly good career advice for you, and who gave it to you?
Pattie: I’m a librarian and I’m leaving the library field for IT and the CIO position, so instead of having two jobs, I’ll just have one. In a sense, I’m leaving a very stable and secure environment where I’ve been working for 20-some years and learning all the new things for IT.
When I took the CIO job last November, I really kind of took it just because I was interested in it and because there was such a great need. I was really kind of trying it out for a few months, and finally, I had to make a decision to do one or the other. So that is when the critical moment came and I said, “What should I do?” So, that was very good advice from my husband, to not pigeonhole myself. I mean, I used to create catalogue records for books, so if I pigeonholed myself, I could never be where I am today.
TechRepublic: What projects or assessments are currently your priorities as a CIO of an online university?
Pattie: Building an integrated, easy-to-use, learner-based, e-learning system that leverages online tools, sense of community, and appropriate pedagogy to meet the needs of lifelong learners. We are testing phase one of this system right now and plan to complete phase two by end of 2002.
TechRepublic: What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and why?
Pattie: I would have to say these two positions that I am holding now. Both KYVU and KYVL are built with technology, yet it’s the human factors that serve as enhancers or barriers. That makes this challenging.
TechRepublic: What’s an example of a human factor that’s a barrier?
Pattie: I’ve been through quite a few system migrations. In fact, right now we’re building a new system. When you go through a system migration, your enhancers or barriers to the process really come out very prominently. For those people that are very attached to old practices, they can be a little more sensitive to changes—so they can be enhancers or barriers depending on how you craft the approach.
Remember: I said the best approach to bring about the change is to get everybody involved from the grassroots. I have encountered people that resist change and what I have done is to get them involved from the very beginning so that they understand why the change is necessary. I convince them that they are part of the change creation; that they can create the process toward the change. I would say, for the most part, those barriers have come along with the change. They are slower, they are not the front people, but they are steady workers.
TechRepublic: What happens to those who refuse to change?
Pattie: It’s very difficult for me to give up. I would spend a lot of time getting those people more involved in the process and then have them own the process. But for those that simply would not take, up to a point I just have to leave them behind. If they don’t want to come along or to be a part of the process, you just have to lessen their effects on the group dynamic as much as possible.
TechRepublic: Does that mean that you leave them out of meetings or you change their job?
Pattie: It would be the best if they’d like to be transferred, which has happened. But, yes, leave them out of the process but still keep them informed as long as they’re not sabotaging. Sabotaging is very difficult to prevent. I haven’t encountered a saboteur as yet in my career. I think people just don’t welcome change easily.