With a background in computer science and based on my past work experiences, I became interested in all aspects of Library Management Systems (LMS). My interest in these systems included technical issues, development, standards, and more. As my experiences evolved I became aware of the strong role of social aspects and became interested in the interrelationships and interactions between different phenomena, agents and actions.
When I worked with, and helped libraries in their choices of LMS, I was puzzled by how organizational members are able to declare a system as superior, or a decision process as successful while the complexities involved would not allow a rational determination of either superiority or success.
Building on theoretical framework within decision theory, science and technology studies, and structuration theory, my PhD thesis was an empirically based, theoretical discussion of the LMS decision making. The research questions were:
Ø What practices (if any) are utilized in order to establish ‘matters of facts’ in negotiations and formation of the final choice(s)?
Ø What type(s) of questions are treated as having a taken-for-granted answer and which become subjected to a decision making process?
Ø By the means of which mechanisms (if any), do various criteria that are used during the selection process achieve their status?
Ø How do various related beliefs achieve credibility?
In the thesis I argued that due to the complexities involved, a perceived successful conclusion of an LMS decision process does not necessarily reflect the superiority of the chosen LMS. The perception of success and system superiority is constructed, rather, by means of different activities that take place during the process of LMS decision making.
While the thesis focused on LMS decision making, it addressed the complexities involved and presented an array of intermingled issues that together act and interact as a connected whole.
The study highlighted the separation of decision from choice, and variations in consequences of decision making. In the thesis, it was presented that an LMS choice is only one potential consequence of the LMS decision process. Other consequences include legitimization, action, responsibility, and constructions of conceptual and social order.
Duality of structure and how day-to-day actions shape, and are shaped by, the circumstances in which they are situated was discussed. The study showed how even trivial actions that take (or do not take) place in the process of an organizational information system selection, have a bearing on structural properties and the wider social order, which in turn enable or restrict future actions.
The study also identified a number of practices and mechanisms that led to creation of shared views among the organizational members and presented a number of social determinants that led to achievement of closure when organizational members held conflicting views.
The focus of the thesis was on improving the theoretical conceptualization of information system decision making within the field of Library and Information Science (LIS).
The thesis was based on a rich empirical material and included four case studies (each taking from 10 months to two years), situated in three different countries, and the data collection instruments included interviews, observations and document analysis.
For reviews of the thesis see:
While addressing the issues investigated in the thesis, my research interests broadened from LMS to include a wide range of topics. Today, decision making, public management, policy studies, information technology as a whole and collaborative information technologies (CIT) in particular, collaboration, and social media are all of interest. What brings these and other interests together, for me, is the workings of our society and the way in which individuals come together and form shared actions and perceptions. I am interested in the mechanisms and social determinants that shape, and are shaped by, the circumstances in which they are situated.
N. (2010). Taken for Granted - The Construction of Order in the Process of
Library Management System Decision Making (Vol. 45). Göteborg / Borås: Valfrid
Olson, N. (2003, May 18-21, 2003). Human factors in the 'system selection' stage of library automation. Paper presented at the 15th Annual IRMA International Conference, Philadelphia.
Olson, N., Knutson, S., & Engvert, K. (2004). Marketing of electronic journals in Swedish academic libraries. Paper presented at the 15th IRMA International Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
Olson, N. (2008). Review of: Smith, Kelvin. Planning and implementing electronic records management - a practical guide. London: Facet publishing, 2007. Information Research, 13(1), review no. R299 [Available at: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs299.html]
Sonnenwald, D., Lassi, M., Olson, N., Ponti, M., & Axelsson, A.-S. (2009). Exploring new ways of working using virtual research environments in library and information science. Library Hi Tech, 27(2), 191-204.
Olson, N. (2004). Human factors in the "System selection" Stage of library automation. In A. Sarmento (Ed.), Issues of human computer interaction (pp. 192-224). Hershey: Idea Group Inc.
I have also presented two unpublished but refereed papers as follows:
ECIS (European Conference on Information Systems) 2006, Doctoral Consortium, title of paper: “A study on the Selection of Automated Library Systems from a Social Constructivist Perspective”
GPMS (Göteborg Public Management Seminar) conference 2007, title of paper: “Decision Making with regard to Selection of Library Management Systems”