CHOOSING A LIBRARY SYSTEM
Look at your existing system and list the features you like and a so ask yourself, What are we trying to achieve?" - these two things should help you shape your list of objectives. Next, add to your list things that you need in a new system that your present system doesn't offer or doesn't do well.
Involve IT early on in the project and find out what technology constraints there might be. For example, you might have to restrict your choice to systems that work on the Microsoft platform so you can integrate with other applications, You don't want to go down the route of choosing a system, only to find out later that it won't work in your technology environment.
Would you buy a car without taking it for a drive? Surprisingly many people buy an LMS without trying it first. You are making a decision that is going to affect how all your staff work and how your users perceive your service. Do not trust your decision to presentation alone. Ask to trial one or two systems in your shortlist so you can check ease of navigation or usability, flexibility and that bulk operations can be carried out swiftly and efficiently. This does call for more time because you need to allow staff to try most areas and report back to you, but it is worth it in the long run.
IMPROVING YOUR LIBRARY SERVICES
Many colleges struggle with an outdated library management system which actually frustrates rather than helps the library staff to provide a good experience of the library to staff and students. When colleges are judged not only by the quality of the teaching but also by the quality of the infrastructure, resources and services, then it is a good investment to make sure the library is also up to scratch.
Older library management systems are often written on database platforms that are not compatible with other college applications. For example, students enrol on a course and are entered on the student registry system, but then find they have to give the same details to the library staff again or wait for details to be batched across. With a modern library system, integration is possible with your student registry so students are automatically enrolled with the library. This helps your college appear more efficient and organised, and the student can borrow books straight away and is also prohibited when they leave.
Another reason to update is to be able to offer web access to the catalogue and library services across the college and from home or work. Students can renew and reserve books using just their browser. While, modern systems such as Bailey Solutions' KnowAll send overdue notices automatically from the server, saving valuable staff time and postage costs.
State of the art library management systems are more intuitive, have lower training overheads and give more ready access to management information about the library services in the form of pre-configured management reports.
GET THE MOST FROM YOUR LIBRARY SOFTWARE SUPPLIER
Library software contracts should reflect a careful balance of both the customer's and the vendor's needs. The traditional model for software licences has been a licence in perpetuity, in other words, the licensee can use the software forever. Unlike a computer or other property, software licences can not usually be transferred to another organisation, i.e. it is not your property to re-sell second hand. The trouble with the traditional model is that it tends to give vendors the financial incentive to keep chasing new sales instead of concentrating on their existing customers.
Increasingly, library software vendors are switching to offering subscription licences, renewable annually or after •a fixed number of years. These are more common for web-hosted software because the hosting charges are bundled in the package. The subscription contract typically includes a licence to use the software during the subscription period, and support and maintenance for the same period. This gives the vendor a regular income from existing customers and thus more incentive to keep them happy, while the customer has the opportunity to pay smaller amounts Over the lifétime of the product.
ONLINE CATALOGUING – THE 24 HOUS LIBRARY
Most libraries and archives would like to make their catalogue available to their end users wherever they are. After all, institutions such as the British Library are able to offer online access to their catalogue which raises the expectation that other libraries should do the same. However, not everyone has the budget and technical resources of the British Library, so how can smaller institutions deliver within these constraints? The Application Service Provider (ASP) model is the answer. An ASP is a third-party entity that manages and distributes software-based services and solutions to customers across the internet from a central data server. This means that you can outsource your IT requirements to a library system supplier who will provide the infrastructure needed to support an online catalogue at a dramatically lower cost than trying to achieve it in-house.
for software development. The ASP will own or rent the servers that run the application, so you don’t have to purchase an Internet facing server or rent hosted web space. Also, the ASP employs the people with skills needed to maintain the application, so you don’t need to use your own overstretched IT people. The ASP bills for the application either on a per-use basis or on a monthly/annual fee. In many cases, the ASP can provide the maintenance service free of charge or bundled in with the package.
Because the ASP provides the application via a browser there’s nothing to install and administrators can catalogue from any location. This is vital for organisations with geographically disparate sites. An ASP application offers considerable performance benefits over an application installed on a Wide Area Network.
IMPROVING THE USER EXPERIENCE - MEASURING YOUR IMPACT
Quite simply, to survive, library professionals need to demonstrate the contribution the library service makes to the goals of the organisations or communities they serve. Traditional measures include a number of items borrowed and gate counts but with the number of loans decreasing because information is offered electronically and with fewer visits to the actual library building, library professionals need to find additional metrics for measuring the impact of their service. Whilst measures now include usage of electronic resources, usage of resources is only part of the picture. Improving the user experience is now essential and requires information about how users interact with, and benefit from, your services. Analysing and measuring these interactions is fundamental because qualitative statistics are a prime source of data both to inform management decisions about the service and to demonstrate its value and impact.