A Study of the Usefulness of Pakistan Library Automation Group's (PakLAG) Services

Article excerpt

Introduction

Library automation in Pakistan is in its infancy. Major constraints in this regard include absence of planning, software/hardware problems, lack of cooperation, lack of competent and willing manpower, nonexistence of standards, financial limitations and absence of consultants and experts (Haider, 1998). Pakistan Library Automation Group (PakLAG), a not-for-profit trust, came into existence in year 2000, when some young professionals from the field of Library & Information Science wanted to institutionalize their volunteer work to overcome the obstacles in the way of library automation. Lahore based activity soon spread all over the country and volunteers from other provinces and cities joined the efforts to promote the use of ICTs in libraries. During the last eight years, PakLAG organized its chapters in all four provinces and federal capital. There is no membership fee and no official sponsorship. The idea was to achieve the objectives by promoting the self-reliance and economical solutions. PakLAG is carrying out various activities to achieve the following objectives:

* To provide professional and technical advice to libraries, information centers and documentation centers in their development programs.

* To recommend training programs for librarians so as to help them to develop, update and automate their libraries and documentation centers.

* To develop library automation and capacity building programs.

* To coordinate library development activities in the country with national as well as international development agencies and institutions.

* To provide information and conduct research studies on library development.

* To provide platform to the information professionals for the exchange of views, sharing of experiences, networking among libraries as well as to develop consensus upon the common issues faced by the profession.

* To provide research support and policy recommendations to government at all levels and to legislative bodies in the formation of policies regarding the libraries and information services (Pakistan Library Automation Group, 2009).

Activities and Services of PakLAG

Following are the major activities and services of PakLAG (Iqbal, 2008; Mahmood, Khan & Siddique, 2008; Pakistan Library Automation Group, 2009):

* PakLAG Website: The group maintains a website ( www.paklag.org ). Until May, 2009 this website was visited more than 76,000 times (Figure 1).

* Library Information Management System (LIMS). Based on MS-Access this free software automates library housekeeping routines including cataloging, circulation and reporting. It also facilitates the use of barcode technology. PakLAG team also extends training and support in the use of LIMS. It is being used in more than 200 academic, special and public libraries not only in Pakistan but also in the Middle East. A unique feature of this software is that it has been designed, developed, implemented and tested by library professionals without any help from computer experts.

* PakLAG Web OPAC and Digital Library Software. This is a web based application, consists of OPAC and digital library, to be connected with LIMS and provides remote access to library resources. It is a Java Server Pages and MySQL based application.

* PakLAG Data Converter. Retrospective conversion of data of legacy ILS is a daunting task while implementing library automation system. This converter converts data from CDS/ISIS format of Library Automation Management Program (LAMP), first DOS based Integrated Library System developed with financial support of Netherlands Library Development Program. PakLAG distributes the converter free of cost and also provides its training.

* Plagpk Mailing List. Mailing lists are tools of social networking. The PakLAG's plagpk mailing list is the first list in LIS field in Pakistan. In May 2009 it had membership of 2174 LIS professionals working in Pakistan and abroad. …