South Carolina's SC LENDS Optimizing Libraries, Transforming Lending

Article excerpt

Materials are only the beginning of the extensive collaboration the resource-sharing project set in motion.

When patrons search their library catalog and place a request, they usually assume that the materials are physically located in their community libraries. But thanks to a young consortium, many South Carolina residents have access to a much larger selection of materials located in libraries throughout the state. In 2008, the South Carolina State Library and a group of public libraries formed the SC LENDS (South Carolina Library Evergreen Network Delivery System) consortium to share resources. Member libraries share everything except noncirculating materials through a union catalog, which means that patrons have access to more books, periodicals, videos, and audiobooks than ever before. But materials are only the beginning of the extensive collaboration the project set in motion.

SC LENDSrAn Idea Takes Shape

The idea for SC LENDS germinated when Florence County Library System Director Ray McBride started looking for a cheaper, user-friendly option for its catalog. At the time, the Florence County library system was paying an out-of-state vendor $32,000 a year for these services. During their research, McBride and then systems librarian Rogan Hamby settled on migrating to the open source Evergreen ILS after comparing it to older commercial alternatives. Although still a young ILS h with a relatively small install base, the rapid growth and potential were decided to be worth the risk. Evergreen was originally developed for the Georgia PINES library consortium. Based on the success of Georgia PINES, McBride felt open source would be a good option for the Florence County Library System. At the same time, David Goble, director of the State Library of South Carolina, was exploring the idea of linking the state's libraries together. McBride and Hamby knew that one of the strengths of the young Evergreen ILS was its unique ability to scale to handle the needs of small or large libraries.

Evergreen was built from the ground up to scale large enough to handle the circulation and database needs of hundreds of millions of records and hundreds of millions of transactions and to have a client-server relationship that uses core web technologies that every library can support. In other words, Evergreen could be installed in a single small library but was built to be able to run a statewide library system with every component natively scaling. Looking at economies of scale, Florence opened discussions about running Evergreen to other libraries and asked for anyone interested to attend. More than a dozen libraries responded and attended. Among those were many libraries that were also interested in resource sharing. In forming SC LENDS, each of these libraries brought something critical to the table, including directors who shared a vision of services for their patrons. Additionally, the State Library attended. It had been working on the conceptual model for a statewide library card and saw how a consortium open to libraries across the state could be one component ofthat model.

SC LENDS Goes Live . . . and Succeeds

Ten library systems signed on to become the founding members of SC LENDS and went live in waves between May 28 and Dec. 3, 2009. A fourth wave of libraries consisting of four more library systems joined in February 2011. It was a natural pairing, according to State Library Director David Goble, who states, "Our mission is to optimize South Carolina's investment in libraries and information services. So the State Library provided funding for the first group of fourteen to make the conversion and get it started." Thanks to the leadership and vision of the 10 pilot libraries, SC LENDS started operating in June 2009, with South Carolina becoming one of the earliest large consortiums in the country to adopt this model for library services and fiscal optimization.

The Evergreen software that underlies SC LENDS is an open source integrated library system or ILS. …