Lowering the Threshold for Automation in Small Libraries: Successful Technology Implementations Most Often Involve a Partnership between a Library and an External Support Organization
Breeding, Marshal!, Computers in Libraries
It's striking to me that here in the U.S.--the world's wealthiest country--so many small public libraries in rural areas and small towns either rely on outdated systems or have no automation at all. We have some of the world's most technologically advanced libraries, but we also have some for which state-of-the-art technology tools remain out of reach. As I track the automation trends in libraries, I have been concerned for a long time about how many public libraries in the U.S. lag behind in automation and that these "have nots" are skewed primarily toward those that support small communities. One of the outstanding challenges today is reducing the barriers that impede small libraries with very limited resources from having access to technologies that can help them deliver better services to their communities.
Automation Trends for Small Public Libraries
A recent pass through my lib-web-cats directory of libraries shows 728 public libraries in the U.S. with no automation, plus another thousand or so still using PC-based products that have not been developed or sold for many years (324 with Winnebago Spectrum, 446 with Circulation Plus, and 210 with Athena, for example). These figures should be taken as approximate; some portion of these libraries may have moved on to newer systems that have not yet been reported. Almost all of these underautomated libraries serve populations of less than 20,000 persons. As I monitor the automation trends of the small public library sector, I notice also that many of them implemented older PC-based systems quite some time ago and have yet to move on to new systems. Once automated, it seems that even these now unsupported products meet their basic needs and that changing to a new system would require both financial resources and new system training. In many cases these libraries are working with a PC-based system that may have been implemented more than a decade ago and has not been updated or upgraded since.
The patterns for library automation vary in the U.S. from one state to another. In some states most public libraries have access to automation through either statewide initiatives or through regional consortia. Many small libraries benefit from being able to participate in a shared library automation system at affordable cost levels, often subsidized through state grants or other opportunities. In other states, however, …
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Publication information: Article title: Lowering the Threshold for Automation in Small Libraries: Successful Technology Implementations Most Often Involve a Partnership between a Library and an External Support Organization. Contributors: Breeding, Marshal! - Author. Magazine title: Computers in Libraries. Volume: 32. Issue: 3 Publication date: April 2012. Page number: 23+. © 2008 Information Today, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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