Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

System Migration: Experiences from the Field

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

System Migration: Experiences from the Field

Article excerpt

Automation administrators of thirty-three libraries discussed challenges, rewards, and problems associated with migration to new automated systems. Interviews focused on motivation for migration, planning for implementation, technical decisions and considerations, training of staff and users, publicity used to promote the change, and relationships with vendors. Descriptions of successful experiences as well as candid analyses of mistakes, false assumptions, and delays provide information and advice for those about to embark on the migration process.

Migration to a new automated system is a fact of life in the world of library automation. Sooner or later many libraries will conclude that, for a variety of reasons, their present system is inadequate. They may require additional functionality, or the current vendor may no longer be viable in terms of products or service. In some cases the library may simply have outgrown the present system; in others, ongoing costs may have become prohibitive. New and emerging technologies often provide the impetus for migration, making possible faster access, lower cost, and enhanced services.

Maintaining the appropriate automated system for a library is an ongoing and never-ending process. The "final" system is seldom final. As needs change, libraries may upgrade their system with their current vendor or choose an entirely new automation solution. As Jacob points out:

System migration is the evolutionary process that bridges one system to the next. It is an ongoing process of renewal. It makes available the latest computer applications while addressing traditional information needs. System migration is a continuing process that reaffirms a library's automation commitment. (1)

Concern about the system migration process and its associated problems remains intense within the profession, as evidenced by the continuing flurry of conferences, journal articles, and workshops on this topic. One expression of this concern, overheard at a seminar on technostress, aptly sums up the feelings of many librarians and offers a rationale for research in the area: "We need a new term in this business: 'technodepression'--when you've just finished installing a new automated system and you realize that in a few years you'll have to do it all over again!"

In general, system migration has been defined as the process followed by a library in (1) replacing one automated system with another from a different vendor or (2) remaining with the current vendor and upgrading the present system in order to obtain enhancements and improved performance. This study reports on an investigation of the first aspect of migration, i.e., when a new vendor is hired by the library.

The emphasis of the study is on advice from librarians who have gone through system migration to those who face the migration process. By candidly describing mistakes and problems and answering the question, What would you do differently if you could do it all over again? participants paint an honest and realistic picture of their experience.

METHODOLOGY

Seven library automation vendors provided upon request the names of thirty-nine libraries that had recently migrated to their systems. A letter to each of the automation administrators of these libraries described the proposed research and requested their participation in the project. The letter explained that the administrator could expect a call from one of the researchers to set up a convenient time for a telephone interview.

Thirty-three of the thirty-nine libraries participated in the study; a list of these appears in appendix A. Reasons for nonparticipation did not include disinterest or unwillingness to assist in the research, but such factors as the administrator's having moved to another library or the library's being in the very early stages of the migration process.

Lasting about an hour, the interviews revealed details of each library's experiences with migration in the areas described below:

* General facts about the institution (supplemented by the American Library Directory) such as staff size, number of titles, number of branches, name of the previous system, and year of installation

* Motivation for migration

* Planning for implementation including development of the implementation plan, staff involvement, timing, and schedules

* Technical decisions and considerations such as migration of data, equipment, and telecommunication issues

* Training of the staff and users

* Publicity used to promote the change to the staff and users

* Relations with vendors in such areas as performance and expectations

The following sections of the paper provide an analysis and summary of the findings within these areas. …

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