Magazine article Technology & Learning

Building the School Library of the '90S

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Building the School Library of the '90S

Article excerpt

Clustered in the middle of an otherwise typical, bookshelf-lined school library are a number of computes, some with CD-ROM drives, hooked up to a single printer. Three students working on a group project about Egypt gather around one of the computers using the online search program networked into the circulation system. Using several keywords, the group is searching the library's collection for appropriate references. Included in the description of each book they select are a peer review, a reading-level indication, and the book's availability status.

Nearby, a group of younger students is using a CD-ROM encyclopedia to research warm-blooded animals for their science class. Starting with the word "animal," they have quickly linked to and examined several related sections before deciding to do their report on members of the deer family. Following the reference suggestions, they pull up articles on elk, reindeer, and endangered species. After printing out the appropriate pages for reference, they leave with these notes carefully clutched in their hands.

An English teachers sits at another of the computers, trying to organize her book list for next term. After checking to see which authors have been most popular with the seventh grade this term, she spots several books by excellent authors that haven't circulated at all recently. By featuring them on her book list, she'll be able to encourage her students to read a bit more widely. She also takes this opportunity to check on the library habits of her homeroom. Several students haven't been visiting the library recently; she'll have to remind them to drop by.

Meanwhile, at the circulation desk a clerk is using a barcode-reading light pen to check out books to individual students. As each student's library card is scanned, the clerk can quickly spot on screen those who have overdue books or unpaid fines. At the end of the day, it is his job to print out a detailed anlaysis of the action at the circulation desk on an hourly basis. Once a month, he uses the same program to generate an inventory of all the books in circulation and on the shelves.

If that sounds too good to be true, read on. Everything needed to put that "library of the future" in your school is readily available today, in the form of library management systems and a wide array of electronic reference works.

The Circulation Manager

One of the cornerstones of a library management system is a circulation program. Once one has been implemented in your library, not only can you get a summary of a student's library history, you can use the program to generate lists of books in circulation, track the circulation of a specific title, and compile complete inventories at the touch of a key. These programs generate statistics on library use by individual, by title, by hour, or by subject, helping make even the smallest library more efficient to run.

Of course, if you've got the money and time to invest, there are even more sophisticated circulation management programs that offer additional conveniences. Some provide purchasing modules that can be used to generate invoices, complete with International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), Library of Congress Catalog Numbers (LCCNs), up-to-date publisher information, and book quantity. Programs that provide serials support are likely to monitor subscriptions deadlines, automatically reminding the user to renew as necessary. Multi-branch and networked systems provide online acces to catalogs in other buildings, vastly improving the capabilities of an interlibrary loan system. Most circulation management programs are designed to be flexible, letting you add modules or make use of different features as your needs grow and change.

The Computer-Based Catalog

Quick, name five books on Mexico with reading levels between grades two and five, six mystery stories with girls as heroines, and all the books in your current collection referring to Shakespeare. …

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