Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

School Library Automation Revisited-2007!

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

School Library Automation Revisited-2007!

Article excerpt

[Editor's Note: Northern Illinois University library science professor Barbara Fiehn is back again, reporting on library automation for the school media community. This year, after working hard with an automation system to gain some new perspectives, she talked to other users--see her survey results in what follows--and to the vendors. Enjoy her update!]


I've spent part of this summer helping a novice media specialist automate a small, rural, K-12 media center. Sometimes this was arduous and other times it was a comedy of errors. Since we worked without training on the new automation system, many things were done by trial and error. Working without a shelf list, we weeded, downloaded records, bar coded, and reshelved. Our first attempt to use the hand-held inventory unit was a disaster. Some of my school library science students volunteered to help, and those who were transitioning to the same automation system in their jobs this fall brought media specialists from their districts to get some hands-on experience before their training.

New spine labels still need to be printed and applied, but we are waiting for the second order of labels to arrive. The first order, contrary to the supply vendor's catalog indication, was not compatible with the automation system. After about 700 work hours (counting volunteer workers), we are thankful for the really user-friendly automation system and the invaluable and patient phone support staff.

The final step in this adventure is to give my cataloging and automation students some real-life experience this fall cataloging new books for this school's collection. After all, they have to practice on something.


Others in the school library world are having their own adventures. Based on feedback from my students and a survey I recently conducted, many media specialists are spending the summer and fall being trained on and exploring new automation systems that have been and are being installed since classes ended last spring. There seem to be a number of factors influencing this summer's automation installations.

The end of July last year saw Follett acquiring the Sagebrush automation systems. As a result of this acquisition, schools are making decisions about continuing the use of their existing Sagebrush systems. Follett as well as other vendors have been offering schools deeply discounted offers to migrate from Sagebrush products. The recent announcement that SirsiDynix has ceased development of their existing products in favor of a new product may continue fueling the migration wave. However, SirsiDynix is stating a strong intention to continue supporting the existing systems.

Growing districts are moving from stand-alone automation systems to centralized systems in order to more effectively manage maintenance costs for both technology and library staff. The ability to easily access shared MARC records either internally or externally generated is allowing a reduction in district-level cataloging personnel. Likewise, the centralization of technical-support activities is a great incentive for time-scarce school tech-support staff.

Remaining are the schools automating for the first time or migrating from old systems. A large number of school automation systems have not been updated since just before Y2K. (Remember Y2K? Seems a millennium ago.) Many legacy systems function poorly in today's technology environment. According to the "School Library Journal & San Jose State University 2006 Automation Survey" an article by Daniel Fuller, published in the October 2006 issue of School Library Journal, a large number of schools were two or more version updates behind the current version of their automation software. Changes in funding priorities account for a part of this lag. However, some of the lag is the result of librarians who are too work-stressed or uninterested to be aware of improvements offered in the newer versions of their automation software. …

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