Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Automation, the Second Time Around

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Automation, the Second Time Around

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On the surface, it seems as if implementing a new automation system should be easier the second time around...

Nothing lasts forever, especially in the world of technology. I have to admit that as much as I like the excitement surrounding new things, I would also like some things to last, if not forever, at least just a bit longer. For example, I drive a '95 Celica, and I wish it would last forever because I love it. I also have a real fondness for the Hewlett-Packard 3000 mini-computer that has served the Monroeville Public Library so well for nearly 10 years. But while my beloved Celica has a good many years of useful service ahead of it, the HP 3000 is nearing the end of its life. The computer itself is still as reliable as it always was, but Hewlett-Packard has retired the entire 3000 line and will remove our model from hardware maintenance this year. So, even though it seems like just yesterday that we unveiled our first, brand-spanking-- new automation system, it is time to look forward to a new integrated system.

On the surface it would seem that implementing a new automation system would be easier the second time around because we've learned so much about computer technology in general and library automation specifically. But there have been so many advances in information technology that it is a whole new world out there in automation land, and there is much to learn in order to select and implement the best IOLS for a particular library. Fortunately, we have the Internet to help us gather information about the current state of automation and to enable us to learn from the experience of the brave people who have gone before us and survived a systems migration-without being voted out of the library.

Time to Think About a New Automation System?

The decision to migrate to a new automation system can be driven by various factors. Hardware obsolescence, which is the major concern in my situation, may force you to consider a change. Another factor may be software obsolescence as automation companies discontinue older products and urge customers to move to new ones. Software support may also be in question when one vendor purchases another. Or you might have the desire to implement new features that offer improvements to staff and patrons. The Library-- HQ site has a checklist that can help librarians determine if it is time to move to a new automated system. The document lists important considerations grouped under topical headings, such as company, technology, flexibility, management reports, OPAC/Web gateway, digital media archive, client design, cataloging/authority control, acquisitions, serials, circulation, academic reserves, booking, outreach services, and accountability. All the points listed are considered to be essential functions, and librarians are urged to consider buying a new system if, based on the capabilities of the current one, they can't check off all of the functions on the document.

This checklist is part of the Library-- HQ's Automation Source section. In addition, you'll find links to further automation resources. Particularly useful are a library automation/technology glossary and the annotated bibliographies of books on library automation and technology.

Keeping Up with the Trends

After determining that it is indeed time to seriously consider a new library management system, it is a good idea to learn about the state of the automation industry. It is an ever-changing landscape, and one of the most recent changes was the acquisition of DRA by SIRSI. Each year, Library Journal offers a feature titled Automated System Marketplace, an annual review of the major events in the field in the last year. The most recent article, "Automated System Marketplace 2001: Closing in on Content," which is available online on the Library Journal Web site, was published in April 2001 and covers the year 2000. It discusses mergers and alliances within the industry, as well as acquisitions and new vendors. …

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