Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Why Mission-Critical Systems Are Critical to the Future of Academic Libraries

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Why Mission-Critical Systems Are Critical to the Future of Academic Libraries

Article excerpt

Libraries are a learning environment for their institutions. Therefore, what is happening within the institution is more important than what is happening inside of library processes.

A mission-critical system is one that is so intertwined with the operation of an organization that the organization can scarcely fune tion without it. In the corporate world, these systems are the engines that make enterprises run. They unite functions such as order, inventory, account management, and billing, and they provide access to shared data repositories in order to eliminate redundant data entry and make workflows more efficient. By automating processes and steps, mission-critical systems support better, more-informed decisions and free employees to undertake higher- value tasks.

Just as in corpora tions, mission-critical li brary systems offer the capa bility to unlock talent and time The talent and time of the acad emic library staffare exactly the re sources that we need to turn loose to innovate, create, and push out new ser vices. They are essential to the transforma tion of higher education and the learning environment

Many college and university administrators agree, This fact was revealed in the 2011 report "Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services" by The Advisory Board Co. (www.educationadvisoryboard.com/pdf/ 23634-EAB-Redefìning-the-Academic -Library.pdf). The report shows that the demands on the library "require that top administrators, faculty, and students all work together to reach a consensus about how the library can best support the academic mission." The report immediately goes on to ask whether libraries should pursue a variety of on-site and off-site web services, instructional initiatives, and research support to meet the changing needs of their educational institutions.

We are transforming, as forwardthinking libraries are creating key roles and services that are shaping the future of libraries everywhere. In order to pilot, develop, and implement them, every library needs to free up more staff time. Just as mission-critical systems in the corporate world deliver the freedom to innovate, they are poised to do the same for the library.

At the Milne library at the State University of New York-Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo), where I am director, we have completed multiple projects that illustrate what mission-critical systems can do and are working with a major vendor to fully implement our vision.

A Workflow That Unifies Borrow/Buy Decisions: The Getting It System Toolkit

One of the projects we have implemented at SUNY Geneseo is something we call the Getting It System Toolkit (GIST; www.gisthbrary.org). This initiative came as a result of our rethinking the relationship between the acquisitions and interlibrary loan (ILL) functions. By adapting and extending ILLiad, a request management system made by Atlas Systems, GIST unites the work and strategies of these two critical library functions into a single content acquisition workflow.

GIST team members at SUNY Geneseo developed GIST for ILLiad because we saw a need to reshape processes and empower both the end user and library staff. Prom visits to many libraries that use ILLiad, we found that libraries often design workflows to match existing, segmented processes and policies. Instead, in this instance, the development team applied the principles of sense-making to shape a new and more-supportive user experience. The resulting workflow successfully converged two siloed processes by applying automation with flexibility and the capability to customize.

Our effort to make sense of the workflow began with a natural question. When a patron requests an item that is not in the library collection, that question is, "Should we buy it or borrow it?" There has never been a library system that handles that question well. Instead, typically, the patron makes an interlibrary loan request and then the staff person in charge of ILL might exchange a series of emails or engage a conversation with acquisitions staff about purchasing the item. …

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