Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century

By Elaine R. Sanchez | Go to book overview

8    ROLE OF THE ILS AND HOW LIBRARIES
WILL PURCHASE AND MAINTAIN THEIR
SYSTEMS, INCLUDING INFORMATION
FROM A VENDOR PERSPECTIVE

Scott Piepenburg

Books, computers, librarians. We take all three for granted in today’s modern library, and while there are still some libraries, mostly school and smaller rural libraries, that have no automation system, the integrated library system (ILS) is as much a part of our library operations as the reference desk or the coffee bar in the lobby. For the most part, we don’t pay any attention to the library system until it goes down, is updated with new and strange features we don’t understand, or it doesn’t give us the information we want when we want it. The term “systems librarian” more often than not refers to a computer professional, one who is more “computer geek” than librarian. This is a switch from just a few years ago, when the “systems librarian” was frequently a cataloger pressed into service to “take care” of the library system, or, as they have been called, “the accidental system administrator.”

This article is not intended to be a comprehensive history of library automation; others, such as Marshall Breeding, have thoroughly covered that ground. However, if we are to look ahead at what the future may bring, then we need to look back. It is always dangerous to try to predict the future, and no attempt will be made here to divine what the future holds for library systems; rather than looking at the technology and computers of the future (which would be a lot of fun since I’m a firm believer that biological computers will someday overtake electronic computers), let’s take a look at what the future holds for the automation business, for libraries, and most importantly, for our funding agencies.

Library automation is a relatively simple activity. At the 2008 TLC (The Library Corporation) user’s conference (LiSA) held in Charleston, South Carolina, Tim Heishman, vice-president of operations for TLC, said that when he came to TLC, he could not understand what was so hard about library

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