Research and Planning Are Key to Securing Best Library Software

T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), October 1994 | Go to article overview

Research and Planning Are Key to Securing Best Library Software


Most media professionals, through experience, intuitively understand how an excellent automated library system should "look and feel." The challenge, however, remains with educating administrators and board of education members not only to share that vision, but also to spend the money to make it a reality.

Careful research and planning are essential not only for determining which system best suits one's needs, but also to provide the ammunition to sell an administration and school board on that decision.

* How to Select a System

In beginning the process, one first needs to develop a set of criteria detailing what the system should do. Second, invite vendors to demonstrate their products onsite, so specialists can see if individual packages meet their needs. If possible, visits to installed sites should also be conducted. Third, one should talk to media personnel in school districts that have the competing systems. Fourth, review literature that rates automated library systems.

After these four tasks are done, it's time to start the bidding process. Most districts require bids due to the large amount of money involved, thus, how well the district writes up their product specifications for a bid is key to getting the optimal automated library system.

* District Beings the Process

At Moorhead Public Schools in Moorhead, Minn., the goal was to update the automated library system in seven of eight schools--one high school, one junior high, one grade 5-6 elementary and four K-4 elementary schools.

Some schools used very outdated equipment that could no longer be maintained; some had circulation but no cataloging features; and in one case, the vendor had never been able to get the network to function properly.

In the process of searching for a new districtwide system, the media director, Francine Laske, investigated four automated systems, including Dynix Scholar from Provo, Utah-based Ameritech Library Services. Scholar became the hands-down choice of all media specialists involved in the selection process, along with Laske and the technology coordinator.

* Selecting Scholar

Before choosing a system, building media specialists first rated the importance of criterion developed from a variety of sources--media staff input, criteria developed in other districts and an article published on the topic. An informal request for proposals (RFPs) was sent to four vendors.

After RFPs were returned, vendor demonstrations were scheduled. The media staff watched, asked questions and indicated whether the system had the necessary features requested on the criterion sheet. …

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