Saturday, September 15, 2007

Features Common to Koha and Vubis Smart Library Management Systems

Features common to Koha and Vubis Smart reveal attributes that both library staff and clients would find desirable in a digital library system. In choosing a system that would offer the best value within the available budget, library staff would find key features common to both these integrated systems. Each system is all-inclusive; a complete library package. It can be integrated into an organisation’s web site. Both systems are Library Standards compliant using standards and protocols that allow interoperability between systems and technologies.

One key feature of both systems is the web-based OPAC; this enables clients to search the catalogue both in the library and off-site. Both systems are designed in such a way that libraries can tailor the OPAC to its individual style. The OPAC’s appearance, functionality and method of searching are adaptable.

Both systems feature standard flexible database formats such as UNIMARC and MARC21 for cataloguing and Z39.50 for copy cataloguing. Their integrated search engines can read structured records in various formats, for example, email, XML and MARC. Access is via Boolean and free-text searching.

Both Koha and Vubis Smart support the management of multiple databases. Updates occur automatically and millions of records are accessible. Both systems can perform multiple tasks as the same time enabling, for example, cataloguing and circulations to take place simultaneously.

They are fully integrated systems with desktop applications and email. Clients can be automatically sent a text message or email regarding overdue resources and other notices.

Both systems offer acquisitions components, providing processes for the management of orders, receivables, the creation and management of invoices, control of financial information and all areas of acquisitions relevant to the management of information.

The circulation component of the system provides functions including borrowing, returns, renewals and reservations and both provide tools for resource management, stocktaking, statistics, financial system and reporting system.

Also common to both systems are a serials management module covering subscription maintenance and circulation.

Both Koha and Vubis Smart provide online support for their clients. Tutorials are available, relevant links, forums and frequently asked questions. They both promote the utilisation of an intranet and the benefit of thin client computers.

Friday, September 14, 2007


ACT Public Library Online Information Services

The ACT Public Library’s considerable investment in the area of online information services enables it to meet the needs of its community in both diverse and relevant ways. Its library management system facilitates the incorporation of online services that are client-focused and equitable.

ACT Public Library’s philosophy that online clients should be able to accomplish the same things that, with the exception of picking up a book, a client can do when physically present in the library is commendable. Already, a substantial number of clients utilising a library’s services expect to be able to access those services from their home or work computer; this number will continue to increase over the next few years.

The library has considered its socially inclusive role when deciding to include a learning pathway in its redesigned website. This learning pathway includes Homework Help, an online real-time tutoring service; such a learning opportunity should be well-utilised by today’s student population who are well-used to working in an online environment. Other services could include workshops in the instruction of online services generally such as email, Windows, digital photography and video, e-bay, better online search strategies and online training specifically for seniors.

The provision of online service delivery can blur the geographical boundary of the library, making such a boundary potentially obsolete. The library has the opportunity to be relevant to anyone with access to its website; this digital library concept will be of benefit to those studying or unable to access a library physically. Clients with disabilities and those living in remote areas are just two sectors of the community who can benefit from this provision of online services.

Online services such as email delivery of a resource’s due date, overdue and holding notices will be valuable to clients. Clients’ access to information about library locations, services and programmes, ability to join the library online, manage their account, reserve items and search the library catalogue and databases are extremely useful tools that give clients a sense of capability and control.

These benefits of the library’s online delivery service show that client access and utilisation will enhance the library’s significance to the community it serves by offering procedures, resources and courses by diverse means.

Finally, changes in staff workloads are to be expected as client expectations and methods of accessing information change. More staff will be involved in the maintenance, management and forward planning of online services. The article indicates that ACT Public Library staff has managed increased workloads caused by online service delivery because of their eagerness to embrace and introduce new services, while reallocating existing services. This eagerness will also have contributed to a positive effect on clients regarding the benefits of the new online service delivery method.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Intranets and Knowledge Sharing

The intranet is a tool designed to facilitate an environment in which those with access can share knowledge. Commonly used within organisations as a resource that most, possibly all, people can access, the intranet offers easy access to general information and also acts as a resource that facilitates knowledge sharing.

In his above paper, published in May 2004, James Robertson provides an overview of five approaches that are key to the intranet becoming a driving force in the area of knowledge-based activities, rather than a ‘dumping ground for business documents’.

One of these key areas, communities of practice, developed by Etienne Wenger, focuses on the sharing of knowledge ‘between peers and within small groups’. This practice would encourage the sharing of experiences and issues common to those within the group. Robertson states that it should be the responsibility of the group to manage the knowledge within their area and this ‘could involve the creation of a knowledge base or content respository’. Such knowledge could then be shared with others as necessary, or stored. Robertson cites four technologies suitable to construct knowledge bases: content management systems; collaborative environments; wikis and specialised community of practice tools.

Robertson’s suggestion of building a home page for the community of practice to promote its use throughout an organisaiton could be key in encouraging users to network at various levels. These include, but are not exclusive to, collaborating on a project, searching for information, knowledge sharing or even social connections. Once understanding of this method of knowledge sharing is clear, it is likely to become vital in a number of aspects. It would engender a spirit of team building and develop trust as those collaborating rely on the accuracy of their peers’ information.

This online tool is one that can, theoretically, save time spent attending meetings; users can add their questions and comments from their own computer and those involved would have the opportunity to seek out relevant information to cite online. It is a resource that is already in use, however, in many organisations could be defined and refined to be of greater relevance and value to the individual organisation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Library 2.0 theory: Web 2.0 and its implications for libraries

Jack M. Maness, author of the above article defines Library 2.0 as "the application of interactive, collaborative, and multi-media web-based technologies to web-based library services and collections."

Another definition could be "Library 2.0 is the framework supporting diverse web-based media for the purpose of exchange of information via online collaboration and interaction.”

According to Maness, Library 2.0 is a “user-centred virtual community”, its four essential elements being 1) User Centred 2) Provides a multi-media experience 3) Socially rich and 4) Communally innovative.

Libraries are already adopting synchronous messaging, or instant messaging, providing chat reference services to their clients. Maness considers this service dynamic, allowing collaboration between clients and librarians; libraries already have links to their chat reference services within resources themselves. The idea of a client being offered online assistance as they browse through on OPAC is quite feasible. It is worth considering whether a client, browsing an OPAC on their home computer, would consider this helpful or an invasion of privacy.

The many applications of streaming video and audio media for Library 2.0 are worth mentioning. Interactive tutorials are already available in libraries; however, as Maness points out, they do not give the user the opportunity to interact with others. His argument that tutorials could take the form of multi-media chat rooms or wikis to provide users the opportunity to learn first hand is convincing.

The application of blogs and wikis has wide possibilities. Because of easy access, and in the case of wikis the ability for almost anyone to change information, some librarians may find it difficult to adapt to this evolving technology, however, they are great tools for social interaction and group study.

Tagging as a Library 2.0 tool opens up the opportunity for users to create subject headings; adding and changing data and metadata. As Maness states “Users could tag the library’s collection and thereby participate in the cataloguing process”.

Maness tells us that libraries are creating RSS feeds “including updates on new items in a collection, new services and new content in subscription databases”.

The view that Library 2.0 is a mashup: user-centred and user-driven is accurate. It is a fusion of traditional library services and ground-breaking technology. Its cutting-edge technology is an exciting development, providing libraries the opportunity to establish connections with the communities they serve via web-based technologies. The potential for interaction between library staff / users and users / users is exciting and innovative. The way in which libraries function, while remaining fundamentally community centred, is about to enter a new dimension with interactive and collaborative tools that will bring library and community together.