Posted by: bluesyemre | December 5, 2017

Everything is connected: the #library management system of tomorrow


There’s a sign visible from Manchester Piccadilly Station that says “Everything is Connected”. As I’m waiting for a train back home from a public library meeting or conference there I often see it and realise how true it is in these days of the internet and partnership working. That was not always the case. Back in the old days, one could do one’s library work, keep one’s head down, and not really be aware of anything outside of one’s own public library service or branch. But now there are so many easily reachable examples of good practice and ideas out there, often in new parts of the job unthinkable ten years ago, that it would be unprofessional not to be aware of them. This realisation was what got me into starting Public Libraries News in the first place and, my, I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot from looking up.

Following on from this, I did a speech at the last Axiell User Conference this year on the fact that libraries are “Jacks of all Trades”. In recent years, libraries have taken their mission of giving equality of access to information and to imagination and run with it, moving out into new technologies and fields almost as soon as they have become available. The down side of this is that the sector now does so much (books, e-books, online access, e-resources, pictures, video, streamed content, room hire, work with partners, health, code clubs and even theatre shows) that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. With the danger being that we don’t. Or, even worse, we don’t do as well at any one thing as our competitors in that subject. But our presence in the community is a real strength as we are experts on what is going on. Someone said to me after my presentation that we may not be the best in any sector but what we excel at is connecting people. Never a truer word spoken.

“Our presence in the community is a real strength as we are experts on what is going on”

So how come most library management systems don’t connect and are just glorified holding lists? I think this a holdover from the old days when people came into public libraries as their first port of call for answering a question. Many a librarian back in the 1990s and before settled a pub argument the day after or told a child what the population of a random country was. No more. The public uses the internet as their first information-answering tool of choice now and, much to our shame, public libraries are simply often not thought of for something we once had a near-monopoly on.

If someone asks Google for a book, the fact that their local library has a copy of it simply will not appear on the search results. You’d have to do a separate search of the library’s website to find that out. But to have to do a separate search is no longer good enough if we want to get away from the core user base. The fact that the local library has that book needs to come up on first page of search results. To do this, libraries need to have catalogues that are discoverable via search engines and are linked to a geographical location. And it need not just be library services of course. Reading Museum offers loans boxes to schools and some education library services offer similar services. But the key here is that holdings that are open to the public need to come up on the screen without us demanding the searcher knows to check our website in the first place. Or otherwise that searcher is just going to get their book from somewhere else, even though they’re paying tax for us to have a copy. And that’s no longer acceptable, at least not if we want to keep justifying our budget.

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