Today I had to email representatives of the following library automation vendors: LibraryWorld, Softlink, Mandarin and EOS. These four proprietary vendors, all absolutely fantastic in their proposed services and products, had given Anna and I the exposure we needed to their ILSs to confidently propose them to Ali and Joey at Seward Park. While the ILSs offered many features, including many impressive features (to the point of being unnecessary in some cases), the reality of the situation was lack of funds.
It’s not that the library didn’t want to implement a for-cost ILS into the library, but knowing that we (Anna and me) were conducting this work now, during the Winter quarter, conflicted with the fiscal budget and the timeline of the fiscal year. Getting funds immediately for a proprietary ILS would simply not have been possible (or would have been extremely unlikely). Fortunately for Anna and myself, the open-source OPALS (see last post) exists and we are actively using it.
It’s hard to say “no” to products that you love. In the case of LibraryWorld, for example, which is extremely affordable, we were able to fall in love with the easy-to-use Web interface, which could be easily manipulated from a tablet or desktop. The other ILSs provided fun and exciting ways to search, comprehensive cataloging features, and other modules that impressed us left and right. But we had to say “no” and we’re okay with that. We’re okay with that because, at the end of the day, the strategic decision needs to be made.
What’s more, decisions don’t exist in a vacuum. We’ve made one decision but decisions in the future can be made to evolve the library’s technology even further. As was discussed, the potential to improve the automation service with additional features and aesthetic appeal could be proposed going into the next fiscal year. How the future of Seward Park’s Audubon Center goes down, at least in terms of the library, depends (I think) on how well we work with OPALS. What can we manage to get done with OPALS? How can we best use it to fit our needs? We need to make sure we go above and beyond, act as librarian rockstars, and make OPALS as best as it can be. We need to ensure it’s optimally getting information in and out of the library.
If we succeed with OPALS, it will be easy to see if there are needs not being met by its functions and facilitation as the automation system. At this point, it’s too early to tell what’s missing (if anything!), but as graduate students, we’re faithfully and continuously critical in our analysis of the systems we’re using.
At the end of the day, I’m glad that we had to go through the very curious product of surveying the technological options available to small and special libraries. While we could have certainly done even more research and demo’d additional ILSs, the exposure we had to the five (plus Koha and Evergreen, if you’d like to include those) has been invaluable to our professional education.