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Integrated Library Systems
DescriptionIntegrated library systems (ILS's) are electronic database systems that contain the data that allows a library to function. They are the brain and the heart of the library. The ILS generally includes patron records, bibliographic records, item records, and more. It is the back-end of the online catalog as well as the application used to catalog new items, do the circulation tasks (checking in and out), managing course reserves, and more. Some ILS's can also send automated messages to patrons, handle room bookings, create purchase orders, and more.
How it is used in a libraryThe ILS is used in many ways within the library. The patrons use it when they use the OPAC interface. Library staff use various modules within the ILS application to accomplish different tasks. Some useful modules (which can be called different things in different ILS systems) are Circulation, Acquisitions, Serials Management, Bookings, the OPAC, and Reports. There are many other possible modules that may be part of an ILS system. The staff who work the circulation desk, the staff who receive serial subscriptions, and the staff who do original cataloging may see completely separate interfaces with different options and levels of access all within the same application.
Expected social impactThe social impact of ILS's is huge for librarians and library staff. The fact that so many different library functions can all be accomplished within a single system is huge. All the library records are shared and it cuts down on all the duplication that existed back in the days of card catalogs and punch cards. The ILS makes it easier to search for records, pull data from the records, and manipulate it.
Online Public Access Catalogs (OPAC's)
DescriptionCatalogs are finding aids - systems designed to help librarians and users locate items. For decades, the data (titles, authors, subject term, etc.) was primarily recorded on index cards and filed in large cabinets called card catalogs. MARC records (Machine Readable Cataloging records) made that data electronic, so electronic catalogs developed. These were usually a text-based database that was searchable from catalog computers at the library. When the World Wide Web took off in the mid-1990s, commercial search engines like Yahoo and AOL made it much easier to use keywords to search for items without knowing the LC Subject Headings. This changed the way catalogs were used in the library setting.
How it is used in a libraryOPAC's are used in libraries as a way for users to find items the library owns. The newer versions are much more sophisticated than the first electronic catalogs. Most now include keyword searching, relevancy ranking, multi-leveled searching, and suggested topics or cross-references. Other features may include images, links to previews of the item (or the full item if available electronically), and other added content about the item.
Expected social impactThe social impact of OPAC's is significant when it comes to information seeking behavior. The electronic system can spell-check, cross-reference, and make suggestions in a matter of seconds - something that took considerable time and effort in the era of card catalogs. Many OPAC's allow users to save selected records in a file - which lends itself to berry picking strategy. OPAC's also improve access by allowing users to search the catalog from anywhere they have an Internet connection. Many libraries also allow users to place holds through the OPAC, so the items are pulled and ready to pick-up when they arrive at the library. Some libraries will even mail items to distance users - dramatically increasing access for people unable to visit the physical library.
An old video explaining the "Get it @ ASU" system at ASU
Open URL resolvers
DescriptionOpen URL is a standard format of URL (uniform resource locator) that makes it easier to link to information. Rather than searching through a variety of sources, the Open URL resolver - sometimes called a link resolver- takes the user to a page that shows the availability of that resource at the institution being searched.
How it is used in a libraryHere is an example of how Open URL resolvers are used in libraries: a patron has an article citation and they want to locate the full-text of the article. They could use the library's 'journal title search', then go to the year, volume, issue, and page they want. This would take many click-throughs. They could also try searching for the article title in various databases, hoping they find one that indexes that journal - this is a very ineffective way to find something. The best way is to use an Open URL resolver - where you simply input the data you are looking for and are taken directly to the resource.
Expected social impactOpen URL resolvers used to be ineffectual and were often hidden on the library page so only a very experienced use could find them. They are now built-in, integral parts of the library OPAC like U of A's "Article Linker" and ASU's "Get it @ ASU" features. These resolvers have expanded and refined their methods of searching through a libraries holdings - making it much easier for users to see if their library subscribes to the content they are looking for. They are wonderful tools when it comes to information seeking behavior because they simplify the process. The link resolver combs through the databases for the user, so they just have to click a single link to get to their resource.
DescriptionRadio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is a blend of micro-chip and radio-frequency technology. The small tag can be placed anywhere in an item and can be scanned with radio waves, unlike barcode labels that require line-of-sight to be read. It was developed to distinguish between friendly and enemy planes in WWII, and has been used in many different applications since.
How it is used in a libraryRFID tagging is very useful for libraries. In addition to being easier to scan than barcodes, it eliminates the need for an additional anti-theft device to be placed in each book. Patrons can check-out a whole pile of books at once, rather than one at a time, and all are de-sensitized simultaneously as well. Items can be automatically checked-in and sorted for shelving when returned in the book drop. And library staff can use a hand-held wand to scan the shelves for missing or mis-shelved items. For this feature alone, I would love to have RFID at my library.
Expected social impactThe advantages of RFID tags lead to increased speed and efficiency in library processes. It streamlines the check-out and check-in procedures to minimize the amount of human effort needed. This frees up library staff to work on tasks that require higher thinking and reasoning skills. It can also make inventory and shelf-reading a do-able task for large libraries where it is currently an impossible dream.
Select one technology that will most improve libraries for the librarians and one that will most improve libraries for the patrons. Justify your selections.The technology that will most improve libraries for librarians is definitely the Integrated Library System (ILS). ILS's have automated and consolidated processes that used to be tedious and time consuming. Their integration of circulation and technical services functions has cut down greatly on duplication of effort and made many library processes faster, easier, and less error-prone. I began working at ASU libraries in 2003 when we still used Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III)'s text-based ILS. Then we switched to III Millennium, and more recently to III Sierra. The switch from the text-based to the graphical user interface made things so much easier and cut the learning curve way down.
The technology that will most improve libraries for patrons is a part of the ILS, the OPAC. The advanced options available on today's OPAC's, including Open URL resolvers, cross-referencing, and other features have vastly improved the search process for patrons. OPAC's are continually evolving and improving. Linking out to Amazon, Google Book, or publisher previews is one example of a way that OPAC's are using added content to improve the search process for patrons - allowing them to get a better idea of the content of the book before they decide to request it or search for it.