Considering ILS Updates

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  • Yang, S. (2013). From integrated library systems to library management services: TIme for change? Library Hi Tech News, 30(2), 1-8.
  • Asher, A. D., Duke, L. M., & Wilson, S. (2013). Paths of discovery: Comparing the search effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Services, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources. College & Research Libraries, 74(5), 464-488.

Integrated Library Systems (ILS) developed in the 1990s were designed to support and foster accessibility to online public access catalogs (OPAC) and allow libraries to manage and update interior catalog records for printed materials, such as books, folios, and journals. Many libraries today are spending a significant portion of their budgets on e-journals and electronic database development, in addition to electronic books. While physical books still make up a large part of the library collection, they are not the only part. Particularly in academic libraries, the tendency is for library collections to be fragmented, meaning patrons may have to use different tools and access platforms to access specific items. Books may be searched in the catalog, while online journals are accessed via a discovery tool and print journals hover in this weird space that is catalog supported, yet difficult to find and differentiate from electronic journals. Given these issues, libraries are moving towards ILS that will bring all of these pieces together and utilize well crafted discovery tools to search for and facilitate access to collections.

When designing or implementing an ILS, it’s important to make sure it will lend itself well to discovery. Currently, in the academic library at which I am employed, we use an OPAC, the Serial Solutions Summon discovery tool, and an alphabetic searchable listing of journal titles, which links to Summon. There is also the option to search specific databases, which may not be readily apparent or included in “all in one” tools such as Summon. We also have a Google Scholar option that is linked to our consortium portal. All of these options may create headaches for students who are not well versed in library research. Most students tend to default to the Summon discovery tool, likely because it is the first one to present itself. It’s visual appearance also mimics the seachability of Google, which students are very familiar with. However, the search interface may not be necessarily designed for each of use, which sometimes results in frustration on the patrons’ end. Serial Solutions has made some good changes to their product in recent years, eliminating some of the headache encountered previous. There is still the propensity for students unfamiliar with the tool to neglect to tweak searches to get desired  results, which is where library courses come into play.

Another important issue is the ability of the system to handle electronic resources. Again, libraries are purchasing and gaining electronic resources at a much higher rate than ten years ago. Many journals have turned to electronic only publications. For books that update fairly quickly or would take up considerable physical space (serials), it is preferable to purchase e-copies. ILS systems would need to support these acquisitions in a streamlined fashion. Also, the ability to display these items should also be part of the demand from vendors. We constantly hear complaints and frustration with trying to access e-books. That would play into the electronic resource management process.

When considering ILS acquisition and implementation, in order to ensure the ILS is suitable for institutional needs, it’s helpful to have the input of all involved. Evaluation of the current system and the changes necessary, input from library faculty and staff, and the opportunity to test drive the ILS before implementing it permanently is advisable.  In this case, I mentioned the ability to support hassle free discovery by researchers in an academic environment and the ability to seamlessly integrate electronic resources along with print resources. A smooth transition is always desired, so doing all you can as an institution to anticipate the needs and address them up front in the ILS will go a long way. Discussion of new ILS options will take into affect both the needs of the researcher/student, but also the needs of the staff (access services, technical services and research & reference). How easy will it be to maintain and implement changes? In information literacy and outreach, are there significant challenges in teaching users how to navigate? Will it require constant updates? How clunky is it to maneuver? What changes need to be made to the ILS to meet the institutions needs? Does the cost outweigh the benefits? These are some of the questions that will need to be addressed.

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About A. M.

Information professional focusing on academic librarianship through a critical lens. Research interests include education and multiliteracies, critical race theory, gender studies, and African American studies. I am currently employed as an academic librarian. I am also a family genealogist in the process of uncovering the people and places behind my ancestry. I enjoy digging up new facts, reading, and writing in my free time. My opinions and thoughts are my own.

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