No one likes change. Especially forced change. But when technology advances as quickly as it does, it makes sense for a business to periodically review their information management systems; the systems that hold data and inform decision making and learning for users.
- Are there better ways to put information into the hands of staff and members and users?
- Are there better work practices that will make processing data more efficient?
- Can systems be easier for library staff to control, use and apply?
- How to meet database and information needs outside of the library?
- How can the library be more flexibility and control non-bibliographic data?
- How can new technology be applied to meet emerging demands?
Changing from one library management system to another is a major upheaval. It is certain that a commitment to make a change brings with it challenges and opportunities. The opportunity is probably the first time in a long while for the chance to review all data and metadata. How is it structured? Is it clean and consistent and enriched? Is it indexed in the best way for users to be able to easily and accurately access it?
Our belief is that data should be presented in the best way possible so that users can more easily engage with the library service, so that the library service is seen to be world class. The challenge is to do this efficiently with as little effort or disruption as possible to the normal workings of the library.
A Successful Migration
Data migration and conversion is critical to the success of any new system implementation, irrespective of the size of library. But it’s more than simply “migration”. It’s the opportunity to re-visit data, re-structure data, create relationships and present information in a better way. Done in this way it opens up the potential for new ideas and creative thinking to be applied to how information is presented to users so that they can learn from the information structures as well as the data itself (finding things that the user does not already know).
Simply taking data from one system and placing it into another system (like for like) does not advance library performance. How data is structured and presented is a major reason for changing the library management system. It is this that brings about improvements in library services.
Over the last 30 years we have been fortunate to work with an huge number of librarians and organisations, big and small. We have converted, migrated, cleansed, structured and enriched a myriad of data sets. We have combined and aggregated data, established multiple taxonomies and integrated data with external data. Our clients now combine in a single Soutron database, archive and library and know-how and document data sets. This experience has led us to understand how to analyse data sets and interpret data relationships so that data can be better presented, learning from data can be faster, access is made more intuitive and obvious.
So, when thinking about changing systems, is the rational decision maker seeking to make a change because the existing system has been around for quite a while and it’s about time to think about changing systems again?
How long a system has been in place is not the criteria to use to determine if it is time to change from one library system to another. Library systems used to be changed in line with technological changes. When Microsoft brought out a new operating system and user interface, a new library system invariably emerged designed around that systems. That is not necessary today. Library systems today need to be changed when they no longer keep pace with the demands of librarians and their users, when data cannot be managed and presented and controlled in the manner needed by the organisation.
Taking a step back
If there is a need to re-position your library service, to re-think working practices, to re-think data relationships and data structures, to clean up and present data in better ways, to create new ways for your users to access data. If your data is outdated, poorly indexed, lacking structure these are the factors that should drive your decision to look to make changes in library service provision and that means finding a new library management system supplier that is aligned and in tune with your thinking. And more than this. The continual development and enhancement and flexibility of the library system is equally critical to the success of the library. Why? Because when this happens, when the supplier of library management software has this focus on flexibility and systems improvement, the library can concentrate on its users, its data and management, on being creative in solving emerging data management needs.
Go, Go, Go!
So, don’t hold back when you want to be more creative. When you want to push the boundaries of your library service. The starting point is your data. Decide if your existing library system supplier is keeping pace with your demands and can support your creativity and vision. If not, don’t hold back.
We are here, experienced, able and excited to keep at the forefront of library system development.
Review our guide: Frequently Asked Questions on Data Migration
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Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration, Organizational Theory and Library Technologies with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.
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