Library Management Systems, Past, Present and Future

Library Management Systems History

The Library Management System has not changed very much in the last 20 years. The format and the approach other than now being web based, is fundamentally the same. There are too many suppliers! Many will be sold or merged as we have seen in the past few years and only a few will remain. Others will grow into something more knowledge-focussed and less back office process-driven.

This in part is because the library profession has not changed that much in its approach to managing content. The biggest change is in search and the need to simplify search for end users.

The back office processes are so varied between one organisation and another that the investment in engineering processes for loans, acquisitions, serials and claims, takes up a disproportionate amount of effort in terms of development of these systems. But if this development was not done, then librarians would not use them. But the complexities and detailed nuances demand attention.

The adherence to MARC tags to store content, remains the biggest bafflement to me! It places librarians separate and distinct from other IT systems and makes the systems inflexible and unable to easily manage non-bibliographic content. This blindness to new data formats and exchange formats will make library systems redundant in the next 5-10 years. Instead, new database solutions will appear that leave behind the old way of doing cataloguing. New systems will automate the ingesting of content and move users to seek library management systems that aid learning, rather than aids to find information assets alone.

Those who continue to develop library systems in the same vein as today, with MARC and rigid structures will be like dBASE developers from the 1980s. They will take it to their graves and no one will remember why they ever bothered with it for so long.

We are very interested to hear your thoughts on the present and future of Library Management Systems today.

Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration and Organisational Theory with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.
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