Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Library Management Systems: Development directions

I'd entirely forgotten I'd written this. The library management system market is in a state of flux at the moment (the moment being the best part of a decade now!) and one of the questions we're all hoping will go away is: "why do you need a library management system in the first place?" Other council services have customer databases and keep track of customer transactions. And/or have resource management systems that include acquisition, distribution and use to end of life. Why are libraries different?

Well, we are different in many ways. We have international database standards for our catalogues so that we don't have the pain that many public sector document management systems are going to have over the next ten years. Most of our base data can be easily mapped from one system to another, from one library service to another so we can do collaborative work like regional loans and consortium working. (An argument that will be easier to pursue when library management systems deliver their promises on interoperability with non-library systems.)

But are we different enough to satisfy an entirely understandable corporate wish for a nice, simple one-stop solution? That's entirely down to the library service's specification of functional requirements (the UK Core Specification being just a fraction of what a modern library service needs) and the business case supporting that functional specification. If it turns out that a one-stop solution delivers to that specification, excellent, everyone's a winner. If it doesn't and some other solution does then some hard choices need to be made.

I don't know what, if any, input I'll be allowed to have on our choice of a new library management system; I suspect very little. I will keep making the case for a functional specification and a business case, though. There's no point in telling somebody to paint your front door any old colour and then spending a decade complaining that it was painted red.

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