ERIC Identifier: ED381179 Publication Date: 1995-04-00
Author: Lopata, Cynthia L. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Integrated Library Systems. ERIC Digest.
An automated library system usually consists of a number of functional
modules, such as acquisitions, circulation, cataloging, serials, and an OPAC
(Online Public Access Catalog). An "integrated" library system is an automated
system, as described above, in which all of the functional modules share a
common bibliographic database. The National Library of Medicine used the term
"integrated" in referring to a system in which all automated library functions
are processed against a single, master bibliographic file (Goldstein & Dick,
1980). Genaway (1984) expanded the definition and described the integrated
online library system (IOLS) as "a library system that uses a common
machine-readable database and has two or more subsystems operational and
accessible online" (p.4).
In a system which is not integrated, there might be a bibliographic record in
the catalog for a book and, if that book were to be checked out, there would be
another bibliographic record for it in a circulation file. In an integrated
system, there would be one bibliographic record for a book, probably created
when the book was ordered, then expanded when it was cataloged. If that book
were to be checked out, the patron record for the borrower would be attached to
the bibliographic record, but there would not be a duplicate bibliographic
record for the book in a circulation file. There are some systems which have
duplicate bibliographic records but which are considered to be integrated
because changes to bibliographic records are automatically propagated. For
example, a change made to a bibliographic record in the acquisitions file would
automatically be made to the duplicate bibliographic record in the catalog. In
these quasi-integrated systems, movement between the modules and their duplicate
files is facilitated by some type of linking mechanism.
There are several different ways the integration of a system can be
accomplished. A library can:
-buy an integrated system, including a number of functional modules, from a
-purchase a variety of modules from a variety of vendors and interconnect
-implement any number of purchased modules, from either one or multiple
vendors, and then connect them to sources of information outside the library.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM?
integrated system is superior in several ways to one which is not integrated.
-The duplication of effort to create and maintain multiple copies of
bibliographic records is eliminated in an integrated system.
-Opportunities for errors are reduced when records are entered only once, and
changes are automatically propagated throughout the system.
-Library staff and patrons can have access to all pertinent information at
For example, in an integrated system, a patron can view a bibliographic
record in the online catalog and also see that the book has been checked out and
when it is due back to the library. Of course, privacy of borrowers can be
protected by preventing patrons from viewing borrower information. Also, patrons
can tell by looking at the online catalog, in an integrated system, that a book
has been ordered, but not yet received. In a system which is not integrated,
that information would be available to library staff only through the
HOW DOES A LIBRARY SELECT AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM?
many vendors of integrated systems. One source for information on vendors and
systems is "Automated System Marketplace" which is published annually in Library
Journal. While it is possible, using such a tool, to identify market leaders
among the vendors, it is not possible to say which of the available systems is
best. Such a determination would have to be based on a thorough understanding of
the library for which the system was intended and of that library's needs and
resources. A system which might be ideal for a large academic library would not
be suitable for a small school library. Still, the number of systems which a
vendor has installed is one measure of success and quality. Other measures
include level of customer support provided and customer satisfaction.
There are also a number of system performance issues which must be addressed
during the selection process. Does the system have the capacity to handle the
number of transactions, e.g. the number of books checked out daily, in the
library without slowing to an unacceptable level of performance? How many
bibliographic records and patron records can the system hold?
Also, libraries must look to the future when purchasing a system. How much
growth, in terms of patrons and materials, can the system accommodate? Will the
library be able to migrate from this system to another system without extensive
redesign of the database?
OFF-THE-SHELF VS. CUSTOMIZATION
In the early days of
automated library systems, some large libraries designed and implemented their
own systems. Some of these homegrown systems were later developed into
commercial products. For example, the NOTIS system evolved from automation
systems developed at Northwestern University. An alternative to this
design-your-own approach has been to buy an off-the-shelf system, which is
essentially a generic or one-size-fits-all application. Many library functions,
such as cataloging and acquisitions, are the same across libraries. However, one
size does not always fit all. It can be difficult to accommodate the particular
procedures for a specific library in this type of a generic system.
A third approach has emerged which lies between the homegrown system and the
off-the-shelf system: the generic, customizable system. This is a system which
incorporates generic functions but has multiple parameters which can be set by
each library, thus customizing the system for a particular setting. For example,
a system of this type might include a standard function for checking out books.
Borrowing periods for various categories of users will vary from library to
library, and a system of this type would allow an individual library to adjust
the settings for due dates based on that library's borrowing policies. The
extent to which the system may be customized is great, but a library may also
choose to use default settings if appropriate.
IMPLEMENTATION AND MANAGEMENT ISSUES
Just as important as,
or perhaps more important than, selecting the right system is the process of
implementing that system in the library and dealing with the associated
management issues. As described above, one of the main features and advantages
of an integrated system is the sharing of bibliographic records among the
various system modules. This single feature can have far reaching implications
for the management of the library. Some organizational changes which have
accompanied the implementation of integrated systems include:
-new patterns of communication among library staff, especially between
technical services staff and public services staff;
-increases in responsibility and decision making among lower level staff; and
-increased requirements for all staff to acquire technical knowledge and
Many libraries have redesigned their operations to take maximum advantage of
the new technology.
FUTURE TRENDS IN INTEGRATED LIBRARY SYSTEMS
of an integrated system is beginning to change from a system which shares
bibliographic records among local functions and modules to a system which
exchanges information with many other systems outside of the library.
Technological developments, such as client/server architectures and standardized
protocols for passing information from one system to another, are facilitating
this integration of outside information sources into local systems. For example,
an online ordering system might allow a librarian to search a publisher's
bibliographic database, select records of books to be purchased, and download
those records from the publisher's database into the library catalog. Also, some
libraries with expanded integrated systems offer patrons access, through their
local OPACs, to other bibliographic and non-bibliographic databases both inside
and outside the library and to OPACs of other libraries.
Cibbarelli, P. (Ed.). (1993). "Directory of
library automation software, systems, and services." Medford, NJ: Learned
Cibbarelli, P., & Nixon, C. (1994). "IOLS '94 Proceedings of the ninth
national conference on integrated online library systems." Medford, NJ: Learned
Genaway, D. C. (1984). "Integrated online library systems: Principles,
planning, and implementation." White Plains, NY: G.K. Hall.
Goldstein, C., & Dick, R. (1980). The Lister Hill Center integrated
library system. "National Library of Medicine News," 35(1), 1-2.
Griffiths, J. (1994). Automated system marketplace. "Library Journal,"
119(6), 50-59. (EJ 481 862)
Head, J. W., & McCabe, G. B. (Eds.). (1993). "Insider's guide to library
automation: Essays of practical experience." Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Johnson, P. (1991). "Automation and organizational change in libraries." New
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