Monday, June 20, 2011

The *really* integrated library system (Library technology thoughts, pt. 7 of 8)

I'm back from a nearly two-week vacation...just in time for everyone else to go to ALA in New Orleans! Looking back on this series of posts, I notice that my estimated timeline of "a week or so" has become "over a month." This kind of thing has a way of happening.

Moving on...

(I have a list of six predictions about what I expect to see happen in academic library technology over the next 5-10 years. This is prediction #6.)

Academic libraries will move to integrate their systems with course management and enterprise systems at their host institutions.

One part of this prediction is my frustration with library systems that don't play well with others. Students update their address information and name changes with the registrar; they and we both get annoyed that they have to do it over again with us. Our EZproxy server has a very dramatic on-again, off-again relationship with the student information database, resulting in students who can't get into our online databases. (We have at least one outbreak of such incidents each semester, made worse by the fact that the IT guy who knew how to work with EZproxy left over a year ago, and IT has not prioritized recreating that skill set, not that I blame them under the circumstances.) Our electronic reserves system? My views are unprintable.

Another (related) part of this prediction is the large number of usernames and passwords library users are expected to remember. I know there are tools that allow for single "master passwords," but these tools, as I understand them, are a) third-party solutions for b) problems that shouldn't exist in the first place. It's like needing one library card to check out books, another for DVDs, and yet another just to get through the front door. Ridiculous. Actually, no, it's more like having multiple entirely separate libraries that we make people trek around to. The end result is that a lot of resources get ignored.

The third part of this prediction is, once again, assessment and administrator influence. It is a blindingly painful headache to answer questions like, "How many books purchased from the Environmental Studies departmental allocation got checked out to ENV majors who got A's in their senior capstone seminars?" Greater systems integration could reduce that pain to a dull throbbing.

MPOW is consolidating around its Jenzabar CX enterprise software (and moving to a hosted service, no less). It also has Google Apps for Education for the students. IT feels better about the library taking the Jenzabar route over the Google Apps route for things like electronic reserves, so that is what I am looking into this summer. I am hoping there will be a nice clear solution. If there isn't now, I expect there will be in the next 5-10 years. I have difficulty imagining that I'm the only library director who is frustrated with the status quo--and even if I am, I have difficulty imagining that university administrators will continue to want to spend buckets of money on potentially redundant (-ish) and definitely inefficient library systems.

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