Technology Coordinator Amanda Wisler's Presentation to the Board of Trustees
3/19/2001
Steps to Automation

1. Decide What Kind of Automation System is Needed
There are many different automation systems with many different features.  Our first step is to gather information from various vendors, see what kind of features each system offers, and decide which features are necessary for this library.  This is the stage we’re in now. 

We are looking for a system that is simple and non-intimidating, but not so simple that we’ll end up regretting its lack of features.  The factors we are taking into consideration at this point are:

  • Functions automated
  • Ease of use
  • Reliability
  • Configuration options
  • Record format(s) supported
  • Patron interface
  • Staff interface
  • Add-on modules offered
  • Hardware required
  • Technical support
  • Company stability
  • Availability of retrospective conversion service
  • 2. Contract with an Automation/Retrospective Conversion Vendor
    Once we’ve decided what kind of system we need and narrowed our options down to just two or three vendors, we’ll need to get cost and time estimates from them.  We can then make a final decision based on these factors and enter into a contract with an automation vendor. 

    There are actually two parts to automation: 

    • Retrospective conversion, and
    • Implementation of the automation system.
    Retrospective conversion is the conversion of physical records (our shelf list cards) into a computer database that can be managed by an automated system.  Many, but not all, automation vendors offer “retrocon” services.  Hopefully, we will be able to contract with one vendor for both services.  Otherwise, we will have to ask our automation vendor to recommend a retrocon service—to ensure that the converted records will be compatible with the system—and contract with that company separately.
    3. Prepare the Shelf List and Collection for Conversion
    This will be the longest and most difficult part of the automation project.  Most of the people I’ve talked to said to plan on at least two years to complete this.  In order to complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible, we plan to combine several different procedures into this process:
    • Inventory
    • Weeding/repair/replacement of worn books
    • Shelf list editing
    • Establishing authority control
    • Security tagging
    • Bar coding*
    Each card in the shelf list (approximately 120,000 cards) must be matched to the item it describes.  Once the item is found, it must be inspected to make sure it’s still up-to-date, in good repair, and worth the cost of conversion.  The shelf list card must be compared to the book to make sure that all the information is correct and that the card includes all of the information required for conversion.  A security device and a bar code* can then be affixed to the item before it is returned to the shelf.  After a reasonable time, any items not located will be declared lost and removed from the shelf list.

    * There are two kinds of bar codes, “smart” bar codes and “dumb” bar codes.  Smart bar codes contain item-specific information and can only be produced after retrospective conversion.  Dumb bar codes can be purchased by the roll any time you need them.  We may be able to use dumb bar codes and apply them during retrocon preparation.  If not, bar coding will have to be done after the conversion. 

    4. Send the Shelf List for Conversion
    Our automation vendor will provide the means for us to send in our shelf list for conversion, so that won’t be difficult.

    The tricky part will be keeping accurate records of all additions and withdrawals made between the end of retrocon preparation and the implementation of the automation system.

    We could start to issue the new, bar-coded library cards at this point.  There are pros and cons to this:

    PRO:
    When we implement the automation, we will be swamped with patrons who need to replace their old cards with new ones.  If we start issuing the cards early, we can ease the strain of transition.

    CON:
    People will still be using the old cards at this point, and might lose the new cards before the automation is in place. 

    CON:
    New patrons will have to be issued both an old card and a new one.

    5. Purchase and Install the Necessary Hardware and Network Connections
    While we are waiting for the conversion to be completed, we will need to make sure that the following things are in place:
    • Computers to be used as OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) workstations
    • Any furniture needed for the OPAC workstations
    • The wide-area network (WAN) that will connect the branches to the main library
    All of these things must be ready to go before the automated system can be installed.
    6. Implement the Automated System
    We’ll be relying on our automation vendor for this.  As long as our hardware and network connections are in place, it shouldn’t take long, assuming that bar coding was done before retrocon.  If bar coding wasn’t done, it will have to be done at this point and will probably take several weeks.

    We will also need to add to the database any additions and withdrawals made since retrocon preparation ended.

    7. Staff Training
    Our automation vendor should do the primary training, but the staff will still need time to work with system and become familiar with it.  We may need to close the library for training.  Before we launch the new system on the public, the staff should be comfortable enough that they will be able to help patrons with it.
    8. Training the Public
    For the first few weeks, we should have staff members assigned to hover around the OPAC workstations, giving demonstrations and helping patrons with questions.

    Change tends to scare people.  We want to make the transition as comfortable as possible for our patrons; therefore, we should hang on to the card catalogs for a while, but not add to them.  People will be able to search for older items in the old familiar way, but they’ll have to try the OPAC to find newer things.

    Please bear in mind that this plan reflects our understanding of the automation process at this time. We are learning as we go.  We may find that more is involved or that certain steps could be accomplished more efficiently if done in a different order.