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Harmonising the process of procuring library management systems: a feasibility study

Fisher, Shelagh and Delbridge, Rachel and Lambert, Sian (2001) Harmonising the process of procuring library management systems: a feasibility study. ISSN 1466-2949

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A new library management system is a significant investment for libraries, but the procurement of a system is, for most organisations, an infrequent activity with little opportunity for librarians to build on or consolidate their experience. Problems encountered by librarians in producing a specification are compounded by new developments in technology. The process of specifying the operational requirements of a system can be problematic, time consuming and expensive for a library. There is no standard guidance available on the format and content of the specification. The procurement process is also difficult for potential system suppliers who, in order to sell a system, must respond to specifications which are very variable in terms of content, format and quality. The aim of this research, therefore, was to determine the feasibility of developing and disseminating a model system specification which could be used to assist and guide libraries in the procurement of library management systems. Forty-one specifications, collected from libraries which had recently acquired a library management system, were analysed. The results demonstrate that the specifications included the same broad categories of information and requirements, with the majority specifying requirements for all or most of the core modules (Cataloguing, Acquisitions, Circulation, Serials). The functional requirements specified for each of the core modules had strong similarities both within and across the sectors (public, academic, special). Some ‘additional’ (i.e. non-core) features were required within the sectors. There was wide variation both between and within sectors in the format, organisation, level of detail and terminology used in the specifications. A survey of UK system suppliers was also undertaken to determine the collective view of suppliers on the role, content, quality and usefulness of the specification as a procurement tool. Suppliers expressed frustration with the tendency for specifications produced by librarians to be dominated by lists of functional requirements which were present in all library management systems on the market today. The Report concludes with recommendations for the development of a plain English guide to new technological developments and their implications for libraries, the development of an annual short course for middle managers currently involved in procurement, and the development of a toolkit of basic functions which can be expected in all library management systems. A recommendation for further research on common requirements for computer based management of resources in libraries is also made.

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