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Trapped by our ILS

Feb - 21 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

It’s funny that right as I’m complaining to my staff here that I HATE our ILS (oh boy did you miss a great temper tantrum on my part) , other librarians are doing the same. John Blyberg discusses The Rime of the Ancient ILS, Sarah Houghton talks about how Library Systems Vendors Stray from the Light, and Steve Oberg, the Family Man Librarian, asks Where have library systems vendors gone astray?.

All posts worth reading!

Right now I am feeling the frustration that John talks about in his post. I just want to have a little bit of control – I want to be able to stop the tables from being aligned left – I want to remove the fixed widths – I want to make such simple changes – like making the start over button appear as the first button instead of in the middle of the other buttons – who came up with this crap. I want to talk to a support person who actually knows HTML – not someone who took one course once and thinks they know more than me. Last year I had to send an email to our vendor with 11 attachments (screenshots & code) to show them that they had a </table> tag that was messing up my site – a tag that didn’t need to be there!!

John makes some great points in his post:

Libraries have been incredibly reticent when it comes to letting technical people make the technical decisions. The result? Vendors who are given laundry lists of nonsense by folks who really don't know what they're asking for … First, librarians need to stop asking for silly little twiddly bits. Libraries should be listening to their IT departments and vetting requests through them. If you don't have an IT staff, then a part of the solution is reevaluating your staffing needs so that you have some technical people on-board-this can be as simple as canvasing your existing staff, looking for someone who wants to make the move into geekdom. I believe that a coder-on-board sign is simply a characteristic of most 21st century libraries-it's not enough to employ the best librarians you can find, you need to get passionate, interested techies as well.

The blame isn’t totally with the vendors (she says through gritted teeth), but at the same time they should have people working for them that know how to sort out the twiddly bits from the real necessities.

John also talks about a visit from an III executive:

He was visiting under the pretense that they were very impressed with what we'd done with their system-I thought, “great, this is encouraging-a chance to open a dialogue”. As it turned out, he was just using AADL as a sales venue for another customer. The irony makes me grit my teeth. It's a good thing I was on vacation that week-I might have told him that we've done things to their system that would make Paris Hilton blush.

Which brings me to my other frustration – some of us don’t know how to probe into the system the way John has – some of us look at catalogs like AADL and drool and then stomp our feet (temper tantrum #2 coming on) because we can’t figure out how to hack our systems the way they have at Ann Arbor.

My question for everyone is why are we putting up with it? There is an open-source option out there – Koha – why aren’t we pooling our efforts (and programming skills) to help make this product the dream ILS we’re looking for so that the vendors have to get on their knees and beg for our forgiveness in order to get us back? Is anyone using Koha in a large library? Where is it lacking? Where does it excel?

5 Responses so far.

  1. I’d love to be able to use Koha, but getting non-technical people to buy into the idea of an open source catalog has been very difficult. I know that Koha is being used in some libraries – though I got the impression that they were smaller – but I’ve not seen an example of a large library using it yet. I’ll be keeping an eye out on this post, though, for comments!!

  2. I’d love to be able to use Koha, but getting non-technical people to buy into the idea of an open source catalog has been very difficult. I know that Koha is being used in some libraries – though I got the impression that they were smaller – but I’ve not seen an example of a large library using it yet. I’ll be keeping an eye out on this post, though, for comments!!

  3. Data Obsessed says:

    [...] Our first two submissions come from Nicole Engard, who points out the exceedingly awesome Blogga Song and her own rant on being trapped by her ILS, a feeling I know well (some days I think that if my HTML wasn’t utterly elementary and by SQL even worse, I could design a better one) [...]

  4. Nicole says:

    Also, read my post about PHPMyLibrary – http://www.web2learning.net/archives/209. I’d love to have a part in developing that.

  5. Nicole says:

    Also, read my post about PHPMyLibrary – http://www.web2learning.net/archives/209. I’d love to have a part in developing that.


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