Friday, August 27, 2010

Libraries disconnect from CONNECT to offer new program

By Stephanie Riefe of Farmington Life

The Farmington Libraries are no longer part of the CONNECT consortium and are now part of KOHA. The change was made to save money and to increase services. Both programs are focused on delivery of services such as circulation and cataloguing, Library Director Jay Johnston explains
Q. What was the CONNECT program and why did the libraries stop using it?
A. CONNECT began as an automated system to check materials in and out of then developed into a comprehensive library information system in the 1990s. Farmington had belonged to it since its inception in the early 1980s. It is an organization of many libraries in the capital region and beyond that pay fees for services. The original concept was for the member libraries to collectively create capital through dues, fees and grants for the purpose of purchasing a mainframe computer, proprietary library operational software, central office staff with the expertise to manage the system and to organize the libraries into a computerized regional network. At the time, 1982, this was an innovative and smart way to do business because this structure was developed at a pre-Internet time period. Today, with new emerging technologies and many exciting open-source solutions available, I began to study alternatives to the current proprietary software solutions in order to better leverage our resources in an uncertain economy. Through that research process, I learned that the KOHA system was far advanced in functionality and customization compared with CONNECT and that operational costs were significantly lower than those charged by CONNECT. Convinced of the benefits of going forward, the staff and library board spent more than three years studying, testing and deciding how to proceed. Now we have made the migration from the old proprietary CONNECT library information system to the new, open-source KOHA system. Out new system costs less than 1/5 of the old CONNECT system. KOHA also has a great deal more functionality, running on Linux, Apache, MySQL and Pearl, very similar to the operation of Amazon.com.
Q.Talk a bit more about the new program. How does it work?
A. KOHA is an open-source (non-proprietary) system. We own the software and do not pay fees. We can alter operational procedures as needed and make improvements that were not possible with the proprietary system. KOHA also has an artificial intelligence component that interfaces with individual user’s preference, a feature to which computer users of today are accustomed. It is a web-based system that can be used on any device. Functionality includes creating private and public lists for future reading. We are currently listing high school and intermediate school reading lists in our KOHA catalog. This feature can also be used to create private reading lists for an n individual’s future use. The catalog has a powerful social component allowing Tags for commenting on books, DVD’s, great reads, or other interests (tags for sailing adventure or Danielle Steel junkies). Also, when searching in the Farmington catalog, with the click of a single link you can continue that search in the old CONNECT catalog or statewide system.
Q. What do people need to know about KOHA and how it might affect their library habits?
A. The new system will allow you many of the features you have grown accustomed to in Amazon.com and other modern artificial intelligence information systems, along with traditional library features. It is intuitive and your Farmington Library account reflects only Farmington items. When returning items from other libraries at Farmington, you will be credited with your date of return when it is received by the lending library. All inter-library loan functions can still be enjoyed by contacting the library and requesting an item. However, I believe our collection will sustain 99 percent of our demand with a goal of reducing inter-library loan by developing our collection with a more rigorous customer-focused purchasing system.
Q. Does the new program offer features that were not available before?
A. Yes , indeed, private and public lists to see what you checked out and what you want to read in the future, a cart feature to place multiple holds for your reading interests, tag cloud which gives a personal way of grouping items by interest areas, and an online public access catalog feature which allows virtually browsing the shelves.