August 19, 2009

Memo from the State Librarian

To: The New Hampshire Library Community

From: Michael York

Subject: Library Automation

Date: August 19, 2009

During the last 18 months I have spoken with many of you about the State Library’s goal to expand its role in library automation. The discussions have centered on the challenges surrounding automating or upgrading existing systems especially in small and medium-sized libraries. Although the challenges remain, and are exacerbated by the current financial environment, tremendous advances in technology and internet connections allow the State Library to consider the automation needs of the local libraries in ways simply not possible in the past.
Since the early 1930s, the State Library has been responsible for the statewide union catalog of library holdings. As a partner with our local libraries, we have built a system of two million records and six million holdings. The State Library automated interlibrary loan in the 1980s, added full-text databases in the 1990s, and provided the framework and funding to the Audiobooks Consortium in 2006. We want to build on this strong foundation of providing services and resources to local libraries.
The advent of open source software for library automation systems has changed the way we look at library automation. Although open source software is available free of charge to those who wish to adopt it; hosting and maintaining the software is not free. There are costs associated with housing data, staff training, updating systems, and any desired customization projects performed on open source systems to fit the libraries’ needs. This work can be done in-house or be out-sourced; either way, there are costs associated with open source automation systems. All of the normal costs that libraries incur when running a proprietary library automation system will be present with an open source system, with the exception of the license fees charged by proprietary vendors.
In an effort to assist local libraries with their automation needs, the State Library is proposing a consortium-type system, modeled after the current New Hampshire Downloadable Audiobook Consortium. The goal would be to settle on one, perhaps two, open sources systems. The State Library would work with the vendor(s) to establish consistent pricing for the hosting and maintenance and to help make the process of joining as simple and cost-effective as possible.
I believe that when the New Hampshire State Library is a partner with local libraries, either providing or facilitating services, the citizens of the state benefit from valuable services that would not have been feasible without this partnership. It is my hope that local libraries and their communities would also benefit from a partnership with NHSL on the matter of library automation.

The goal is to start very soon with this project. I will be meeting with Mary White, Director of the Howe library next week to discuss what their immediate plans are and to develop a timetable based on the information I receive from her. We would like to hear from libraries about their interest in this proposal; if the response is sufficient we can establish a plan to bring this consortium online. I would expect to be talking with librarians in groups in September and individually about needs and resources in October. Please contact me at the State Library


Michael York
State Librarian
New Hampshire State Library
20 Park Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
603 271 2397
Cell 603 419 7100
Fax 603 271 6826

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