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ILS in 3, 2, 1, GO!!

December 5, 2011

I would LOVE to know how many career college libraries are using an ILS right now??  What are you using?  I’ll be honest (and for you traditional academic librarians reading this you should sit first) we have some libraries in our system that are manually tracking circulation with an Excel spreadsheet.  I know, I know, I almost fell over too but that is sometimes the case in our libraries.  Well, in a fabulous move by our senior level administrators we have made the decision to have all our libraries on one ILS.  We have (I believe) 42 campuses so this is a big decision.  I thought I would go ahead and chronicle the experience a bit as I am part of the project team getting this set up. 

The first thing to say here is that career colleges, because they follow a business model and not an academic one, move really fast.  The idea for migrating to one ILS started about three months ago, and this is just throwing informal ideas around.  We are going live in about three weeks so they can really move.  There are good and bad in moving so quickly.  One lesson I will take away from the fast speed is to be sure the librarians in your system really know about the move.  In our situation here, there is no good distribution email list for the staff managing libraries at each different campus.  As such the communication tends to get passed to that individual via a director of education or campus director.  Sometimes the message gets lost in translation and the librarian ends up with no idea what is happening.  That can cause some anxiety.

So let’s start with why we wanted an ILS.  There are amazing benefits and include; smaller chance of human error in record keeping, easily searchable catalog, report and statistic generation (which helps demonstrate value of the library), seamless cataloging and classification.  Many systems also incorporate a serials and acquisitions model that can help streamline other internal processes.  For those schools that have multiple campus locations it can make resource sharing easier and more efficient.  All in all it’s just better to have one.  

Once we decided we wanted one we had to decide which one to get. There is no shortage of places to go when looking at implementing an ILS.  Check out some of these places to get more information:

I had been doing some research on ILS for a few months when a colleague mentioned an open source option I hadn’t yet heard about, Evergreen.  After passing the idea along to IT we decided that was the best option for us.  It integrated nicely with what our IT department was already using, i.e. Moodle and offered lots of customizable options.  That’s one of the benefits of open source.  One of the down sides is that pesky support issue or rather the total lack of support.  There is a “community” that has forum discussions and such but nothing formal.  If you are operating with a team that is limited in computer literacy this is a major consideration.  It can cause a lot of problems for some systems and we decided to by-pass that with a third-party support provider, Equinox.  Adding this support is what causes our free open source option to cost some money but felt it was worth it.  And I’m very glad that was the decision made.  And they will be doing the initial migration of data which I will get into in another post. 

So there is the what and the why behind this process.  Over the next few weeks I’ll actually talk about the process and hopefully generate some discussion here.  Let me know if there is a specific part of the process you would like to know about or if you have had a similar experience.  I would love to trade notes!  Till next time…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2011 8:53 pm

    Congrats on your choice- we went with another open-source ILS called Koha and buy packages of support. It’s worked out extremely well for us and I’m very glad we made the choice we did.

    Sounds like you could use a library intranet too, so that librarians can share information…

    • December 5, 2011 11:02 pm

      Hi Ella – thanks for your comments. Koha is sort of the big boy in terms of open source and we looked at them as well. Are you using ByWater Solutions for support with them? An intranet would be great. We make progress slowly here! Thanks again.

  2. December 5, 2011 8:55 pm

    I thought about Evergreen also. We eventually went with Koha. Moving the records over from our previous less sophisticated program was the hardest part about it–moving through the old program to Excel to MARCedit to Koha. It took me about a month of false starts before everything began to move smoothly. How did that part of it work for you?

    • December 5, 2011 11:05 pm

      Thanks for your question Laurie. We haven’t gotten to migration yet. With our contract with Equinox most of the migration will be left to them. Our largest individual collections will export our MARC records then Equinox will clean them up, make sure we don’t have duplicates then import them to the new system. Our smaller libraries (probably less than 200 books) will probably re-catalog off the new bib record. Keeping my fingers crossed that it is as smooth as they are saying. Are you using a third party for support with Koha or just their community?

  3. rachel hollis permalink
    December 6, 2011 11:32 pm

    Worse than tracking circulation on a spreadsheet is tracking them in a binder… with paper and pen. Yup, that’s the way it was at this library. Being somewhat lazy, impatient and having poor handwriting, 😉 I spent a few months surveying the world of automation. After 20 years with large automation systems, I knew I’d be unhappy using something that was less than $1000 (my automation budget)… so I looked to open-source. A computer science student and I looked at both Evergreen and Koha. She liked Koha better from a geek perspective, showed me a screen that she didn’t understand (a MARC record) and I was sold. We implemented in 2008, she graduated a few months later and now I’m the system admin. Being a librarian means that I’m not very good at sys admin work but I’ve gotten a lot better. 🙂 If the rest of our system moves to Koha as its ILS, we will contract with ByWater.

    • December 7, 2011 2:17 pm

      Hi Rachel, thank you for your comments. I hear what your saying too. We also have a few libraries that are using paper and pen. I’ve heard that some libraries have had good luck with ByWater. You will have to let us know here how your experiences with them go in the future. Have you tried yet working through the forums and communities with Koha? I don’t know much about them and what’s available but would be interested to know. Thanks again for your comments. Jennifer


  1. No patrons in the library! « careercollegelibrary
  2. Evergreen migration for the career college library « careercollegelibrary

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