Tag Archives: LMS

NAG Conference – and #CPD23 Thing15 2012

NAG Conference came around at the perfect time for Thing 15 (yes I know I’ve missed 14, but quite frankly, I couldn’t find a use for any of them last time around which is why I stalled at Thing 13…  I’ll go back and try again.  Soon.  I promise).

National Acquisitions GroupNAG is the National Acquisitions Group and their tagline is “For everyone interested in the acquisition, management and development of library resources”.  I had heard of them, thanks to a personal link, but I didn’t really feel part of their target audience as I don’t have an acquisitions budget.

Despite that, what I am involved with is Library Management Systems, also part of NAG’s remit.  Until recently, all I had ever done was enter data into an LMS, trying desperately to follow all available rules I could get my hands on and not to mess anything up.  However, last November our catalogue crashed.  Spectacularly.  The supplier simply suggested we upgrade to their latest product.  For £19k.  We declined.

So Open Source was our next thought and we researched and discovered I liked the front end of Koha but needed the back end of Evergreen.  “Why not merge?” says the ICT volunteer.  Well, why not it turns out!  We now have JAMIE which is just that and is working very well.  I’m still dealing with the data in it, but that’s not the software’s fault!  Turns out our old system wasn’t MARC compliant so getting the data across has been a struggle as some fields simply aren’t there.  And it wasn’t really in a proper database structure either…  I’ve had to get a lot more hands on with the LMS backend and SQL, but I’m learning a lot along the way.

So, the NAG organisers wanted someone to come and talk about moving to an open source LMS and so invited me along.  I asked if I could bring the magical ICT volunteer, James Watson, who made it all happen and they were very happy with that.  (Phew, I didn’t want to answer the technical questions on exactly how he did it…) They helpfully also held the conference in York.  We do like Northern events.  So much easier!

James and Jennifer at NAG conference

James explains the technical stuff while I look on…

At first the very idea of actually presenting at a conference did give me a sleepless night or two.  Once it was written and we’d had a few rehearsals though, I felt a lot better.  I think it helped that I really believed in what we were promoting and I had been involved in all the stages along the way.  I tried hard to be positive about JAMIE rather than bitter about where we had been let down by the previous supplier, but it’s a tricky line to walk.

But at the end of the day, we did it!  And I never have to do that for the first time again which is a huge relief.  Also, we had a great opportunity to network with other librarians and suppliers (always important as a Solo):

Networking picture

Lots of opportunities to chat and network were provided…

Jen chatting to other library people

Networking is always better with cake…

And some fantastic cake also was provided…
And this is what we said:
From Proprietary to Open Source

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Evergreen in Scotland event

Evergreen in Scotland event 19/10/11

This event was funded by PTFS, a support company for Open Source Library Management systems Evergreen and Koha.  It was organised in conjunction with the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and introduced the SEDAR consortium from Stirling and East Dumbartonshire public libraries.

After frustration with their existing Library Management system vendor, several Scottish libraries were looking for more control but also the back-up of external hosting, training and support.  Another advantage was control over developing code to solve problems, then being able to share that freely with other libraries, rather than the vendor charging each local authority to develop the same piece of useful code.  They intend to feed back new developments back into the Evergreen open source community for other libraries to use without cost.

The process of specifications then tenders began in October 2010, with the contract awarded to PTFS in January 2011.  Overall it should provide 30% revenue savings.  The system is due to go live on the 1st of December and it will be the first Evergreen installation in the UK.

I’m a huge believer in Open Source software generally, especially in libraries with lower budgets, and I have always resented paying the annual licensing fee for our library management software for a system that doesn’t really fulfil our needs.  We are constantly using workarounds because we cannot change the system and I don’t feel I have real access to the database behind the software.  This became even more apparent when we started looking at data migration and moving our library data into a new system.

Evergreen started in 2004 with 4 people employed to provide a better LMS for the state of Georgia in the USA.  The system went live in 2006 then the original developers went on to form Equinox – now the main support company in the USA.  The LMS is now used by 521 systems in 1,106 outlets, still primarily in the USA and public libraries.  From my point of view, I was interested to hear this included 36 special libraries and I would like to contact some of those in the future.  The increased number of organisations using Evergreen has increased the number of developers and also the pace of change.  Version 2.0 of Evergreen was released on January 26th 2011, and 2.1 has now been released on October 4th with some significant new changes.  New updates are now expected every six months.

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