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).
NAG 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!
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):
From Proprietary to Open Source