Library Automation: It's All About Connections

Nothing whispers "learning" more than a library. This is where people go to teach themselves-to find answers, explore, discover. This is also true of the Internet. It's no surprise, therefore, that the two are teaming up. At the American Library Association's annual convention in June, the "virtual library" was a recurring theme. Firms showed off Z39.50-enabled programs; several demonstrated products that search library holdings via a World Wide Web browser. New program versions, services, add-ons and more were also featured. Library automation technology is flexing new muscle, extending its reach, making connections. "Virtual Library" via Z39.50 Lengthening library automation's reach is Z39.50, a search protocol based on client/server architecture and TCP/IP. Both vendor- and platform-independent, Z39.50 retrieves bibliographic records from any system running compliant server software. Z39.50 servers include remote library catalogs, online reference services and peer institution databases. Records are transmitted in USMARC format, thus patrons can search, retrieve and display records using their local system's familiar interface. Flexible, the standard will accommodate other search types, attribute sets and record formats. In the works is delivery of full text and images by a Z39.50 search. Functionally, Z39.50 means easy access to information no matter where it exists and in a way that's transparent to users. Note also that over two-thirds of U.S. academic libraries can be accessed over the TCP/IP-based Internet, and the significance of Z39.50 becomes even more clear. It is one key to creating the library of the 21st century. Web's Influence Pairing library access with the Web is a natural. New tools for this are just becoming available. NetPublisher is one of the most interesting. This Windows-based program supports Web, Gopher and Z39.50 searches and can deliver all types of information over any TCP/IP network, including the Internet. It's from Ameritech Library Services' Information Services Group. Also a publishing tool, the program collects, sorts and stores text, image, audio or video files via a GUI editor. Data is entered only once and automatically formatted for all three types of searches. Templates eliminate the need to know HTML. And NetPublisher's searchable databases can be integrated with various OPACs or stand alone. WebPAC, from Auto-Graphics, acts as a gateway between HTTP (Web) and Z39.50 protocols. Thus it allows any Web browser, like NetScape or Mosaic, to be used as a public client for searching a library's Z39.50-compliant databases, including the OPAC. (Note that WebPAC is almost a new genre of software; several firms use that exact name and spelling for their product, including Ameritech and Data Research.) Auto-Graphics serves library consortia and their WebPAC works in conjunction with a new add-on Z39.50 product to their Impact/ONLINE library association resource-sharing system, featuring patron-initiated InterLibrary Loan (ILL) requests. SIRSI's WebCat (like WebPAC) turns a library's resources into a full-fledged Web catalog by automatically generating HTML pages. WebCat with Z39.50 offers fully interactive sessions plus all the features of SIRSI's OPAC like e-mail search results, forward/back in a hit list, cross references, etc. Included are a sample library home page plus tools to modify it. EBSCO Publishing's newest is EBSCOhost, a Z39.50-compliant client/server system offering access to full-text periodical databases via the Internet or direct connection. Designed to fit seamlessly into any library, EBSCOhost works with most ILSs and OPACs and has an intuitive graphical interface. The server, at EBSCO's headquarters, runs a proprietary search engine that can keyword search a database of two million records in fractions of a second. Its client-level software is very customizable and can be run at EBSCO or locally. Notable New Offerings ALA's annual spring convention always features major new product announcements and this year was no exception. CASPR, Inc.'s LibraryWorld is well named. Its opening screen is a room, with pictures to click on and go: to the circulation desk, to the reference area, to the OPAC, etc. LibraryWorld is more than a pretty interface, however. The first "groupware" program for libraries combines traditional automation functions (for staff and patrons) with digital document storage and retrieval; bulletin boards; e-mail; access to online services and Internet browsers; and CD-ROM databases. All of this is bundled into one, relatively low-cost, cross-platform package. One even can walk through "virtual book stacks." Endeavor's new Voyager 3.0 integrates all of the trends in library automation: open systems, client/server architecure, GUIs for staff and patrons, Z39.50 and TCP/IP compliance, etc. An Image Server is slated for release late this year. Using UNIX servers and Windows PC clients, Voyager is designed expressly for academic and research libraries. SIRSI announced Version 7.1 of Unicorn/STILAS in early June, also a UNIX-based client/server system. Highlighting 7.1 is OPAC Manager, a tool for designing, customizing and managing all public access screens and options. Sneak Previews COMPanion already released its end-user Research Station; Alexandria 4.0, for librarians, is due out January 1996 (see September's Product Profile). Alexandria 4.0, for the Power Mac, is an all-in-one package. Integrated features handle circulation, cataloging, patron management, routing, inventory, fines, purchasing, statistics on use, and much more. It supports TCP/IP, Apple Remote Access, as well as Windows PC clients. McGraw-Hill School Systems previewed its new McGraw-Hill Library System (MHLS) at the Windows 95 launch-so its platform "colors" are evident. Modular, with Circulation, Catalog, OPAC and Acquisitions components plus remote access capability, MHLS has undergone extensive usability testing by both students and librarians. Other features include a Planner for activity scheduling, Union library capability, multiple language versions and unlimited OPAC stations at no extra cost. Setting MHLS apart is how it can import patron records from McGraw-Hill's SIS software, as well as export them to it. This connection between front office and the library offers true districtwide information management. In other news, SIRS, Inc., publisher of CD-ROM databases (SIRS Researcher, Government Reporter and Discover) aquired the Mandarin Library Automation System. This makes them a one-stop vendor for library software, hardware and databases. A DOS-based system that includes a Mac interface to its databases, the new Version 2.70 of Mandarin sports a MARC editor by Mitinet, data entry "on the fly," subject cross-referencing and receipt printing. Enhancements, Training, Etc. Winnebago Software, makers of the CIRC/CAT line for Macs and PCs, has many new extras. For groups of libraries, such as in a school district or consortia, the firm's new Union CAT with InterLibrary Loan will ease the sharing of resources and managing of systemwide holdings. With new Informational Databases, a single search locates library materials, UMI abstracts and Facts On File full-text records. Also new is SLIP, software plus a 40-column printer that prints out search results' bibliographies, circulation transactions, even textbook and equipment receipts. The firm offers an array of services, supplies, systems and training for all types of libraries and staff. Athena, from Nichols, is an alluring system for Macs or Windows PCs with complete catalog and circulation functions. Athena is visual. Every screen uses colorful, intuitive buttons that work especially well with touchscreens. Patrons can even be identified by photos. Nichols lets one use multiple collections-textbooks, equipment, full-text databases and large union catalogs-without extra cost. Another firm offering micro-based systems for K-12 school libraries is Follett Software Co. In 1994, they released a totally re-written Plus line: core DOS products for circulation, OPAC, textbook distribution and management, and more. Cross-platform programs enable Mac and Windows search stations to work in a DOS network. New this year are Union Catalog Plus, to share resources among multiple sites and ILL; MacCirculation and MacCatalog Plus; informationplus, CD-ROM references teamed with CD servers; and a Follett TURNKEY Solution. Follett has conducted workshops for 10 years-on topics from grant writing to networks. Eleven specialize in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging). In fact, their primer, Understanding MARC Bibliographic, is now distributed by the Library of Congress. Curriculum Link via MARC Tags USMARC is a standard set of data tags that tell library automation software how to classify (and thus find) material. Why should anyone other than a librarian care about MARC? Because in June 1993, new tags were added to the standard, ones designed just for educators. Some record information on learning outcomes; others indicate suitability of the material to match the different learning styles (audio, visual, kinetic, etc.). Still others denote appropriate resources for children with disabilities. And the level of detail is impressive. The new 658 tag, for instance, holds curricular data. Its various fields show the broad learning objective the book or media resource fullfills; subordinate objectives; how much correlation exists between the material and objectives; and where the learning objective comes from, commonly documents from state or national mandates.1 The significance of curriculum-enhanced MARC records is huge. It lets one search automated catalogs for resources to match specific grade levels, learning objectives, types of learner or even special-needs students. Book and video producers are already using the curricular-enhanced MARC format. Once it becomes widespread, imagine what that means to teachers, to students, to librarians. A Final Challenge No other institution proclaims "equality" like the library. Its future, however, is not certain. We have the tools to create the first generation of virtual libraries. What remains to be seen is if we have the social and political will to make them widespread. In this, educators and librarians bear a responsibility to lead. References 1. From an unpublished paper, "The 658 Story," Lorraine Knight, Library Conversions Ltd. Co., Ph'enix, AZ; [email protected] Quick Contact Info Ameritech Library Services Information Services Group (800) 556-6487 Auto-Graphics, Inc. (800) 776-6939 CASPR, Inc. (800) 852-2777 COMPanion Corp. (800) 347-8439 EBSCO Publishing (800) 653-2726 Endeavor Info. Systems, Inc. (800) 7626300 Follett Software Co. (800) 323-3397 McGraw-Hill School Systems (800) 663-0544 Nichols Advanced Technologies, Inc. (800) 658-9453 SIRS, Inc. (800) 232-SIRS Sirsi Corp. (205) 922-9825 Winnebago Software (800) 533-5430

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.