(Pictured above: Sue Woodson, presenting before First Thursday at Eisenhower)

I attended a “First Thursday” meeting (hosted and sponsored by Hopkins Library Systems staff) at Homewood last week, and received quite an education regarding the state of our current Library System, along with several available options. Let’s cut to the chase: because of functionality limitations with Catalyst, Johns Hopkins Library Systems (David Kennedy, Head) staff recently interviewed and reviewed four new LMS potential replacements. However, none of the four were chosen. From these four, Ex Libris was considered the best fit because of their expertise and history with unified resource management (unified workflow for print, electronic and digital) and interoperability. Ultimately, Ex Libris fell short on several levels. 

1) Strategic shifts in the direction of the company

2) The user experience would be limited

3) Partnership issues became very prominent during the interview process

 Even though the experience left Hopkins without a new LMS, the experience provided a blueprint for future investigations, if and when new systems are explored.  There were several “Challenges and Takeaways” revealed during the process of this search, in fact the search itself---judging by the committee's reflections---was an exhaustive experience. Not surprisingly, in their notes the committee designated a full-time “Project Manager” as a necessary component to any future investigations. When you factor in time-spent A) establishing the history of the company you’re exploring, B) examining the company’s potential room for growth and C) crafting a working relationship that allows for suggestions and alterations that extend beyond the honeymoon period----these concerns beg for full-time facilitation. Looking forward, the committee recognized the following criteria as part of their bottom-line requirements for any new LMS.

1)    Acknowledging the scope of the diverse needs of our population (patron needs, staff needs and campus departments)which includes the geographic disparity of  campus locations not only in the US but abroad)

2)      Use of Knowledge bases and licensed metadata (robust knowledge bases that are updated in a timely manner, copyright issues, availability of full bibliographic records for ebooks and finally LMS and publishing vendors  collaborating on agreements to share metadata with the library community)

3)      The need for a Project Manager to lead the effort.

 In terms of solutions, the most agreed upon aspect was the “piecemeal option”. Ideally, this would provide more flexibility, easier lines of communication and more manageability between Hopkins and the chosen vendor.

Piecemeal Option #1:

Single knowledge base for e-resources. Utilizing 3 systems to manage e-resources: Electronic Resource Management (ERM), SFX and Horizon. The benefit would be efficiency in updating and troubleshooting.

Piecemeal Option #2:

 Seek a replacement for Horizon for all the physical collections (this would entail evaluating a company such as EVERGREEN which is used by 1,000+ libraries and also my many academic libraries). The benefits would be it’s open source appeal along with it's service oriented architecture---providing the greater flexibility that we’re presently seeking, along with the aforementioned interoperability.

Piecemeal Option #3:

Web Scale Article Discovery Study, however this is considered a bit too primitive and problematic.

Based on the facts, the conclusions the committee presented displayed a sobering, thoughtful approach to future LMS “expeditions”.  Chiefly, because of the developing marketplace of Library Management Systems, Hopkins should not attempt a long-range goal to “one-stop shop”. The next wave of library management is currently well underway, and the idea of one encompassing system to replace CATALYST is, at best, daunting. As we enter a new era with new vendors, systems and more expanding/developing knowledge-based playing fields----the  landscape appears to be enjoying a transitional “growth spurth”. For the needs of Hopkins the piecemeal option (specifically #1) may be the best route to take. The diverse geographic challenges of our community, coupled with the demand for stream-lined access would seem to support the need to forgo the limited possibilities a less intuitive patron environment would impose.   

 Alonzo LaMont





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