Living with an ILS – it’s like the New World Order



new world order, originally uploaded by wasteddaylight.

I don’t know why recently, but I’ve been making lots of jokes about New World Order (NWO). It’s been long enough that most people just go, “Huh?” or “Ha. That.”

This morning, while being trained on some ILS stuff, it sort of hit me that my little library has to embrace the NWO. See, until June 26, 2009 we didn’t have an ILS. We had a catalog and we had circulation cards. We’ve experienced growing pains the past 18 months with the conversion. It’s been a weird and interesting trip, especially since it’s such an anachronism. Here are just a few things most people might take for granted:

  • No more circulation cards! We don’t have to process overdue notices anymore, the system just does it. While it means we have less wiggle room, it also means much less work. We actually know where stuff is! Amazing.
  • We are in the process of barcoding every item in our collection. That is every single book on the shelf, serials, microfiche, the whole works. One by one. People thought this was impossible, but it’s happening. 18 months later, we’re almost done with monographs. Yeah, it’s been slow going but we didn’t expect it to be easy. As a result our records are much more accurate than they would otherwise be. We sometimes joke that we’re going to be “the best” library on campus when it’s all said in done. In this small way, we’ll have bragging rights.
  • Item availability actually shows up in the catalog (for the most part). This is an added benefit of the barcoding. Not only is it easier for us to track our stuff, it’s easier for the public to follow it as well. It was confusing for most users because we were one of the very few libraries on campus (and most places) that didn’t have circ availability show up in the catalog. Now we’re like everybody else.
  • Paging our material from storage is much, much easier. Before we would have to fax requests or email for single items. If somebody from the public wanted one of our items from storage they would have to have us page it for them and then we’d have to contact them. Not impossible, but not the most efficient process. They could only pick it up from our location. Now, anybody can page our stuff (that circulates) and they can pick it up from any location on campus.
  • The records are more closely linked to the catalog now, which means it’s easier for the public to see some of our mistakes or idiosyncrasies. It’s a little weird explaining why there might be conflicting information in the record (which we’re fixing.)
  • We are in analytic hell. We’ve cataloged book chapters, individual papers of conference proceedings, and journal articles for decades. Now we have bib records for each paper, the volume, and the series, and they’re all a mess. It wasn’t an issue pre-ILS. It’s a nightmare now. The road to hell paved with good intentions. (I think there’s a paper in that somewhere.)
  • This has really forced us to look at how and why we’re processing material. The divide between tech and public services is gone. Tech services has to be much more aware of how their work is shown to the general public. Public services needs to understand what is being displayed.

The last point is really where the philosophy shift of the NWO is happening. We’re all beginning to ask questions. “What if we do it this way, what are the implications?” It’s made it really aware that things that may have saved time on one hand are not going to work going forward. Sea change and all that.

3 thoughts on “Living with an ILS – it’s like the New World Order

  1. Re “analytic hell”: I think special libraries have a certain right to deviate from cataloging norms when it comes to more deeply represent the collection in the catalog. I do retrospective cataloging and believe me, there are quite a number of quirks where you really have to stretch the rules (and the system, for that matter) to fit it into the current environment.

  2. Saskia, that’s a great point. I think our “analytic hell” was really progressive and useful when they started 30 something years ago, but as other systems have grown and changed, the practice hadn’t really. Fortunately now, A&I databases much easier to access and easer to use, so we don’t have to always rely on the catalog to serve that need as well. Of course, everybody’s situation is different, and if there’s one thing I understand about special libraries, is that there’s no universal.

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