Monday, November 18, 2013

Library Technologies

This is my first post, and as I had to create this blog for my IRLS 571 class, it is obviously going to be related to that.

1. The first technology I selected is OPAC (online public access catalog). This is probably one of the most familiar technologies for people who use the library, since it is the online catalog that they use to look for items, place holds, other tasks that were once done at a desk. The technology has evolved in recent years to be more user-friendly, adopting relevancy rankings and a more faceted search process due to user's expectations after using websites like Google and Amazon. OPACs are usually tied to, but independent of, other library systems such as purchasing and serials.

It is used in a library to find materials, place holds, and see what items are currently checked out. It is often the first place that users go when they get to the library. Since it is online as well, patrons can also search and place holds from outside the library.

I think that the new generation of OPACs will have a fairly significant impact on users. With the easier search parameters and more faceted catalog, users will have a much easier time finding the items they want in the library. In addition, more items are being cataloged via other portal systems, so that the OPAC is not the only place to find the record for items. Overall, the continued development of the modern OPAC is making it easier than ever before to find information and pinpoint areas of interest.

2. Web-filtering is another technology that many library users may be familiar with, but not every library uses it. There are several types of filtering, ranging from extensions that plug into the browsers themselves, to network based filtering that is initiated at the transport level of the network, to the common client-side filters, which are installed on each computer that will be accessing the internet. If a library does not offer wireless internet, the client-side solution is most effective. If the library does offer wifi, than it is likely that they will use a network based filter.

When used by libraries, these filters are most often used to block sites that have been deemed unfit for a public environment, such as adult sites. In certain countries, political and religious content is filtered as well.

For the most part, web-filtering does not drastically affect the user experience in US libraries. The vast majority of the internet is still available, and many libraries do not even use content filters.

3. RSS (stands for Rich Site Summary) feeds are used for frequently updated information, such as blog posts, news stories, movie and book releases. RSS is updated using a standard XML format and includes metadata, such as the author's name and publishing date. Software, called RSS feeds or aggregators present a user interface and automatically download updates. A user can subscribe by clicking on the feed icon a browser displays when it is possible to subscribe, or by entering the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) into the reader itself.

Libraries frequently use RSS to update the public on their new releases and upcoming programs.

RSS makes it easier to receive updates on what the library has just received, and has made it easier for patrons to determine if the library has gotten any new materials of interest, without even visiting the library. In this way, it can work with the library's OPAC to make finding materials easier.

4. For my final technology, I chose Integrated Library Systems. ILS tracks patrons and item through a series of databases that include acquisitions, circulation, cataloging, serials, and the OPAC. Each patron and item is assigned a barcode number that follows them through these systems. These are usually used by larger libraries to manage all activities, since it would be more time consuming and potentially confusing for jobs such as serials, interlibrary loans, and online resources.

Libraries use ILS in every aspect of their operations, from ordering material, to checking it in and out, to tracking patrons' fines, to managing holds. It would almost be easier to list what ILS does not do.

The potential for these technologies is enormous. By automating much of the tedious work that librarians used to be required to do, ILS has the potential to reduce errors and allow the library staff to focus more on the patron.. By ensuring that due dates are computerized, errors are less likely, as are serial errors. In addition, since everything is connected, when one part of the database is updated, related records in the rest of the system are updated as well.

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