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Library automation in public libraries in the United Kingdom

Iíve recently completed a project to add all of the public libraries in the United Kingdom to the lib-web-cats database, including data on the automation systems that they use.

The database now includes entries for 210 library authorities in the UK representing a total of 4,184 individual libraries.

Automation Systems in the UK by library service

This project reveals several characteristics of public libraries in the United Kingdom versus those here in the US. One of the key differences involves the higher degree of support each government authority gives to its libraries.

Some authorities cover counties, other boroughs or municipal areas. Each local authority provides a variety of services to its residents, including a library service. After going through the Web sites for dozens of UK authorities, Iíve learned that the library service tends to be organized within a larger agency for leisure and culture. Each authority includes a large number of facilities in its library serviceóan average of about 20 each. In addition to the permanent facilities, most library authorities also offer mobile libraries and delivery services for the homebound.

Each authority maintains a library services that provides an automation system shared by all the libraries within its jurisdiction. This arrangement gives even the smallest of libraries in the most remote villages access to top-of-the-line automation systems. In the US, many libraries in small communities can afford only the lower-level PC-based automations systems and a very large percentage have no automation system at all. I was able to identify only four UK libraries with no automaton system.

Itís also of interest to note that almost all UK authorities maintain Web sites based on some kind of content management system, or e-government portal. The sites are well organized and present pages with consistent layout and design.

The library automation environment in UK public libraries involves a much narrower range of companies than here in the US. Two UK-based companies provide library automation software to the largest portion of libraries: DS supplies its Open Galaxy software to 64 library services including 1385 permanent facilities or 33 percent of the overall share. Talis supplies Alto to 57 library authorities including 1168 facilities, representing 28 percent of the market. SirsiDynix provides Unicorn to 21 library services, Dynix to 19, and Horizon to 9. Concerto, now owned by ISACSOFT, continues in 4 library services. While still holding a minority share, Vubis Smart from Infor and Spydus from Civica are gaining momentum in the UK.

No project like this is ever really finished. I anticipate that I may have missed some libraries and several library services will be moving to new systems in the next year or so, especially those that continue to use legacy systems such as Dynix, Horizon, Liberate, and PLUS.

Dec 16, 2007 22:19:05

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