Three South Australian public libraries have signed up for Civica's SA Regional Libraries Consortium, to enjoy the benefits of a managed service using a shared database based on the Spydus software.
The newly created District Council of Mallala Library Service went live with the new service in May, while Kangaroo Island Public Library is scheduled to start in December, followed by Renmark Paringa Public Library in the new year.
Initially the libraries will keep their services and policies completely separate from one another, though they have the option to configure a completely shared service at a later date. Each has expressed a keen interest in doing so.
According to Civica, the SA Regional Libraries Consortium was set up as a cost efficient model to allow smaller regional libraries to afford a modern library management system by sharing hardware and technology costs.
Shared model best for Two Wells
Library Manager Kimberley Hargrave, at Two Wells Public Library (main branch of District Council of Mallala Library Service), sought a new system after disbanding from a joint use library arrangement with a local school. She determined that a shared model was the best solution after checking the similar LINK consortium in which three other South Australian libraries participate.
"The new consortium gives us the benefits of a managed service and has saved us significant infrastructure costs," says Kimberley. "It's such a relief to know that backups and software upgrades are done for us, and there has been an enormous decrease in our workload.
"From a supervisor's point of view in managing the collection, I was very surprised at how easy the new system has been to learn and use. Circulation and Cataloguing are very good, while the online public access system (OPAC) is excellent."
Kimberley also appreciates having the ability to build a customers' web page for the OPAC, and to add more functionality to this in the future.
She says: "The OPAC will really open up services to the community, especially to members who use our branch libraries in Mallala and Windsor. I'm excited that this will also include providing better access to our Local History Collection and Family History resources. The timing has been excellent, since broadband arrived at Two Wells when we signed up for the consortium.
"We have also benefited from being able to do a complete re-registration of all our users on becoming a sole public library service. That was an invaluable process, which I would recommend to libraries if they can do it. For our situation it was fantastic not having to worry about porting redundant data into our new system."
Kimberley looks forward to showing customers how to access records via the OPAC, and to implementing the inter-libraries Requests module. She has also expressed interest in the Reports module and being able to generate her own reports directly from Spydus. In the two months between disbanding the community library and going live with Civica, she used Microsoft Excel to keep the library's administration ticking over.
The new library at Two Wells has been established by the District Council of Mallala, 60 km north of Adelaide in a district dominated by the Light
and Gawler rivers. The library service also operates branch libraries in Mallala and Windsor.
The town of Gawler is 20 minutes away. Mallala is noted for being a car racing and equestrian centre, hosting an annual round of the Australian Touring Car Championship, while the international standard Equestrian Centre is a key link in the national show-jumping and eventing circuit.
Kangroo Island eyes new efficiencies
Library Manager Sharon Gullickson, at Kangaroo Island Public Library, sought a modern library management solution that will enable her to take services beyond the library walls. The current system has very limited cataloguing capability and a limited OPAC.
Sharon's rigorous evaluation included discussing the various types of systems in use at other libraries and what these were achieving, before putting out RFIs to three vendors.
She said: "We found the Civica consortium solution could do exactly what we wanted. Its OPAC has the best functionality and it enables us to network with the other consortium libraries. Spydus also came within our price range. It represents excellent value, offering everything we sought in a regional library
service, including support which was critical since we're such a small library.
She says that being part of a network of like-minded libraries with similar problems and issues will be valuable, as they can support one another.
"We also liked the shared database idea, and in the future we hope to be able to open up our collections to each other and have full sharing of catalogues by staff and borrowers within the consortium."
Sharon expects Spydus to deliver new efficiencies. Streamlining the library's three existing networks into a single system will improve ease of use, while saving time and effort. Having Civica administer backups and system management will eliminate the stress of looking after library technology.
"There will be benefits in allowing people to reserve items for the first time, and we have no OPAC at present. It will be like going from a push-bike to a racing car, delivering tremendous gains in cataloguing efficiency and service provision," said Sharon. "Being able to do everything from one screen will be of tremendous importance."
Future plans envisage a library without walls. With only one person per sq km on the island, the library plans to provide facilities soon for borrowers to request books online, and pick them up at designated drop-off points. This might mean a borrower travelling only 30km instead of 80km. Longer term, Sharon hopes to be able to borrow items from Renmark Paringa and Two Wells, as well as any other libraries that join the consortium.
She is also hoping to initiate a project in which the library manages Kangaroo Island Development Board's research collection, giving access to the public as well as Board staff. This will represent a unique co-operation between local government and State Government organisations.
Australia's third largest island, Kangaroo Island is accessible from Adelaide by ferry and by air. The Kangaroo Island Council services a population around 4,300, swollen by 150,000 tourists each year.
The Kangaroo Island Library is in Kingscote, with an annex at the Penneshaw Campus of the Kangaroo Island Community Education for residents of the Dudley Peninsula. The library serves a population spread across 4,400 sq km and residents can travel up to 100 km into Kingscote on a fortnightly or monthly basis.
While the library holds in excess of 21,000 items, many more titles are available through the PLAIN network. In addition, the Library at Kingscote holds a collection of significance to the development of the Kangaroo Island community and economy, which include books, reports, videos, microfilm andephemera.
Managed services security pleases Renmark Parigna
Library Manager Maxine Hodgson at Renmark Paringa Public Library evaluated a range of different software options before choosing Civica's consortium model.
She says: "The Spydus consortium provided a system that met all our requirements within our budget. "
Maxine wanted a managed services solution as Renmark Paringa has no available IT resources. She sought the security of knowing the new solution would remain current, without having the responsibility for backups, upgrades and disaster recovery. Some years ago, the library systems went down for three weeks after a massive crash, and Maxine knows this will not happen again under managed services.
"We are just glad that we can focus on providing the services that people expect, such as online catalogue borrowing, reservations, etc," she said. "At present we are using a book to write down inter-library loans, so when Spydus is up and running it will be fantastic to do a simple online check."
Maxine adds: "Our priority is service to the customers. Given that the other consortium participants are also smaller regional libraries, and knowing that we will be working together and supporting each other, I'm sure that resource-sharing will happen. That will be a really positive result."
The library serves the townships of Renmark and Paringa, population 10,000. There are 20,000 stock items and three full-time staff, none with IT expertise. Renmark Paringa is a major town situated on the Murray River in the SA Riverland region. The township is 256 km, about 2 and 1/2 hours' drive north-east of Adelaide. The Renmark Paringa Public Library is a single branch library which offers the loan of books, magazines, videos, CDs, jigsaws and cassettes. Free Internet and word processing access is available. Children's services include preschool storytime and school holiday programs.