The IOLS ’99 conference, which runs parallel to the National Online Meeting, focuses on technologies related to library automation systems. Whether you’re looking to implement a new system, make more efficient use of your current system, or find new ways to integrate your IOLS (integrated online library system) into a larger information environment, this conference provides useful content. Attendees benefited from an interesting suite of conference presentations and workshops, vendor exhibits, and from sharing insights among themselves.
A number of the events on the conference program were of exceptional interest. Pamela Cibbarelli did her usual outstanding-job of organizing the program. Leading off was a plenary session titled "Project URL: A Resource for Professional Librarians Seeking IOLS Information," given by Thomas R. Kochtanek, who teaches at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. While ostensibly describing a Web site of IOLS resources created collectively by his students, Kochtanek covered a significant amount of material about the history of library automation, key concepts in the field, and on the process of remote learning and collaboration. Be sure to check out Project URL on the Web at http://coe.missouri.edu/is334/projects/Project_URL.
While I spend much of my time working with large-scale library automation systems, it was interesting to hear Robert Rowen talk about library automation on the smaller end of the spectrum. In "Library Automation: An Independent View," Rowen talked about the issues that face the smaller libraries--especially school and special libraries--and what to look for in automation software in the $3,000 to $6,000 price range. Rowen notes that many of these lower-cost systems are beginning to gain advanced features previously found only in the large-scale IOLS.
Other sessions offered solid information related to library automation, though not directly focused on the IOLS. Frank Cervone, for example, gave an expert session on "Using WinFrame/Microsoft Terminal Server to Provide Remote Access to Information Products." The use of thin-client technologies has gained significant popularity and can solve a number of problems faced by libraries. Cervone gave a technically thorough, yet accessible, presentation.
The development of library Web sites continues to be a topic of great interest. In recent years, I have often found that interest in Web-oriented topics overshadows the primary focus of a conference--no matter what that focus is. Such was not the case with IOLS ’99. The program was well directed on its main topic, with the right mix of sessions on Web technologies. One of the Web-oriented presentations that I found most interesting was that of Paul Adalian and Judy Swanson entitled "Beyond Static HTML: Creating Dynamic Pages for a Web Site and a Web-Pac," which described their efforts at California Polytechnic State University. As the quantity of information increases, it becomes untenable and too difficult to manage solely with static HTML. The speakers described a number of approaches using a database to manage information presented in their Web environment. Their approach consisted primarily of a database maintained in Microsoft Access interfaced to the Web through CGI programs written in Perl. This prese ntation was an excellent overview of this important issue with lots of practical information and advice on how other libraries might follow with a similar approach. See the results of their work at the Web pages of their library at http://www.lib.calpoly.edu.
Peter Scott got the second day of the conference off to a good start with his plenary session on "Indexing Libraries: Past, Present, and Future." Scott, well known for his HYTELNET and webCATS indexes of library OPACs, talked about how he came to create these resources and described some of his current projects. His latest interests include ways that libraries and librarians can become involved in electronic commerce. Also, expect to see his new LibDex, which takes webCATS a step further by expanding the information available for each library.
The IOLS conference traditionally winds down with Pamela Cibbarelli’s extended workshop on library automation systems. She named this year’s workshop "Library Automation Software: An Overview of Best-Selling IOLS Options." In this 2-hour session, as she does every year, Cibbarelli reviewed the general trends that have transpired in the last year or so in the library automation marketplace, and systematically reviewed the performance of each of the major vendors in the field. The data for the presentation derives from both the annual Library Journal review of library automation and from her own user satisfaction surveys that she regularly conducts. The statistics for each vendor included in the IOLS ’99 Proceedings are an exceptional resource.
The exhibit hall included a number of vendors of integrated online library systems. At the last IOLS conference, the vendors of library automation systems were grouped together. This year they were interspersed among the other exhibitors, most of which deliver Web-based information systems of one sort or another. I rather liked this year’s approach. While it was somewhat convenient to have the IOLS vendors clustered together, I found it rather uncomfortable to talk to one vendor within range of another.
The IOLS ’99 exhibit hall pulled together a respectable selection of the vendors of library automation systems. Those represented included DRA, Innovative Interfaces, Endeavor Information Systems, EOS International, Winnebago, CARL Corporation, Sirsi Corporation, Cuadra Associates, Auto-Graphics, CASPR Library Systems, Ameritech Library Services, SIRS Mandarin, Nichols Advanced Technologies, and SydneyPLUS. None of these vendors had any major product announcements to unveil at this conference, but each was well prepared to demonstrate the latest versions of their systems. Some of the major companies not represented included Follett, Gaylord Information Systems (though they participated in at least two conference programs), Ex Libris, Geac Computers, Inmagic, VTLS, and The Library Corporation. While IOLS does not bring together the comprehensive group of library automation vendors, it does attract enough for librarians to get a good perspective on the types of systems available.
For more information on this very useful conference, visit the Information Today, Inc. Web site (www.infotoday.com). You’ll find the listings of the conference programs as well as links to many of the presentation slides.