Thursday, 1 November 2012

Systems integrations – ups and downs

Image by James Cridland
One of the achievements I am most proud of in my current role is the integration between the LMS and the computer booking system. As Systems Librarian, it is my responsibility to manage the systems we use in the library and earlier in the year these two main systems were integrated.

In March, I attended a MyPC user group session. Whilst there, I met Sue Walsgrove who works in the library at City of Wolverhampton College and operates an integrated Heritage and MyPC system. I arranged a visit and spent an afternoon grilling her about the nitty-gritty of integration. During the Easter half term break, I secured the services of an IT Technician and we set about linking these two systems. It took the best part of a week to complete, most of which was trial and error. We followed guidance from ISOxford and ITS; both covered the same steps but were incredibly different! After a necessary remote access session with ITS, all that was left was altering the settings to establish the access management limits we required.

In order to link the two systems, library policy knowledge was needed as well as server privileges and an understanding of software packages. Between the two of us, both sets of skills and knowledge combined, we were able to link Heritage and MyPC in a way which has benefitted the library. We focused on overdue charges; on Heritage, a loan stop occurs when overdue charges reach £1. MyPC now coordinates with this and prevents computer access when a loan stop is in place. Every time they log on, learners receive an on-screen message informing them of their overdue charges until a loan stop is activated and computer access is then removed. This had a positive effect on library revenue from overdue charges with an increase of 119%. These funds are ploughed back into the college and help meet the library’s annual income target.

I was dreading the integration going live. I foresaw the enquiry desk assistants being overwhelmed with complaints from people unable to log on, or querying outstanding charges. In reality, it went much smoother. It has now been operational for 6 months without a single complaint. Learners accepted the new system immediately, even without any advance notification. The only stumbling block was the problem of old login details being reused. We experienced instances of learners logging on to computers and receiving overdue messages intended for learners who left the college years before. I didn’t anticipate this issue but after isolating the ID numbers which had been ‘re-used’ it was quite simple to waive fines and remove old accounts.

The success of this integration encouraged us to link Heritage with ClickView, and we began this in August. This would allow all programmes recorded via ClickView to be searchable from the online catalogue. A collection 1100+ educational television programmes which were not linked to the library catalogue was an obvious weak spot for us. We contacted ISOxford and ClickView for guidance and the actual process of linking the two databases was simple enough, though not faultless. ClickView exports records in two formats, one of which contains far more details than the other. Heritage only imports ClickView records in one format, and it is the format which contains the least information. We now have 1100+ skeletal ClickView records on Heritage, which is far from ideal. A procedure was created and as a team we are manually adding information to these records. It’s a time consuming task but there doesn’t appear to be a better way of achieving the desired result. I’m hoping that by Christmas, ClickView records will have increased usage by learners.

Last month we started performing bulk uploads for the creation of Athens accounts, which saves a lot of time compared to creating them all individually. This, along with the other changes already mentioned, means that collectively there has been a lot of new information for the team to get to grips with. The first term of the academic year is the busiest of the year and, with hindsight, perhaps not the best time to be working through such changes, and I would do well to remember this. In the near future I would like to integrate Heritage with EBS, the college’s main database, so that reader records are automatically imported rather than being manually created. This would save countless hours for the library team, but it relies on the college’s Data Integration Manager who has a very heavy workload. This has been unsuccessfully attempted in the past, but I am hopeful that it could be in place for the beginning of the next academic year. Fingers Crossed.

These changes have generated lots of work for everyone in the team, but I firmly believe they are an improvement to the service we provide. We have come a long way on the integration road, but the journey of ups and downs is not yet at an end. With just EBS left to tackle, I dare to dream of a fully integrated library system…

1 comment:

  1. Re Clickview and Heritage.

    I think Heritage need to be pressed to deal with this problem. They shouldn't be imposing all this extra work on you.