At the end of last year I described how, as part of the Beyond the Library Door Project, we were just at the beginning of choosing a collection management system, or CMS, for our library and archive collections. A CMS is essentially a piece of software enabling us to construct a database of information about our library books and archive documents - this is at the core of the Project.
My colleague Anne Dutton (assistant librarian) and I have spent over five months assessing 11 potential cms suppliers. For seven of these we were give a personal demo and we also consulted widely with current users of each system to see how they worked in practice. I am very pleased to report that we have made a decision and are now in the process of having the system installed and learning how it works. The system we have chosen is CollectionsIndex+ from System Simulation Ltd (SSL)
Choosing a system that would work for both the library and archive collections is not as straightforward as one might hope! There are a lot of similarities as to how books and archive documents are managed and looked after not least when it comes to making sure everything is kept in the best storage conditions but there are also some differences – particularly how the ‘stuff’ is catalogued.
On the whole users of our collections are not particularly interested in whether something can be found in the library or in the archive - and why should they be - as long as they can find what they are looking for! It is generally the professional staff – librarians and archivists – who are more pedantic as to whether a particular item should be in the archive or in the library. Books and archives are catalogued in different ways and there are widely recognised international professional standards which we should be following, so it was essential that any system we chose would enable us to catalogue to these standards. But we also wanted our users to be able to search everything in one go whether it be in the archive catalogue section or the library catalogue section. These two requirements – the ability to catalogue each item to relevant professional standards and the ability for joint searching were our two highest priority requirements and the key factor in deciding on the best cms for us.
We are now working with SSL to get the system up and running so we can start using it as soon as possible. Later this year it will be online for anyone to search and browse. The photo at the top of this page is the library's card catalogue cabinet - to use this of course you have to be in the Library. Our new online cms database will mean that eventaully you can find out about what we have from anywhere in the World.
(For those of you who may be interested in the art of library and archive cataloguing the standards are: for archives - ISAD(G) International Standard on Archival description (General) and: for rare books - MARC Machine-readable Cataloguing)