One of the areas where I think there could be real potential in a national public library service is in centralisation of some functions, in particular those around stock control.
There could be a single cataloguing team, and then a small number of processing and distribution centres. With a single LMS and bibliographic database a centralised cataloguing team makes sense. What about local variations I hear you ask? In most cases, and I will probably get in trouble for saying this, I think that “local variation” immerge not from any genuine need for different records, but from under resourced libraries needing to take short cuts in the cataloguing practices. With a centralised team (properly resourced) every record could have the fullest and most accurate record, with the best authority control available. Any genuine local variations could be included on the item records.
Centralised processing and distribution would save on resource, time and money and free up staff time for reader advisory. There are exceptions though; donations and repairs. How those were dealt with would need to be looked at in detail, but I imagine that constituent libraries would want to retain those functions in house.
There is also the potential for centralised services for Human resources, and administration functions. How successful those would be depends on the management/governance structure and the contracts with the local authorities.
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Returning to my themed posts for this month, I now turn my attention to collections. With the assumption of one LMS there is an expectation of one collection. A national collection however has several issues. Amongst them are these: How do you preserve small special collections? What is to prevent small rural areas loosing there most popular books to the larger centres?
If I was setting a NZPL up I would have regional sub-collections. I would have a centralised collection management team which was responsible for purchasing the bestsellers, the core collections that need to be spread out amongst all the libraries. I would then have budgets for community librarians to purchase and preserve their special community collections.
Reserves etc would have geographical locks, where books could not be reserved from other areas until all local ones had been fulfilled and a reasonable period of time had elapsed since they had been purchased. I would also look at establishing a small number of closed stacks. Maybe four around the country, where all the stack would be consolidated. This would preserve the long tail and free up valuable space within the small libraries.
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In plotting these posts out I have often found myself encroaching from the intended content of one post to another. I have also had difficulties in the order of them. Hopefully they will make sense when the month is up, but in case they don’t I ask that you forgive any rambling repetitions or illogical sequencing.
For this first post I want to focus on the potential for a LMS for the New Zealand Public Library. This is off course coming from Kotui, and while I have something to say on Koha, I have tried not to re-litigate the recent NZ-Libs discussions.
To me, if we are creating the NZPLS then it would have a single LMS. There would be many advantages including a single licence which could potentially save money. Especially if you went down the Open Source route and used Koha. Working on an estimate that the combined public libraries in New Zealand spend upwards of over a million dollars a year in service fees, there is the potential to not only save money, but to also create a long term development team that focuses on improvements to the LMS. I am not sure how much you would save with a proprietary system as they tend to change their prices according to how many branches and people you serve.
You could then have a single database for users and resources, configuring the OPACS so that they could either show every item in all libraries or just the ones in your immediate area. Then naturally you would only need one team of cataloguers maintaining the records, which could be seen as a positive in freeing up resources around the country for Reader Experience. It could also be a negative in that it could lead to staff losses. I will be looking at staffing in a later post.
My next post will deal with the management of the system.
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During the recent exchange on NZ-Libs around the selection of vendors for the Kotui shared LMS initiative, a topic I will probably touch on in one of this month’s posts, Paul Sutherland ended with a throwaway line around developing a collaborative Public library of New Zealand.
The idea of a “National Public Library” or “Public Library of New Zealand” is one that I have often tossed around in my head. I think that it would quite exciting to have one public library system that covers the whole of the country. I think that there are many reason why this would be a good idea, and many reason why this would be problamatic to create. I am yet to decide whether the difficulties would be insurmountable, however I think a conversation could be had around this.
So for my “Blog Everyday Day of June” posts I will be looking at the various pros and cons of such a service.
The first post will be on LMS… 🙂
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