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Ask Slashdot: Tech For Small Library Automation?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the a-little-help-here-please dept.

Technology 188

Kozz writes "I've recently been tapped as 'the tech guy' at my church where a group familiar with library automation wants to get digital with the relatively small catalog. Right now all the materials are simply on shelves, and people take an item down, fill out the paper card and drop it into a box, and we hope that people correctly calculate their own due dates and return the materials. We had a card catalog, but it went largely unused. We're looking for a complete solution for both administration and self-checkout; label printing, checkout receipts, and so on. Have any Slashdot readers found yourself in this position, and do you have recommendations based on your experiences?"

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keep it simple (3, Insightful)

bhenson (1231744) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594176)

Keep it simple use access with a form

Re:keep it simple (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594358)

Barring pre-done web apps, or assuming there's gonna be *something* that this library wants done differently, this is probably actually the best way to go about it. Someone in the congregation should know how to whip up an Access app in an afternoon that will do everything you want.

Re:keep it simple (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594536)

Don't listen to the "write your own" crowd.
ILS software has been done to death, and there is alot more to it than you might think even for a small collection, just ask any library sciences grad.
We have used koha several times and very much like it. There are other solutions. Web based is definately a bonus.
Given the isbn may of these systems will fill out the book info for you.

Re:keep it simple (1)

zehnra (1076641) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595176)

I'll second Koha. It's pretty easy to stand up, runs on a MySQL backend, and is fairly feature-rich.

Re:keep it simple (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595924)

This.

Also, Access is a terrible solution - it scales so poorly that it will become felt the minute you need TWO (2, one plus one) people to have simultaneous access to the records. It doesn't even support per-entry locks. Terrible.

- A Library Sciences Grad

Re:keep it simple (2)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594920)

Check in by having a high-res with flash picture of your face taken. Then ensure that every corner is covered by cameras to allow seamless tracking of individuals. Each shelf also ought to have enough camera coverage to identify books either by position or appearance.
That way you could even track books that are removed and replaced in the wrong position.

All you need is a lesser supercomputer and someone selling decent framerate high-res IP cams in bulk.

Pray! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594184)

n/t

Easy Recommendation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594194)

Yes I do. Stop going to church.

Start with the basics (5, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594198)

I don't know how small your library is but if it's large enough to warrant a card catalog then I'd suggest first putting all the books in the correct order and making sure the card catalog is accurate. dewey decimal system is your friend here.

Once you have that down and not before, you can set up a basic database for your books.

See if this works... first hit on google:
http://www.primasoft.com/pro_software/library_software_pro.htm [primasoft.com]

245 dollars for a complete package is dead cheap. This is a way better idea then programming your own access database. Do that if you're a bigger library or want customization. You probably don't care.

Look around for some sort of complete all in one package. I just posted the first hit on google for this stuff. They have demos... try it out. Apparently they have barcode compatibility which will make check in and out a lot simpler.

But all of that said... the books have to be in order and the card catalog has to be accurate. If people are going to procrastinate about organizing the books until the software is installed then do it backwards. But that's way more important then the database. A library with the books out of order is dysfunctional unless it's tiny.

Re:Start with the basics (1)

dskzero (960168) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594734)

Already at 5, but this is a good idea. While a library management software would be really easy to code, you do need to know how to code and how to code well. Spending 245 bucks into something that will make your business better is not a big investment that can nonetheless pay back a lot. So take the safe route.

As the tech guy at a church (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594200)

You should be advocating reason and sense and reality. i.e. close down the church

Re:As the tech guy at a church (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594580)

You seem to be the unreasonable, with a lack of sense and reality. Neither atheism or theism have any particularly strong claim to truth. Both require aspects of faith. Atheism requires faith that there isn't some power beyond our comprehension and ability to examine, and theism requires there is.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (0)

dingen (958134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594624)

Since when do you need faith to *not* believe something? Why would you believe anything until it has been proven to be so?

Re:As the tech guy at a church (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594670)

Atheism is often described as "the belief that there is no god". If you feel that the whole question is irrelevant or unknowable then agnostic is a better discription.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (0)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595436)

Atheism is often described as "the belief that there is no god". If you feel that the whole question is irrelevant or unknowable then agnostic is a better discription.

What if you believe the whole concept to be preposterous, and hold it up as peer to all of the other infinite amount of preposterous things that you could spend your whole life thinking up and still not convince people that it is silly to believe in things for which there are no evidence?

I typed that whole thing in one breath!

Re:As the tech guy at a church (0)

dingen (958134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595548)

I completely miss the point of believing that something is or is not if there is no observation or other hint whatsoever to support either claim. You can call that agnostic, but I think it's just common sense. You don't burden yourself with the question of whether other random things exist or not, so why would you question the existence of god?

Re:As the tech guy at a church (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594674)

Why would you believe anything until it has been proven to be so?

Looks like someone needs to take Philosophy 101. Scientific proof is available for few things in the human experience. Most of the time one is forced to rely on suppositions. While continual self-examination is valuable, there's as much support for classical theism as for most issues of epistemology.

Scientific proof (0)

GeneralSunTzu (1163223) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594740)

You state: "Scientific proof is available for few things in the human experience.".
Really?
Like e.g. the entire corpus of experimental physics, astronomy, biology, etc.
You do need to take Basic Science for Freshmen 101...
It would be perhaps best avoiding to repeate rather stale arguments used by a bunch of illiterate theists. They carry no weight.

Re:Scientific proof (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594856)

Like e.g. the entire corpus of experimental physics, astronomy, biology, etc.

The study of physics and astronomy does not consume any significant portion of the average person's day. Meanwhile, for issues that do normally concern human beings (such as ethics, epistemology, interpretation of texts), the scientific method is not a recourse.

You do need to take Basic Science for Freshmen 101...

Any course worth its salt would note that science is only one branch of philosophy, with limited application, and repeat what I said in the above post.

Re:Scientific proof (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595474)

Any course worth its salt would note that science is only one branch of philosophy, with limited application, and repeat what I said in the above post.

Which is just as much bullshit now as it was then.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595650)

I'm not talking about science. I'm talking about any proof. Nobody goes around questioning whether all sorts of random things do or do not exist. So why would you even consider the existence of god until someone actually shows some evidence or argument to support his existence?

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594994)

Why would you believe anything until it has been proven to be so?

People generally believe what you tell them - evaluation of what you tell them only comes afterwards. There have been scientific studies investigating that - if you bombard people with statements and don't give them time to analyze them, they'll file them in the "true" category.

That behavior is basically a requirement - given that we start out knowing very little, we rely on our parent's telling us things which are true. As a result most children believe the religion they are brought up in - because they assume they are told the truth.

Of course their parents believe they tell them the truth, though statistically it has to be wrong in the majority of cases. (Most religious beliefs are mutually exclusive and there is no majority believing in a single religion.)

Anyway, you really need to make the effort to re-evaluate something if you had already accepted it as true.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595852)

But that's what puberty is for, right? To re-evaluate the things you have accepted as true so far in your life. The transition of a child to an adult largely is exactly that: determining your own values, sorting out how you think the world works and defining the sort of person you are. I get that as a child it is very useful to blindly believe what your parents and teachers tell you, including stuff about God or Santa. But once you enter adulthood, you start to "think for yourself". So even if your parents never told you Santa doesn't exist, you should figure it out by yourself by then. Beyond that phase, I really don't get why you would believe anything for which there is no clear evidence or argument.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

JackDW (904211) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595246)

What do you mean by "proven"?

You have an implicit faith that this term is meaningful.

Really, if you're going to only believe things that are proven, you should believe nothing at all, because everything you imagine to be "proven" ultimately relies on some assumption that is not "proven" and moreover cannot be "proved".

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595456)

What do you mean by "proven"?

I simply mean sufficient evidence or argument for the truth of a proposition. Lots of things can be proven.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1, Insightful)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595550)

>Really, if you're going to only believe things that are proven, you should believe nothing at all, because everything you imagine to be "proven" ultimately relies on some assumption that is not "proven" and moreover cannot be "proved".

Now this is a fine example of the kind of logic that an apologist must resort to in order to set the groundwork for proof that there is a god. Basically it sets you up for the next argument which will tell you that the existence of a god, given that nothing can actually be proven or disproven, is equally likely. Which is bullshit. The existence of a god is still as near to impossible that anything can get even if you accept that nothing can be proven.

Re:As the tech guy at a church (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595374)

You seem to be the unreasonable, with a lack of sense and reality. Neither atheism or theism have any particularly strong claim to truth. Both require aspects of faith. Atheism requires faith that there isn't some power beyond our comprehension and ability to examine, and theism requires there is.

Lemme see if I get this. Theisim requires faith. Faith to believe in something for which there is no real evidence.

Atheism, requires faith. Faith to NOT believe in something for which there is no evidence.

...

Nope, still don't get it, please explain further.

If the card catalogue went unused... (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594202)

... what makes you think people will bother learning and using an even more complicated electronic system? Non univerisity library users (generally) tend to be the older generation. They don't have the ooo-shiny! approach to computers so if its a hassle they won't use it. End of.

Re:If the card catalogue went unused... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594356)

You're making the problem overly complex for the situation - just tell them they will burn in hell for eternity for steeling from the church - problem solved.

Not so - plus a suggestion (2)

JeffTL (667728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594848)

You're making several inaccurate presumptions. First, non-academic library users do come from all generations. Second, electronic systems are not more complicated than card catalogs from the user perspective -- most libraries find that general use of the library goes up when an electronic catalog is established, due to their making it easier to find materials. As for the topic at hand, if the group is familiar with library automation, I presume that some of them may also be familiar with cataloging enough to be able to make good use of something like Evergreen -- it scales down to small libraries quite well. Delicious Library sounds like a good idea but it can't handle MARC records like you can download from the Library of Congress for many books (or using the Z39.50 protocol, from many other institutions including research libraries), and I've found it to be rather weak on authority control. Evergreen and similar will allow for proper copy cataloguing from LC or other major libraries instead of just Amazon, which Delicious seems to use.

Re:If the card catalogue went unused... (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595008)

... what makes you think people will bother learning and using an even more complicated electronic system? Non univerisity library users (generally) tend to be the older generation. They don't have the ooo-shiny! approach to computers so if its a hassle they won't use it. End of.

(submitter here): Well, the card catalog is largely a system for classification and to help you locate books, to know what you've got, and where it is. In our system, it's actually probably even smaller than everyone is thinking -- imagine a 12x20ft room with shelves from floor to ceiling, and half of them could be empty, depending on how tightly we packed each shelf. This is the reason most people walk in and can, for the most part, easily browse to find something they're interested in or are looking for.

I mentioned the card catalog because it was indicative of the only kind of actual "system" being used. The computer system would be something that helps us know not only what we've got, but what's out and who's got it. We'd hopefully have a labeling system, barcode scanner, member cards/barcodes, printer but we ALSO would like the computerized system to be somewhat secured (both software and hardware, if possible). I recently set up a Windows 7 server which is actually rather overpowered for their (present) needs, but could easily run some library software from within the "server closet" and could run some cable to a thin client, but I'd also want that thin client to be extremely locked-down as possible, permitting only interaction with the library application(s).

Re:If the card catalogue went unused... (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596000)

Except that people use electronic catalogs all the time. The reason people don't use card catalogs anymore is that they're used to having search functionality.

Koha? (4, Informative)

hazem (472289) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594208)

I've never used it myself, but I once worked with a librarian who tried out Koha and found it pretty feature-full.

http://www.koha.org/ [koha.org]

It might be a bit of overkill, but it has a large user-base and probably has every feature you could want.

Evergreen by Georgia Public Libraries (5, Informative)

C0L0PH0N (613595) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594302)

The "Evergreen" library system is free and open source, and was initiated by the Georgia Public Library System in 2006, and is currently in use by over 850 libraries, including a "parish" library. You can check it out here: http://open-ils.org/about.php [open-ils.org] . The site also has a link to a showcase of libraries already running, and on the Internet. The "client" runs on Windows, Mac or Linux. I think the server runs on Linux.

Re:Evergreen by Georgia Public Libraries (5, Informative)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594406)

I noticed that the FAQ about Evergreen states the following:

"Evergreen was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of a very large (more than 270-member) library lending consortium whose members collaborate but are not in lockstep on policies. Evergreen needed to be able to handle large indexing and transaction loads while supporting highly-configurable policies for each member library. "

Also the above mentioned KOHA seems to flaunt very complex features (not that these two would then necessarily be complicated or overkill).

Openbiblio, claims to be targeted at smaller libraries.
http://obiblio.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

I don't know anything about any of these, but maybe worth a look.

From the main site, it doesn't look like much is happening, but a post in the dev part of the forums indicates a new version is being worked on.

Re:Evergreen by Georgia Public Libraries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594826)

Also the above mentioned KOHA seems to flaunt very complex features (not that these two would then necessarily be complicated or overkill).

You don't know what you're talking about, right?

i can set you up with Voyager (1, Offtopic)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594484)

how about a nice Oracle license to go with it? as part of this special slashdot offer, this amazing software can be yours for the low, low price of only $4999.99. But wait! There's more. If you call now.... you will get not only a one hundred, but a two hundred seat license! That's more than enough for any small church! Act fast, this offer is only good for the next 24 hours!

Re:Koha? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594408)

I suggest you use PMB instead. It's very simple to install (php based) and after an hour of work, you should already be encoding new books.
Avoid Koha like the pleague. It's very powerful, but the install process can take days of work for a unix guru.
The community is very active and helpful. Koha people will ask you to RTFM or hire them.

(Having worked as tech support for my librarian gf who studied the differences between the two, I can tell you I don't invent this).

Re:Koha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594514)

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koha_(software) [wikipedia.org] :
"In 2009 a dispute arose between LibLime and other members of the Koha community. The dispute centred on LibLime's apparent reluctance to be inclusive with the content of the http://koha.org/ sites and the non-contribution of software patches back to the community. A number of participants declared that they believed that LibLime had forked the software and the community.[9][10][11][12][13][14] A separate web presence, source code repository and community was established at http://koha-community.org/ . The fork continued after March 2010, when LibLime was purchased by PTFS."

So if you value FOSS, go for http://koha-community.org/ [koha-community.org] instead.

Re:Koha? (5, Informative)

dingram17 (839714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594526)

If you are going to use Koha, I suggest going to the community based library that developed it, not the company that grabbed the source and grabbed trademarks all around the world. The 'original' developers are at http://koha-community.org/ [koha-community.org] . LibLime (the other guys) have even tried to stop the Koha developers using the name Koha - the very name they came up with. Koha is Maori for 'treasure', and this free software is certainly a treasure for libraries that don't want to spend a fortune on software.

Re:Koha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594608)

The link is actually http://www.koha-community.org; koha.org is now the home of a single support company's fork of the software. See http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/11/22/2252238/small-oss-library-project-battles-us-corporation for previous Slashdot coverage on this issue.

Koha is a great piece of software, but yes, it may be overkill for your needs. The community surrounding Koha is top-notch, though, and would happily help you figure out if your needs and Koha's features are a good match. Try http://koha-community.org/support/ for various ways to get in touch with us (full disclosure: I'm a developer on this project).

Best part: Koha is completely, 100% free and open source.

Re:Koha? (2)

geezer nerd (1041858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594640)

I have not used Koha either, but it has a reputation of being a very usable solution for libraries, large and small. It is FOSS, too (GPLv2).

Koha originated in New Zealand, and the Maori word koha means "gift", in line with FOSS. Liblime is a US company which offers service and support for Koha.

Re:Koha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594730)

Just a note (from the Koha Documentation Manager) that that URL is wrong. Koha can be downloaded at http://koha-community.org [koha-community.org] and is used by many small libraries around the world.

3M SelfCheck Systems (2)

kassah (2392014) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594210)

3M SelfCheck System (BCS-Series) is what I've seen some libraries use. May not fit your situation cost wise, and definitally isn't FOSS.

Go completely digital! (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594232)

If you scan all the works and make them available as electronic books (*), then you don't have to bother with patrons returning their copy at all. Saves a lot of bureaucratic busywork and data entry.

As is often the case, embracing a technology completely to its logical end brings new advantages.

(*) This will make Jesus cry. Don't do it. Unless you live in a drought affected area. Then you should probably do it for the good of the neighbouring farmers, but he'll kick your ass when you hit the pearly gates.

Re:Go completely digital! (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594248)

I've noticed that the copyright holders of religious material are some of the most zealous about demanding their royalties, even to the point of performance rights for hymns, etc.

They would definitely not like this.

Re:Go completely digital! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594300)

I was assuming most of the authors would be dead already (ie 18th/19th century works - there's a lot of religious material written during that time). IIRC in the US, anything before 1923 is fair game.

Re:Go completely digital! (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594414)

I was assuming most of the authors would be dead already

Some dead folks tend to make a lot of money: Elvis and Bob Marley, for example. They generate millions every year, despite the fact that they are really quite dead. Amy Winehouse has just joined their choir. Lawyers get the most of it, though.

Even Monty Python's parrot is still making money, and no, he is not resting . . .

Re:Go completely digital! (5, Insightful)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594344)

Why would scanning and ebooks make Jesus cry?

Isn't he the guy who copied all that fish and bread and distributed it for free to all those hungry people?

That's kind of like we now copy and distribute knowledge, information and culture for free to people starved to learn and enjoy culture?

I imagine the bakers and the fishers industry associations of judea (BIAJ and FIAJ, respectively) were real pissed back then .

If we can give knowledge, information and culture to people for free, we obviously should, just as we should copy the fishes and the bread to feed the hungry if we had the power.

Re:Go completely digital! (4, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594354)

You wouldn't download a wine cask.

Re:Go completely digital! (3, Funny)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594556)

speak for yourself. i would download a whole fucking winery if i could

Re:Go completely digital! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594694)

I'll drink to that!

Re:Go completely digital! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594946)

AMEN!!

Re:Go completely digital! (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595624)

Amen Winecask? If there isn't a tribute act by that name, there should be.

Can anyone set up a lending library? (2)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594240)

I ask because the public library services pays a yearly fee and the small print in most books prohibits lending without permission. Just throwing that out there. I'd say go for it, but I lack moral guidance.

Re:Can anyone set up a lending library? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594278)

Meet my friend Mr. First Sale Doctrine [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Can anyone set up a lending library? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594370)

It depends where your library lives. Some countries have royalty fee Public Lending Right programs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Lending_Right [wikipedia.org]

Others don't.

Big Media suing Small Church isn't exactly good PR. Especially since all the stuff in a church library is mostly His Words. But Big Media has a big enough Ego to sue God.

Big Media doesn't like books, because they can be transferred too easily without proper DRM tracking. Which is why books will be made illegal. Fire Departments will soon be tasked with burning them safely. Books will be classified, transcribed, and stored in one of the major corporate computer banks.

Maybe I could write a story (not a book!) about this . . .

Re:Can anyone set up a lending library? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594454)

Especially since all the stuff in a church library is mostly His Words.

And since the copyright duration is "life of author + 70 years" currently ... :P

Although, if we listen to Nietzsche, God is dead. (Or was that Trent Reznor?)
 

Re:Can anyone set up a lending library? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594546)

You must be thinking of one of the Beatles albums. Truly Satanic stuff. In fact, if you listen to one of their albums backwards, you'll hear the following incantation from the Dark Lord Himself: smubla rieht fo eno

I am not making this stuff up. Ignore it at your soul's peril.

Don't bother, paper is good enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594258)

Tech isn't needed everywhere.

Library automation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594272)

What's up with library automation? Is it good or is it whack?

Keep it really simple (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594318)

Just put a webcam where it can see people taking and removing books and record low-rate video.

No one has to change what they do, but you have a record if a book is not returned.

dur (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594328)

The Internet.

librarything.com (5, Interesting)

ScottyKUtah (716120) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594330)

I set up an account with Librarything.com, and we're going through the process of adding all of the books to the website.

The main advantage of this is that anybody can browse the library's collection anytime they want. On Sunday mornings they flash the URL up on the stage.

We're still using the paper checkout process though. The old ladies that run the library are 80+ years old, and are former librarians back when Eisenhower was in office. I figure one tech upgrade at a time is all they can handle.

Re:librarything.com (1)

CymorC (115920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595902)

LibraryThing is good for this application. It's free, easy to use, has a nice interface, and if you ask politely, you can probably get a group of people to help you enter everything into the site.

Tellico (3, Informative)

water-and-sewer (612923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594332)

Why not use something as simple as possible? Keep the card system in place, and track it all using a collection manager like Tellico. I use Tellico for my personal library, which is probably about the size of the library you're managing. I'd say keep the card system in place - you're never going to get people to fill out online forms etc. And then use Tellico to answer the questions "What have I got?," "What's been checked out?" and "to Whom?" Seems like that's all you need at this stage.

Wikipedia has an article (2)

xof (518138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594374)

See also Integrated library system [wikipedia.org]

Relatively simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594398)

I worked in a journalism college where we had cameras, batteries, all their accessories, and also computer equipment that could be checked out by students. It was a nightmare trying to keep track of it all on paper.

What I suggested was we get a barcode reader, and print out small barcodes and affix them to each item. Then we made a filemaker database of all the items, and all the students. Now all we have to do is scan the items and hit "complete" and it checks them out, gives us an overview of what we have and when things should be back, and automatically emails the students 2 days before the items are due back.

Really simple and pretty cheap to do. I think all in all we spent $150 on the reader and the paper we already had.

if it aint broke (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594430)

dont computerize it

Re:if it aint broke (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594816)

It probably is, though. I suspect people borrow books, forget the due date or even that they have it, and the "librarians" are stuck with a large box of cards and no idea which refer to books that are due and which aren't. When someone returns a book they need to go through all the lending cards until you find the right one. If you can't find it - maybe the lender has forgotten to fill it in, or it was confused with one by another lender on return or ..

Basically they don't have an accurate record which books are due, which are on loan and who has it. Fixing that paper-based is possible (using the card catalog), but difficult to teach people and error-prone.

If they had a scanner to scan the bar code of a book and the bar code of the library card - that should be easy for the lenders and help the librarians to locate overdue or missing books.

If not too extensive... (1)

coldmist (154493) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594464)

I have used MediaMan in the past, and enjoyed what it brought to the table. http://www.imediaman.com/products/mediaman.html [imediaman.com]

It supports flagging books as loaned out to person X, etc. It can export the database as a website so people can hit a web page to know if a book is in or out, etc.

They have a server product, but I've never used it.

I'm not associated with the project, just a user of it.

Other similar media organizers probably exist too, depending on how "formal" you want the experience to be, and if other people will touch the computer or not (ie you will enter the information into the computer once a day or something).

Search for Koha, it seems like the 'professional' tool for the job, if you want to go that far.

Small? Checkout based on trust? Delicious Library. (4, Informative)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594496)

If your library is small and you have no tracking what-so-ever installed, or only trust-based tracking, Delicious Library [delicious-monster.com] might be the right thing. It's a personal solution focussing on private collections, but it is very fun and easy to use, supports barcode scanning with simple webcams and retrieves its item/katalog data via the web by scraping amazon and other sources when adding items, so you'll save yourself the hassle of data entry.

Even if you use a different solution in the end, the data retrieval system might be worth looking at, to save yourself data-entry headaches.

My 2 cents.

Re:Small? Checkout based on trust? Delicious Libra (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594658)

...Delicious Library might be the right thing...

Seconded. If you're looking for something really, really simple and easy to use for people that are not technically expert and you don't mind shelling out for an old Mac Mini and $35 for the software; this is a really solid choice. From a usability point of view it simply blows everything else out of the water.

Re:Small? Checkout based on trust? Delicious Libra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595168)

I'll third that vote, delicious makes it dead simple. it uses the built in bar codes for scanning, plus you can publish the available books on a website.

Use barcodes.. (1)

tramp (68773) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594540)

Every book a barcode and every usercard a barcode. The only thing people has to do is scanning their usercard first and then the books they lend. When they return their books you do not even need to scan the usercard. It is the system our local library uses and it is a quite big one so it should work for a small one too.

Re:Use barcodes.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594780)

Barcodes - genius!

Just leaves the trivial matter of the backend system. How about a database? My local library uses a database so that should work in this situation too

Re:Use barcodes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595276)

Where are my Funny modpoints when I need them?

What I read first, was ... (1)

Mark Trade (172948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594570)

"Tech for a Small Liberation Army". %-)

We did it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594618)

I volunteer in medium size church library (~10,000 books and CDs). We were in the same situation about 12 years ago. A friend of mine wrote a program in VB. It covers everything you are asking for. He's a contract programmer. I know he has sold a few copies to other church and school libraries. Not sure how much he charges. Contact him and he can probably send you a demo. You can make your own categories, print reciepts, print library cards, bar codes, etc. Give him a call.
http://www.infinitysystems.biz/index.html

Dymo printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594628)

If you're creating a custom solution, the Dymo Labelwriter series of label printers with their continuous receipt paper is great for reminder slips. I have used them in many applications.

Our church uses.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594714)

We have a small one room library, and we use two programs by booksys.com. They are ezCat and Concourse. I don't use the software personally, but the staff seems happy enough with them.

code4lib (1)

fak3r (917687) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594764)

Get involved with code4lib http://code4lib.org/about [code4lib.org] and ask on their mailing list. I see tech solutions have already been suggested, Koha, Evergreen - also look at Blacklight http://projectblacklight.org/ [projectblacklight.org] , but the knowledge in the code4lib group will be invaluable.

Collectorz (1)

David_USN (2546444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594842)

I used to run a shipboard library while I was in the Navy and used http://www.collectorz.com/book/ [collectorz.com] It is relatively inexpensive feature filled downloads cover art so patrons of the library can See what is in the library. I don't reccommend this for anything over about 1500 books but it sounds like your library may be smaller than that. I thiink you will be pleased with it.

What we use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594892)

Our public library uses: http://www.tlcdelivers.com - It's probably more than you are looking for, but it offers I'm pretty sure everything you mention.

Cheap and easy.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594900)

Buy a old Tape library robot from ebay, instead of tapes make it hold books. now you have a "library in a vending machine" and it will keep those churchies from stealing books or keeping them for months past the return date.

Bonus points if you make it look like a REDBOX rental vending machine.

library softare (2)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38594912)

My only experience with Library software was with Follett's package in a school library with about 8000 items. I do not recommend Follett. It runs fine and user complaints were minimal. As I recall, the database self destructed a couple of times, but reviving the DB was fairly straightforward. On the other hand installation and upgrade were unpleasant. The maintenance instructions verged on incomprehensible and one upgrade required rebuilding the entire data base -- a process that turned out to be appallingly slow. I had to wait for a vacation to do that. And from I'm told it is expensive. Fortunately, it didn't come out of my budget.

On my last visit to our local library, the librarian -- who was not a fan of Follett either -- told me that they had just upgraded from Follett to an open source product of some sort thereby saving a bundle of money. She was quite enthused about the new software. I didn't have a lot of time, but I did look at the screens a user would encounter and they looked fine. It looks like the program they changed to is Koha. Here's a link to their catalog on line http://brownell.kohavt.org/ [kohavt.org]

A lot of different options out there (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594950)

There are a ton of software solutions for small libraries out there:
http://www.capterra.com/library-automation-software
Evergreen and Koha are definitely overkill for what you need. The paid ones are usually pretty reasonable, based on your user base and come with support. If you just want free and can handle the tech yourself, http://obiblio.sourceforge.net/ has not been updated in a while but should have all the basic tools you need.

-Librarian

MARC system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595032)

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the MARC cataloguing protocol,
which seems to be the standard at all large libraries,
in particular the Library of Congress eg http://www.loc.gov/standards/marcxml/,
which has a lot of online help in the use of the system.
If I were in charge of a library, I would set up a system
to enable someone to read the ISBN number of a new book with a barcode reader,
and then automatically get (and store) the MARC record from the Library of Congress.

You get what you pay for (1)

reimero (194707) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595116)

As previous posters have mentioned, ILS software has been done to death, and it's complex enough that it's consolidated down to probably half a dozen to a dozen serious products. There are a couple of FOSS products out there and several that are not. In my experience, the ones that are not are more full-featured and require less configuration and less day-to-day management. I have a preferred ILS vendor I'd recommend (Innovative Interfaces), but they're almost certainly far too expensive (and far too powerful) for a small church library. Personally, I'd contact OCLC and see if they have a low-cost remote solution.

What problem are you trying to solve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595248)

Technology for sake of technology is stupid. Are you having theft? Are people abusing the system?

I think you need a librarian more than a system (4, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595360)

When a church -- or other small organization's -- library falls into disorder, it's usually because the little old lady, who served as the volunteer librarian since she was middle aged, has gone to her reward.

Unfortunately, no amount of automation can make up for this. Your system -- no matter how advanced, primitive, simple or whatever -- really requires an owner. Without this, it will fall into disorder just as the previous one did and you'll be back to square one.

If you can't find a new volunteer librarian, don't do it. You'll spend most of your time cataloging, and then entropy will take over.

cranck it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595430)

The cards are a good solution, maybe it need some enhancement.
Check if my proposition fits

Let assume you lend books that have to be returned in a week
Grab 4 boxes and label them 1 to 4, make a cut on then to resemble an old mailbox.
Buy some card plastic holders (roughly one per book).
Buy some paper cards (2 per book)
In both cases buy some extra holders and cards for good meassure.
Attach with glue a holder to each book
fill a card with the book data, title, ISBN, dewey code etc.
put the card on the book's holder
mark some cards with a big 1, some with a Big 2 and so on, one bunch
per mailbox.
now we are ready to business.

Put the mailbox marked one in the library, put a stack of card marked "one" above the mailbox.

Auto lending process
The "customer" picks their book of choice, take the book's card out of the
holder and replaces it for one taken from the stack above the mailbox.
The customer puts the book's card in a plastic holder along with his library card
(If she can have more than one book, give her more than one id card)

Put the holder inside mailbox

Returnig books
Look for the book's card in the mailbox indicated in it's "LABEL CARD",
exchange them, return book to shelf.
Return library id to "customer"

Controlling due books
When you reach end of week one
Take the remaining holders of mailbox one, these are due books
use the library id to ask for returns
put the holders back into the mailbox, they should stay there until returned.

Put mailbox number 2 with it's 2 labeled cards

What books are out the door?
Those whose cards are in the boxes

Who have these books?
The people whose id is along the book card

Some reviews and suggestions: calibre or gcstar (1)

anarcat (306985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595468)

I happened to have scanned my modest book library here (~500 items) with GCstar [gcstar.org] , which works pretty well. It can download covers and details from Amazon and so on, based on the ISBN (although the latest version in Debian fails to do that properly [debian.org] for some reason). Before deciding on GCstar, I had evaluated multiple solutions [koumbit.org] , including Koha and custom-based solutions, none of which being simple enough for my uses, which made me settle on GCstar... The full details of the evaluation are in the Koumbit wiki [koumbit.net] .

Since then I have started looking into e-book readers, and family have pointed me to Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] , a e-book management software. Now it's not necessarily very good with real libraries, but since I am likely to get such a device in the near future (and therefore accumulate digital books), this looks like a very good choice, especially since it seems to have a more complete interface (especially for batch entering ISBN numbers) and a more robust engine to talk with Amazon and friends. It also seems to be better maintained and have a stronger community.

I am not sure that is so helpful in your case, but I thought I could chime in since, well, I have a small library and most of the work is automated. :) Just need to punch in the ISBN number and choose who to lease the book to (something I will do in a custom field in Calibre). A "standard" barcode reader (that behaves like a keyboard, basically) and judicious use of keyboard shortcuts should do the trick if you are really concerned about speed.

Bar code scanner (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595532)

You could type the ISBN into a label using a bar code font and use a simple inventory control program with a bar code scanner, or you could go the whole library software hog and work the problem to death.

YOU need to be backed up (1)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595556)

Obviously, the library software and data needs to be backed up. Nothing new there.

But who is going to back you up? Whatever is installed needs to allow for the fact that one day you wont be there when it breaks. You are on vacation, or have moved away or something.

Remember KISS.

BiblioteQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595578)

I'd give BiblioteQ (http://biblioteq.sf.net) a try.

Small ILS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595616)

There are tons of great ILS systems out there that were created specifically for church and small school libraries. A few years ago I worked with a small collection (aprox. 3k titles) and went with Surpass (http://www.surpasssoftware.com/index.html). What I liked most about it was the smooth copy cataloging system that was built in. I didn't have to manually catalog many of the books, just barcode them. Good luck!

Minimize long-term dependancy (1)

wigbold (2494048) | more than 2 years ago | (#38595788)

Excellent question, and many good comments already. I would think about how much time you want to spend on it, and how dependent you want them to be on you, if the world keeps going after the current end-time prophesies :-) I am on the board of a small Christian teachers college which had its own catalog for years. After a lot of research/thinking by the Librarian we switched to an OPALS hosted solution, supported by a small Canadian company - that was important for us since we're in Canada. Pretty happy with it after a couple of years. No server, no backups, no securing a website, fairly simple customization, reasonably small annual fee, and we get our entire catalog on CD twice a year, for backup, and in case something were to happen to the company (a regular occurrence in the ILS business, see http://www.librarytechnology.org/automationhistory.pl [librarytechnology.org] - a good site!) For OPALS, start at: http://opalsinfo.net/ [opalsinfo.net]

Your position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595858)

From past comments on slashdot I don't think many slashdotters ever found themselves in your position (belonging to a church)

Tellico (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38596086)

For a modestly-sized library, Tellico [slashdot.org] could fit your needs.

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