Saturday, July 25, 2009

Access is everything.....

A few weeks ago I was expressing my excitement to a Librarian from another school at the upcoming upgrade our library was moving toward where we would have a web based Library Management System (LMS) that would be accessible anywhere with an internet connection. She looked at me quizzically and asked - "Why would you want it to be web based, why would you want to be able to access it from anywhere?" Not only was I a bit surprised at her question, it did get me thinking as to the reasons behind why this is the way that school libraries should be moving when they have the opportunity.

Just yesterday our new LMS went live to the world, ( and the following are the reasons for my excitement.

1. I do a lot of work from home - creating lists for wide reading, creating new reading incentive schemes, thinking of how I can support the units of inquiry (UOI). Now with the OPAC available to me 24/7 I can check what we have, when I need the information and get on with finishing what I was doing - rather than waiting for the next school day to access the information.

2. When I am out at bookstores, with my iphone and internet, I can now check the OPAC to ensure I get the right series title, and make sure I don't repeat other titles we have in the collection. If I can't access it on my iphone, there will be somewhere that I can (hopefully).

3. Having the OPAC online allows the students to access this resource 24/7. While doing a unit of work they can check what we have, and come in the next day and pick it up or reserve it. Through their password log in they can tag their favourite authors and titles, so when we receive a new title they are waiting for, they will get an email message to tell them it has arrived. They will also be able to reserve titles online, and receive an email to let them know when it is available to be picked up.

4. As part of the service we will offer, there will be links to websites and files in the OPAC that help to support the UOI's - this will allow the students to look up the specific topic in our OPAC, and get straight onto websites and files that are age and topic appropriate for them.

5. The students will also be able to manage their own accounts - seeing at a glance how many resources they have and what they are, and also be able to renew them before they become overdue without having to come to the library. The system will also allow us to send an email to recall an item, or to remind them to bring back their resources they have being holding onto.

6. When the teachers are familiar with the system, they too will be able to check the resources we hold in the school to support their teaching and professional development.

7. Parents will also be able to see what we have in the library, making it more open and accountable, and hopefully entice them to become a parent borrower or volunteer.

8. It is also great to be able to access other schools catalogues to see what resources they have and how they organise their collection.

9. It becomes a legitimate means of finding information in the eyes of the young digital mind, bringing it up there with Google and other web applications and not just something that is in the library to find books.

10. I do believe it will also lift the profile of the library within the school community as a place that is not just open during school hours, but helpful all day, everyday.

So, having access, and knowing how to operate the online OPAC will empower our school community in their own pursuit of information at any time of the day. It also allows them to develop a number of information literacy skills, so when confronted with public libraries and other institutions OPACs they will be able to transfer their skills. It may also help in their use of databases as we also move into this realm this year.

We still have some personalising to do on the OPAC, but for now it is a great start to achieve all of the above objectives.

Do you have your OPAC online and available off campus?


MontglaneChess said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I think I'm in love with it! As a library grad student heading into my last year, I've been realizing how much I'm gaining from reading and talking to people in the field (as compared to my classes).

I particularly like this thoughtful post about OPAC's. I've always held a strong opinion that if a high school is serious about their library, they usually have a web-accessible OPAC. And I was never sure *why* I exactly felt that way--until I read your post! Suddenly it all becomes clear. :)

Melodie in NC said...

I'm also an MLS student and am in a distance learning program. We use virtual worlds, blogs, etc and talk alot about incorporating technology in our media centers. I think your last two items hit the nail on the head. Students immerse themselves in technology daily, by choice. If our media centers want to reach these students, we need to reach them where they are. They won't seek out information from sources that seem dated. Online records, wikis, all these tools, are the way to go.