Shared services system pitched to NZ public libraries

'Discovery layer' in new system will improve book searches

The National Library and the Association of Public Library Managers intend to commission a shared-service library management system, to be offered for licence to public libraries.

As a first step, the National Library has advertised for a manager for the project, known as LSynCNZ.

Some centralisation of resources and databases will be involved, but National Library deputy chief executive Sue Sutherland hesitates to describe the environment as a private cloud.

The project is only at a preliminary stage now, she says, and until there are responses to a request for proposal (to be issued towards the end of June) “we won’t know how it might be implemented”.

To date, libraries have used a large number of different software products for management. The libraries of the Greater Auckland region have a shared system, called elGAR. This runs on Millennium software, from US-based Innovative Interfaces.

While the National Library points to this as an example of the success of shared services, elGAR is not set up to admit libraries in other parts of the country, Sutherland says. In any case, Auckland library systems are likely to change again with the advent of the “supercity” administration. Nor, she suggests, is there anything to be gained by all libraries standardising on Millennium; there are other systems with their own merits.

As well as library management software, the RFP will seek a “discovery layer” of software that will enable information held by libraries to be searched. This will be “a step on” from the familiar search of the catalogue of holdings, Sutherland says, and will enable search access to other information about the libraries.

It will be up to each library how much of this data they make available to the public and whether they allow just their own information to be searched, or give access to information about other libraries using the shared service, she says.

The LSynCNZ backers will also be looking for hosting services.

Individual libraries will licence use of the system from a business unit of the National Library, but will be able to invest it with their own look-and-feel.

There is a critical point at which enough libraries volunteer to make the chosen system economic, but Sutherland declines to give an estimate of this in advance. It will be a measure of volume of business rather than a definite number of participating libraries, she says.

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