New Zealand's National Library is charting a novel course by buying a relatively new bibliographic system - but one much cheaper than the solution the Australians have opted for.
The library has yet to officially announce its chosen provider, but sources suggest it will be the Voyager system from US-company Endeavor.
Endeavor is a relatively new company but claims over 200 users including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Geographic Society, the CIA and Auckland University's main library.
A spokesperson for Auckland University believes the system will work well for them, saying the university would not have bought Voyager if it were to be the largest user on Endeavor's books. "The people at Endeavor have a lot of experience with automation. They're not new to the library area."
But sources suggest the system may not be ideal for the library's needs, and a consultant interviewed by Computerworld last week had reservations about a system not specifically designed for a national library.
The consultant, who did not wish to be named, worked on both the National Library's previous NZBN and NDIS projects. He felt the library was rushing to replace the NZBN before the year 2000 because of compliance issues and was in danger of buying a system with less functionality than it currently enjoyed.
"They are taking steps backward just to get beyond the year 2000."
Cost is obviously a factor for the National Library's New Systems Project, as it is known. Auckland University's library system is estimated at around $2 million for the entire project, a fraction of the cost of the system the Australians have chosen.
The National Library of Australia has chosen to spend $A14 million on a system developed by its equivalent in Canada called AMICUS.
The AMICUS library management system is used by national libraries in Canada and Hungary and by the British Library, which supports up to 2000 concurrent users handling up to 30 million records. Australia's needs are slightly less intense, with 13 million records, while New Zealand has around 10 million.
The NLA's contract is with IBM's global services division and includes hardware and software support, upgrades and expansions over the next six years. Scalability is an obvious issue with library systems, and AMICUS is billed as being designed especially for national libraries. The NLA expects the system to go live by January 1999.
NDIS, the national document and information service, which was intended to replace the aging library bibliographic networks, collapsed after a series of cost overruns and problems with its functionality. The National Library has recently settled out of court with CSC, the primary contractor for the NDIS project. It should receive $5 million toward the $8.5 million costs it wrote off in the last financial year. A decision on the New Systems Project will be made within the next month.
Attempts to contact library CEO Chris Blake at press time were unsuccessful.