AIT to open first virtual library system

The Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT) is claiming it will have the country's first virtual library when its library system is upgraded this year. Once the system has been fully installed, the library's resources will be accessible from all networked PCs on campus, then later via the Internet.

The Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT) is claiming it will have the country’s first virtual library when its library system is upgraded this year.

The library is upgrading to the latest version of the URiCA system. Once fully installed, the library’s resources will be accessible from all networked PCs on campus, then later via the Internet.

AIT director of information services Wendy Bussen says it is a direction all tertiary institutions are moving in.

“It’s a movement towards a library with no walls. More and more resources are available in electronic form, and it is simply a matter of bringing them all together so they can be easily accessed.”

She says the cost of URiCA was not high as it was an upgrade rather than an entirely new system.

Bussen says that eventually users will be able to search catalogues, electronic journals and databases, view CD-ROMs and access the Internet without visiting the library.

That means there is greater flexibility for students studying at a distance or who cannot get to the library during regular opening hours. It reflects the trend toward research and self-directed learning.

She says URiCA is designed for ease of use, even for those with little or no computer experience as it is Windows-based.

At the moment there are 15 PCs in the library and AIT will be leasing 40 for the new system.

AIT looked for 12 months for the best solution, but Bussen says they settled on URiCA because it was a proven library system with a large network of library systems around the world.

One system that came close was Unicorn, from an Australian-based company. However, the need for support in New Zealand and a continuing relationship with Sandersons swung the decision in URiCA’s favour.

“We have been using URiCA (version 5.1b) and it’s easy to implement.”

She says the advantage of URiCA is that it integrates all the existing standalone systems into one.

“At present the catalogue is standalone, the CD ROM is standalone, there’s the electronic database, then another of the archives. It [URiCA 6.0] makes it easier for the user to see on the screen, all the different electronic resources that we have.”

Sanderson account manager Greg Reed says, “One of the key advantages is you can now have multiple collections: a library book collection plus a museum collection plus an archive site all as one database.”

Searches can be done on each collection separately, or on the entire database.

He says it will make research easier. For example, someone doing genealogy research could find information from a single point instead of having to go to a lot of different databases.

Bussen says the library did not consider using network computers for the new system.

“We believe it’s still early days and we need more success stories before we would invest in them.”

Reed says URiCA version 6.0 has been out since November last year but AIT is the first site to implement it.

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