Agencies automate libraries

Library automation systems have turned into enterprise systems as the need to share
information outweighs the desire for autonomy, according to library industry executive Bob
Humphrey.


“Every little library used to do its own thing,” especially Defense
Department libraries, he said.


But large library system procurements are becoming a trend. Government libraries
“tend to gang up, even though they’re all buying out of separate funds,”
Humphrey said.


Recent examples are the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ $2 million
acquisition of library automation software for all court libraries and the Marine
Corps’ $250,000 library management software buy for its base libraries worldwide. In
both cases, Sirsi Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., was the winning bidder.


NASA, a leader in enterprise buying, runs Sirsi’s library automation software at
its 13 research centers, said Humphrey, director of digital archive products for Sirsi.


The automation software primarily benefits the library staff, said Helen Haltzel,
director of the Acker Library at the Defense Systems Management College in Fort Belvoir,
Va.


“Most of us like getting things automated,” she said, and automation also has
made library work more interesting.


Sirsi’s preconfigured information management system, called UnicornStilas, is a
client-server database application running on RISC servers under Hewlett-Packard HP-UX,
Digital Unix, SunSoft Solaris and IBM AIX. On x86 machines, it runs under Santa Cruz
Operation UnixWare and Solaris.


Sirsi will bring out a Microsoft Windows NT version of the library automation system
and other library applications late this year, Humphrey said. The company makes access
software for desktop computers and character-based terminals. The WorkFlows client for
Windows 95 also can redesign work tasks.


Web browsers can access Sirsi software through its WebCAT Z39.50 bibliographic query
language interface. WebCAT lets public users query Z39.50 catalog servers at the Library
of Congress and other libraries. The WebCAT Z30.50 client configures itself to the
server’s search capabilities, Humphrey said.


Sirsi’s SmartPort for Windows utility is what the library staff uses to search
multiple Z39.50 bibliographic sources simultaneously and capture, overlay and save
machine-readable catalog records.


Sirsi’s Unicorn library automation software, originally developed for DOD
libraries, has a subsystem for managing the viewing, circulation and destruction of
confidential, secret and top-secure items in classified collections, Humphrey said.


Libraries that keep copyrighted, noncirculating material must impose similar access
restrictions. “You would be surprised at how many applications there are” for
the secure system, Humphrey said, at other specialized libraries such as patent libraries.


Sirsi’s Hyperion digital media archive, a separate application, presents virtual
collections to online users. The archive system has tools for collecting, classifying and
loading media files into the archive.


The digital archive software, now in its third release, began as custom software that
Sirsi created for the National Security Agency’s Johns Hopkins Applied Physics
Laboratory and the Army’s Redstone Scientific Information Center in Huntsville.


Hyperion is more like an electronic library than a vault, Humphrey said, because items
are searchable and retrievable.


The virtual library application has tools for indexing, searching, managing files,
browsing, and administering the archive and Internet access. Its Clarit search engine can
parse unstructured, full-text searches, he said.


The digital media archive conducts its searches in the same way experienced reference
librarians look for items, Humphrey said. “Frequently you will get exactly the
documents you were looking for, even if they do not contain the original search
terms,” he said.


The Web has changed the mind-set of library users, Humphrey added. “I avoid the
thesaurus on my shelf in favor of going directly to an online thesaurus on somebody’s
Web site,” he said.


That mind-set has led Sirsi into new areas of library automation, Humphrey said, such
as push technology that organizes and pushes information to library patrons based on their
interest profiles.


Contact Sirsi at 703-934-6073. 

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