Monday, July 20, 2009

Sirsi NC Users Group, May 20, 2009

The Sirsi NC Users Group met at the High Point University on May 20, 2009. Those present represented a cross section of public, academic, and consortial libraries. President Drew McNaughton of NC-Piedmont Automated Library System (NC-PALS) convened the business meeting. After Ruth H. Bryan, NC Community College System, provided the treasurers report, the new officers were announced. David A. Wright of Surry Community College is moving into the presidency for the coming year. Liz Wade of Guilford College is the new vice president/ president elect, a three year position. Ruth agrees to be treasurer for another year, and I have the honor of being secretary. Drew reported that he has developed a website for the Users’ Group and will stay on as webmaster for the time being.

Stephen Abram, Vice President of Innovation (how’s that for a position title?) at SirsiDynix delivered the keynote address, “Provocations about the future of libraries.” The speech was a dynamic, entertaining riff on the familiar themes of keeping up with changing technology and the importance of marketing librarians’ skills. Playing with my new netbook, I took unnecessarily copious notes, but I’ll give you just a few interesting tidbits. Did you know that the top ten donors in the recent presidential campaign were copyright owners? Or that having a library in a school system increases its test scores by twenty percent? How about this one: two-thirds of the money spent in the presidential campaigns went to search engine optimization. Because Google is geography-based, it gives different results on college campuses, and Google can charge more for ads targeted to the college demographic. Speaking of the young, when Sirsi mapped the eye movements of different generations, they found that people under 25 move their eyes differently when looking at a website. And because they spend more time on video games, boys now do more reading than girls. (I predict some raised eyebrows, but the new games I see my kids playing do contain big chunks of text.)

Of course, Sirsi has forecasted and prepared for change as they develop their products. They are working on an “advanced and different discovery model” since most retrieval systems are “just so last century.” Stephen is excited about mobile devices and apps, like Sirsi’s “pocket circ” that lets roving librarians check books in and out as they wander the stacks. In another arena, the company made medical databases accessible from doctors’ PDAs, and saw their institution’s death rate fall by five or ten percent.

Stephen concluded with a long list of recommendations for libraries; we’re right on target with many of them. Here is a sampling: rethink the operating model; focus on user needs, continuous innovation, digital identity, vision, leadership, etc.; expand the metrics (we use their statistics tool, Director’s Station). Libraries should have “bricks, clicks, and tricks” and to “watch the kids and their toys.” Build sustainable social networks because people take questions to their friends and colleagues first. (Did you know that half the librarians in Second Life have both cleavage and wings?) Libraries’ value is in the librarians, not the books. Think about e-book readers, embedded technology, and the “23 things” of web 2.0. Invent the future! Be the change!

Following the introduction of the new president, we were treated to company and product updates from SirsiDynix representatives. Software as a Service (SaaS) is Sirsi’s “most important trend.” They offer new training programs and subscriptions to help us keep up with updates and take advantage of all features (training should, of course, be done yearly). Hyperion, their digital media archive product, will release a new version by year end. Also expected is the Web Services Application Programming Interface (WS API), which adds a layer for interoperability of APIs. Enterprise 3.0, coming soon, is a new discovery layer that works on top of Symphony, Horizon, etc. and “sets a new standard for local control in a hosted discovery tool.” Finally, Symphony 3.3, the update to our ILS software, is coming soon, with exciting features like the Acquisitions Vendor Interface Port (VIP), Enhanced Usability Wizards, Group Item Circulation, and MSSQL support.

After a great lunch (which seemed familiar – I think they repeated last year’s menu) in the Slane Conference Room, we returned to a choice of afternoon sessions. The 1:00 lineup featured “Software as a Service (SaaS) Information Sharing session” by Dr. Carol Jordan, Library Director at Queens University of Charlotte, and Sarah Greene, Youth Services & Technology Librarian of Caldwell County Public Library; “Maestro, Musician or Wannabe? Community Building and Sharing for Symphony Users” by our own Terry W. Brandsma, Information Technology Librarian; and “The Adventures of Loading Authority and Bib Records” with Mary Jane Conger and Marcie Burton, UNCG Catalogers. I attended the latter session; Mary Jane and Marcie did a terrific job, as expected. After a break for refreshments, we went back for more: a Horizon Sharing session with Tommy Joseph and Mike Maynard of the Greensboro Public Library; "Doing the Numbers: Using Sirsi Reports for the NCES, NCHED, and Other Statistical Surveys" moderated by Christine Whittington, Library Director at Greensboro College; and “Methods of Discarding in Sirsi” with Lisa Kushner (Forsyth Public Library), Linda Sparks (Forsyth Public Library), and Cindy Zaruba (UNCG). Since weeding has been a hot topic lately at Jackson Library, I attended the discarding session. Cindy Z. had agreed to a “panel discussion” and adapted beautifully as it became more of a three-part presentation on an unexpectedly complex topic – who knew there were so many ways to discard items from the catalog?

As you can see, this year's Sirsi Users Group meeting was well worth the trip. I'm looking forward to the challenge of helping, as secretary, to organize next year's meeting.

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