Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 4, Sept. 2005
High-speed Internet access lets libraries pool resources, cut costs, and offer more services
Automating card catalogs and circulation systems provides many benefits to both public libraries and their patrons: improved search capabilities, more physical space for collections, automated inventory and more. Costs for conversion and maintenance can be considerable, but the advent of high-speed Internet allows libraries to pool resources to create automation consortia and make what had been unaffordable a reality.
Two such consortia in Missouri are the Consortium of Ozarks Libraries (COOL) and the LISTEN 2000 system.
Developed in-house by St. Charles City-County Library district staff, LISTEN 2000 also counts Trails Regional Library, Scenic Regional Library, and Livingston County Library as members. St. Charles manages the server hardware and software that allows these regional and county library systems to use online cataloging and circulation systems to manage their materials and check-outs through a Web interface.
LISTEN 2000 members pay an annual membership fee, a far more cost-effective approach than if each library created its own independent system, according to Regional Trails Library Director Karen Hicklin. “Our server is in St. Charles, and what that saves us in terms of maintenance, maintenance costs, security and headaches is immeasurable!”
“Before high-speed Internet access, branches in smaller communities couldn’t effectively connect,” Hicklin said, “but now it doesn’t matter if you live in Corder or Warrensburg, you don’t notice a difference in speed, and it doesn’t matter that the server is a hundred miles away. You have equal access, equal opportunity to use the online card catalog, make requests, holds, reserves, check your account, renew–all kinds of things.”
COOL went live in 1998, using Innovative Interfaces systems, according to Springfield-Greene County Library District Reference manager and COOL System Administrator Donna Bacon. In addition to Springfield-Greene, the consortium includes seven other county libraries, the Central Bible College Library, and a number of specialized collections. The Missouri State Library (MOSL) had encouraged public libraries to share automation systems by creating consortia, and each library participating in COOL received an LSTA automation grant from MOSL.
“The main idea behind our consortium was to assist other area libraries in automating their collections and to make available any special local collections,” Bacon said. While Springfield-Greene had previous experience with automation, none of the other participating libraries had been automated before and were still using card catalogs.
“We each operate as totally separate library systems that happen to share an automation system,” Bacon said. “This is one of the most cost-effective ways for these libraries to maintain an automation system. We call meetings once a year and do site visits to each library in the fall. During visits we can give more personal service, help with training, answer questions about the system or equipment needs and assist with their technological needs.”
Consortia also allow specialized collections to be automated and made available. “We also cataloged and made available local collections from the Landers Theatre, Ozarks Genealogical Society Library and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Library,” Bacon said. “The St. John’s Regional Health System also uses our automation system for their medical library and their community health library which is open to the community. We’re currently cataloging a print collection from the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and will make it available in our catalog.”
“Being a member of COOL has allowed us to be a bigger and better library,” said Cathy Dame of Lebanon-Laclede County Library. “We can offer our patrons services and access to information that would not be possible. The COOL consortium has been a perfect fit for us.”
Public libraries interested in joining the COOL system should contact Donna Bacon at (417) 874-8120 or email@example.com. Libraries interested in sharing services through LISTEN 2000 should contact Audrey Bangert at (636) 441-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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