Boston Public Library
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The BPL Compass

Posts Tagged ‘ILS’

More Collections Questions Answered

Posted on August 18th, 2014 by Gina Perille in Collections

Cover of BPL's strategic planAdding new books to a library’s collection and removing others is standard operating procedure for libraries around the world. This is an important and essential service that librarians offer to the communities they serve every day. The Boston Public Library system, on average, adds 11,000 new items to its circulating collection every month. That’s 132,000 new items each year that cardholders can check out and take home. There is not infinite shelf space in our locations; continuous evaluation of what is on the shelves is required. Again, this is a core piece of what librarians do, and Boston Public Library stands behind our professionally trained staff and their ability to perform this sort of evaluation.

Be sure to also read Collections Questions Answered, the first installment in this ongoing conversation.

What is taking place this year — and what seems to be the subject of wide interest and, unfortunately, wide misinformation –  is that each of our 24 neighborhood branches is getting a list of records for books that have not circulated in 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on the number of shelves the branch has. Colleagues are being asked: does this record have a corresponding book on your shelves? Is it there? Is it damaged? Is there more than one copy? If it is a travel book or computer software book or test prep book, for example, do you have a 2008 version alongside the 2014 version? If yes, please remove the 2008 version. Neighborhood librarians are being asked to evaluate their shelves. This is essential and ongoing librarian work. Even if a book is on the list to be evaluated and has not circulated in years, each librarian can say, because they know their local users best, that it should stay in the building.

Throughout all of this, there are also two very important things to keep in mind:

  1. Each location in the Boston Public Library system shares its circulating materials with every other location. A library cardholder can request a book to be delivered to any branch of their choosing, whether it is near home or work.
  2. The records being evaluated across the system are limited only to “take-home” or “circulating” books, CDs, and DVDs. These are but a fraction of Boston Public Library’s deep, rich, and historic holdings and do not even take into account our digital library of e-books, digital magazines, and streaming content. In all, the library has upwards of 23 million items in its collections: maps, photographs, manuscripts, music scores, paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and much more.

The ongoing process of adding new circulating items and pulling out others is highlighted in Boston Public Library’s strategic plan, the BPL Compass, which was built on enormous community input in a multi-phase process from 2009 to 2011. We heard from the community, our staff, and even scholars that we needed to assess our collections. Under one of the eight community-identified principles for excellence in the plan, here’s what appears under Center of Knowledge: “Assess current circulating collections and develop plan for maximizing the use of existing collections through weeding and collection development.” That’s precisely the kind of work our teams do each day.

As always, we welcome questions, suggestions, and comments — that can be via this blog, via social media, via email, via surveys, across the desks at any of our locations, or another of the many ways we connect with our users each day.

Be sure to also read Collections Questions Answered, the first installment in this ongoing conversation.

Collections Questions Answered

Posted on August 8th, 2014 by Gina Perille in Collections

IMG_0899The library receives questions from time to time about how it manages its collections. Sometimes people say the shelves are too tall, devoid of book covers facing out, and otherwise hard to browse. Other comments center on wanting the library to keep every book it has ever owned for all time. We welcome this discussion. Both types of questions offer an opportunity for us to share some of the “science” that’s in library science.

Boston Public Library adds 11,000 books, CDs, and DVDs to its circulating collection each month. This is an average monthly figure yielding approximately 132,000 new items available for borrowing each calendar year. And those figures do not even take into account our digital library of e-books, digital magazines, and streaming content. Making new materials available is a part of a library’s everyday operations. Many of the new titles Boston Public Library purchases are selected in direct response to user requests. These requests are received through the library’s popular “Suggest a Purchase” web page as well as through conversations with library staff members.

Be sure to read More Collections Questions Answered, the second installment in this ongoing conversation.

Alongside the continuous adding of new materials, libraries also regularly evaluate which materials should be removed from the open shelves. There are many reasons an item might qualify for this, including having out-of-date information; being worn, torn, or damaged; no longer responding to readers’ needs or interests or being part of large group of duplicates. In Boston, with so many new items flowing through the system each year, collection management is an everyday, year-round service that librarians provide.

If you are an active user of the library, you know that we went through a major technology upgrade for what’s known in the library profession as an integrated library system or ILS. That new system went into place at the end of 2012 (read about it here). One of the many benefits of this new system is that it has made it possible for the library to more accurately reflect in our catalog what is on the shelves and available to borrow. Part of the work we’re doing now in all our locations is making sure that what our databases says we have is, in fact, there. And if it is not, we are removing the record from our files. In many cases, the record outlasts the physical item, as is the case in the 180,000 records — not volumes or actual books —  we are analyzing . By the end of the year, we hope to have a much more accurate listing of our circulating items.

When we do remove books from circulation, they are first offered to local library friends groups for their book sales. If you have enjoyed a sale in Copley Square hosted by the City-Wide Friends or one at a neighborhood branch, you have seen this process in action. Next, the books are sent to one of the library’s partners-in-residence, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library whose mission is to digitize all published information for storage and digitization. Books that the Internet Archive does not select are then sent through a third-party company to a variety of retail outlets to be sold. Proceeds from these sales are returned to Boston Public Library’s collections budget and used for library collections. Any books not sold or in poor condition at the end of this process are recycled.

Each location in the Boston Public Library system shares its circulating materials with every other location. A library cardholder can request a book to be delivered to any branch of their choosing, whether it is near home or work. And beyond books on the shelves, all of the library’s collections — ranging from databases to vintage photos to manuscripts — are available to all, as are thousands of free author talks, story times, exhibitions, classes, concerts, and much more. Libraries are community gathering places, places of lifelong learning, discovery, and fun.

To learn even more about how the library manages its collections, download this PDF version of our collection development policy.

ILS Computer Systems Upgrade – Why so complicated?

Posted on December 28th, 2012 by David Leonard in Collections, Major Projects, Technology

The main functions of the integrated library system (ILS) are:

  • as a catalog
  • as a database
  • as library staff’s main tool for checking books and materials in and out
  • for acquiring, processing and storing items.

The ILS is also the brains of our technology system that allow patrons access to many other online services, too. When you sign up for a public session at one of the BPL’s computers or utilize the public printing systems, the print system has to check with our ILS to make sure you are in our system and are approved to use that computer or printer at that location. For example, only a children’s card can be used to access resources in a children’s space. The same goes for access to the WIFI system. Both our web-based public catalog, with its special search algorithm and relevancy rankings as well as its access to social network systems and our Museum Pass Reservation System need to do the same, as does use of OverDrive for downloadable books, just to name a few.

In all, Boston Public Library integrated and tested twenty-five separate systems and applications during the migration, a mixture of local and hosted systems. And, of course, we had to plan the migration so that we could stay open and offer as many services as possible for as long as possible. Some libraries close down for a migration of this size. If you were unfortunate enough to be one of the people who experienced a problem with access to systems or your record, or had a problem with your hold requests, we apologize. If you have let us know, we have probably either fixed or will fix the problem. For the vast majority of systems and users, the migration was largely invisible and successful. We are planning to continue making system improvements and adding other enhancements through at least June of 2013 as part of this overall systems migration project.

 

Computer Systems Upgrade – ILS Timeline

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by David Leonard in Collections, Major Projects, Technology

Here’s what’s happening over the next week and beyond: On Sunday, December 9, the library will stop using the Horizon Integrated Library System (ILS) for most functions – indeed several functions have already been suspended. Staff begin using a limited version of the Polaris ILS on Monday, December 10, for 3 days while the final touches are made to the data mappings along with some record clean-up and de-duplication – after all, the database contains over 15 million records (when you count catalog entries, items, circulations statues, and patron records). This is not a quick process. Please see announcements on the BPL homepage or circulation FAQ page for service changes and impacts.

The new system will fully go live on the morning of Thursday, December 13. While staff have undergone training, we will be asking the public for patience as we become accustomed to the new system. Once we are used to new ways of doing things, we expect that our new ILS will be more stable, faster, and easier to use and thus help us do our jobs in servicing the public more efficiently. Polaris will also offer additional features and functions in the next release, planned for 6 months out, that will further enhance some BPL services. One new feature available on day one is the ability for library users to receive notification via phone, email, and text message, as well as faster circulation processing and more detailed data available in our catalog.

Computer Systems Upgrade – Why a new ILS ?

Posted on December 6th, 2012 by David Leonard in Collections, Major Projects, Technology

The current Horizon Integrated Library System (ILS) was selected more than 12 years ago. The BPL is in the process of moving to its new Polaris system. The library had begun the search for a replacement system in 2006, but had put off any decision due to a combination of staff capacity, funding,  and competing organizational priorities. The project was picked up again in late 2009 as the older system inched closer to its hardware and software “end of life” dates, and its lack of flexibility became more and more unbearable for staff. The ILS upgrade was viewed as a major component of broader technology upgrade plans. Requirements were developed and research conducted. This work was ultimately formalized in a City of Boston RFP procurement process leading to a Board of Trustee vote in February of 2012 selecting Polaris as the company and product to replace Horizon. Please look out for a future post on some of the new features that will be available and how they will help staff serve patrons better and more directly.