7 Reasons Why You Need an Integrated Library Management System

Running a library isn’t as simple and straightforward as many people I have encountered think. Having worked in and with several libraries, I have come to appreciate the work, and challenges, that librarians do. It’s more than just checking out books and putting them back on the shelf when they are returned. Librarians have to deal other complex, time-consuming responsibilities like acquisitions, cataloguing, inventory, budgets, reports and interlibrary loaning. Pen and paper won’t cut it, and using an excel spreadsheet is only marginally better than digging a trench using a caviar spoon.

Read on to see 7 reasons why it’s time for you to get a world-class integrated library management system (read “Koha” 😉 ) to help you manage your library better. If you are having a hard time convincing an administrator or committee to invest in a library software (I understand the struggle), consider sharing this article with them.

7 Reasons Why You Need an Integrated Library Management System

Running a library isn’t as simple and straightforward as many people I have encountered think. Having worked in and with several libraries, I have come to appreciate the work, and challenges, that librarians do. It’s more than just checking out books and putting them back on the shelf when they are returned. Librarians have to deal other complex, time-consuming responsibilities like acquisitions, cataloguing, inventory, budgets, reports and interlibrary loaning. Pen and paper won’t cut it, and using an excel spreadsheet is only marginally better than digging a trench using a caviar spoon.

Read on to see 7 reasons why it’s time for you to get a world-class integrated library management system (read “Koha” 😉 ) to help you manage your library better. If you are having a hard time convincing an administrator or committee to invest in a library software (I understand the struggle), consider sharing this article with them.

How a Library System Will Benefit You

1. Improves efficiency

An integrated library management system (ILS) will help you work smarter, not harder. It makes it easy to catalog, keep track of items that are out in circulation and run reports whenever you need so you always know what’s going on in your library. A library software like Koha will help you be better organized, systematic and methodical in the way you manage your library so you spend less effort doing tasks that can be achieved by the simple click of a button.

2. Lowers costs

It sounds counterintuitive but paying for a library management system will save you and your institution money in the long run. Using a manual or paper-based system means you need a lot of staff members to do the work.

Take inventory management for example: to take stock of your library for a library with a few thousand items manually requires you to have at least one person pull out books or items from the shelf, read out the title, author, call number and barcode, another to check the card catalog (or printed spreadsheet if you’re lucky) for the corresponding record and perhaps another to mark whether an item is present or not. I’ve worked in libraries where inventory would take several weeks to complete, and everyone, myself included, hated it.

With a library system like Koha, a single person can inventory thousands of books in hours. Simply scan your item barcodes directly into Koha’s inventory module and it will tell you in seconds which books are on the shelf, which ones are out in circulation and which ones are lost or misplaced. You therefore won’t need to spend your precious budget hiring more permanent or seasonal staff (it sounds cruel to say this, but you can even lay-off  excess employees). This not only saves the library and your institution a lot of money in labour costs but also allows you to buy more books and invest directly into your library.

3. Saves time.

Long checkout lines and precious minutes spent browsing the card catalog looking for a book before finally giving up in frustration. That’s a nightmare I dare say you’ve already experienced. You don’t want to spend aeons cataloging books and your patrons don’t come to the library to go on treasure hunts either.

Time is of the essence for both librarians and patrons. You will probably agree that cataloguing is one of the most time-consuming activities you do in the library. It can take as long as 10 to 15 minutes to catalog one book so it’s no wonder many librarians loathe it. With Koha’s z39.50 copy cataloguing module however, you can do this in less than 2 minutes.

Patrons get to benefit as well. Simply use the batch checkout module to streamline the checkout process and make it a more pleasant experience for everyone. They can also search, place holds and even suggest books via Koha’s online public access catalog (OPAC) on their phone, tablet or computer from anywhere even when the library is closed. Koha will show them the call number of the item they are looking for as well as a cover image so they can quickly and easily find it without having to stop by the circulation desk or mess around with card catalogs.

4. Increases productivity.

An integrated library system will help you do more in less time and with less effort by automating your routine processes. Instead of sifting through stamp cards to find out which books are due or late, a library system like Koha will automatically send out emails or text messages when an item due for return. You can connect directly to your suppliers, make purchases and import ready-made MARC records into your catalog directly from your vendors. You can integrate chat modules and frequently asked questions on your library web page so patrons can easily find answers to the questions they have. Integrating e-books into your catalog (yes, Koha can do that!) means your patrons can continue reading their favourite titles and newspapers without ever having to set foot inside the building. All of this reduces your workload and allows you to focus on other crucial tasks that need to be done around the library.

5. Helps your accreditation.

Many, if not most,  higher learning accreditation organizations require educational institutions to have libraries that provide off-campus access to resources. ACTEA, for example, requires libraries to show that they are “establishing ready access to relevant nearby libraries, maintaining aggressive inter-library loan facilities, and/or providing on-site internet access” (read “have an integrated library management system like Koha) for them to be accredited. So if your library is part of an educational institution, investing in an ILS, and therefore the library, is not optional. For any administrators reading this, your library must have an ILS –  failure to do so is to risk your accreditation and therefore, your institutional reputation.

 

6. Reduces stress.

Librarians are often caricatured as dour, humourless mini-dictators (my high school librarian fits this description aptly). And like most stereotypes, it’s a caricature born out of reality. They are often overworked and underfunded so it’s small wonder that many rarely smile and are unforgiving. While a library management system is no magic bullet, it can go a long way in reducing the workload and help librarians do more in less time and with less effort. One study showed that many librarians find their job “repetitive and unchallenging” and are one of the unhappiest occupations in the UK. One way to solve the repetitive nature of your work is to automate it. This can free you up to engage in more challenging tasks (how about redesigning the entire library?) which will make you look forward to Monday mornings. 

 

7. Makes your library beautiful.

A library should be as much about the looks as it is about the books. Let’s face it, those rows of metal cabinets housing your card catalogs and date stamps have no place in any library in the 21st century. Card catalogs where invented in the 1800s (or even further back  to 2000 BC). The only place they still look great is in a museum, next to the dinosaur display (or the dodo). Using an integrated library system like Koha will declutter your space and vastly reduce your paper usage (and put you in the good graces of environmentalists!).  A library with a good management system looks tidy and attractive. It is better organized and able to carry out its core function – providing access to knowledge for present and future success – more effectively. With the money that you save from staff and labour costs, you can actually afford to do some interior decoration and transform your library from looking like a dungeon in the Tower of London to the oasis of knowledge that it should be.

What do you think? Do you think you would benefit from having an integrated library management system or are you happy as using index card catalogs? If you want to bring your library into the 21st century, then Koha is the best, most affordable way to do it. Koha Support provides hassle-free Koha installation and cloud hosting as well as training, data migration, customization and technical support. Check out our packages and get a quick quote today. Looking forward to hearing from you!

How to Quickly Backup Your Koha Database

Regular backups of Koha are a must, in case your installation fails or your hardware crashes. While you should have an automated backup procedure in place, sometimes (before a major upgrade for example) you may need to make a quick one-time backup. So here's how to...

read more
The Top 10 Biggest Libraries in the World

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries in the World

Libraries comes in all types and sizes, from small community libraries that open for a few hours once a week to mega institutions that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So which are the biggest, most impressive libraries in the world - by catalog size of course;...

read more