Technology & Libraries, Part 2

Integrated Library Systems (ILS)

These are the computer programs that upload the library’s collection and patron information, and nowadays they facilitate nearly all maintenance, inventory, and automated functions of a library. They are what make electronic searching of library collections possible, what allow streamlined check-out and check-in, and what are used for general upkeep of all library records. Naturally, they are also what run the Online Public Access Catalog, or OPAC. ILS is the foundational technology, first emerging in the 1960s and 70s, that today make librarians’ and library users’ experiences much easier and more efficient. SirsiDynix and Integrated Interfaces, Inc. (III) are two popular ILS.

The UA Libraries use III’s Millennium. I use its circulation functions daily for everything from checking in/out or renewing items to viewing bulk fines data to interpreting patron account information to rapidly updating records to create and exporting lists. And this is just the circulation module; there are TEN additional modules, including cataloging, web OPAC, and electronic resources management all included as part of the Millennium system. It is truly the “brains” of the library and is what keeps the library running.

Since ILS are the internal mechanism that make so many other things possible, they have big social effects. ILS allow features such as “My Account” so patrons can renew their own books, pay fines online, and update their information. They also are what make self check-out and check-in machines work.  These features encourage disintermediation by allowing users to be self-sufficient. With this comes a minimization of time spent interacting with actual library staff and less face-to-face interaction generally. Additionally, fewer and fewer tasks require users actually travel into the library’s physical space. These sorts of impacts are felt in all sorts of industries due to evolving electronic systems; as customers are becoming used to self-sufficiency, they continuously want things faster, easier, more convenient and more efficient.

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