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By Colin Carter, Innovative Interfaces
UK public libraries are coming under increasing pressure to deliver year on year efficiencies together with enhanced customer services. To help them achieve these goals Innovative Interfaces has fully realised solutions to enable them work together and implement ‘shared services’. Working together different library authorities can deliver easier access to more resources and make efficiency savings as well. The key is delivering a fully joined up service that makes it easy for libraries to share their bibliographic services functions and to deal efficiently with the often complex processing of borrower requests and circulation of material across library authorities. Innovative Interface’s INN-Reach solution seamlessly connects multiple library automation systems and allows borrowers from one library to request and borrow materials belonging to another library. We’ve been working with public libraries for 25 years so understand that this seemingly simple description requires rich well thought through functionality. It means we also understand the need for extensive management reporting, for example analysis of requests made, fulfillment times, and the nature and use of the different collections that comprise the consortia or shared service. And you don’t have to be an Innovative customer to join in. Our Direct Consortial Borrowing (DCB) client software manages sending, receipt, and return of items. DCB clients interact with local circulation modules via NCIP (NISO Circulation Interchange Protocol) messages. Library customers get a dramatically enhanced service and libraries are able to significantly reduce costs.
A key part of achieving efficiency gains within the overall Local Authority context is integration into their local institutional environment. Innovative’s pioneering use of state-of-the art Web Services technology enables integration with the corporate enterprise systems to, for example, enabling borrower verification and single sign on across council systems.
Technology has unlocked a universe of digital resources and, without abandoning their commitment to books, public libraries are increasingly embracing them. This trend is inexorable and the challenge for libraries is to provide access to all of these resources in an integrated and user-friendly way. MAP (Millennium Access Plus) provides libraries with the ability to manage and control access to all of their information resources by providing smart linking, multi-protocol meta-searching, and authentication. This “complete integration” approach results in significant savings of staff time, reduced number of errors, more useful reporting, and greater availability of information across management and discovery services enabling libraries to expand services without making their systems and processes overly complicated and staff and time intensive.
UK libraries benefit from Innovative’s truly global approach and scale. For example in February, the 2007 Public Library Directors Symposium convened with “Taking Technology Further” as the conference theme. 74 library chiefs from 5 countries had the opportunity to share ideas with their peers, meet with Innovative’s senior management team, and receive updates on Innovative’s progress. This global community of public libraries brings enormous benefits to its members in terms of vision, strategy and a sharing of ideas. On its own the UK library systems market is relatively small. It has particular needs of course and these are taken into account, but much of what public libraries do across the world is common. And nowadays they all face the same competition from global giants such as Google. Innovative’s products are in use in 42 countries in over 20 languages, and locally Innovative is directly involved with UK initiatives such as “Better Stock, Better Libraries” and the project looking at national inter-lending schemes. Moreover by placing staff worldwide, including the UK, and by offering as standard 24/7/365 customer service, Innovative supports the increasing need to public libraries to extend their opening hours into the evening and on Sundays.
As the Library Systems market matures we have seen, what were often pioneering local library companies, diminish over time or get swallowed up. In this time of increasingly controversial private equity ownership and mergers in the marketplace, Innovative’s management stability and financial independence sets the company apart. The long service records of many senior staff and the number of degree qualified librarians within the company ranks keep Innovative focused on library needs and its partner-driven product development philosophy. The company devotes over half its staff to customer service and allocates a quarter of staff to product development. Both of these statistics are unusual in the software industry, but it is part of the formula for the company’s success. And our continuing profitability over the last 100 quarters means that we can re-invest in the company and provide a stable and long term partnership with our public library customers.