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Evaluating Library Automation Software:. A View from the Classroom. Shelly Warwick Queens College, CUNY National Online Meeting 2001 [email protected] ©2001 - Shelly Warwick. Focus of This Presentation. Benefits and challenges of teaching evaluation methodologies in the class

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Evaluating library automation software l.jpg

Evaluating Library Automation Software:

A View from the Classroom

Shelly Warwick

Queens College, CUNY

National Online Meeting 2001

[email protected]

©2001 - Shelly Warwick


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Focus of This Presentation

  • Benefits and challenges of teaching evaluation methodologies in the class

  • How student problems in mastering selection methodology are relevant to practitioners


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A Change in Learning Environments

  • Early selectors of automation systems had to learn on the job and invent the rules and procedures

  • Later selectors depended on advice of early selectors offered in the literature or in workshops

  • Current library school students can be introduced to selection methods and criteria in the classroom


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Context of Observations

  • Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies

    • Course on selecting appropriate media and technology

      • Large unit on selection of automation systems

        • Required course for those in school library media track

        • Many students currently working in elementary school libraries (M.L.S. currently not required in New York State) - some charged with selection an automation package

        • Other students employed or trainees in public libraries or academic libraries

        • Some with no library experience

        • 95% of students have only used public functions of automation system before taking the course


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Approaches Utilized

  • Discussion of history, theory and functions of library automation systems

  • Presentation of a methodology for evaluating and purchasing automation technology

  • Hands-on exploration and evaluation of automation packages

  • Vendor demonstrations


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Student Approaches to Evaluation Projects

  • Minimum Effort

    • Very little time spent with software

    • Reliance on vendor statements or reviews

  • Seeking Simplicity

    • Overwhelmed by large manuals and complex programs

    • Pick systems to evaluated based on smallest amount of instructional materials

    • Focus on three or four functions - ignore many areas required to be addressed by assignment


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Student Approaches to Evaluation Projects - II

  • Involved

    • Visits vendor sites

    • Reads reviews

    • Fully explores programs

    • Notice what is missing as well as what is present

    • Often those with the least experience question assumptions and business as usual approaches that are not well thought out

    • Some areas required in assignment still ignored


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Preferred Method of Learning

  • Vendor Demos!

    • In Class (scheduled after evaluation project due)

    • Exhibits

  • Students do not question vendor - despite instructions to challenge assumptions and request demonstration of functions that are not part of canned presentation


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Exceptional Reliance on Demo

  • Preference of demonstrated system in selection papers

  • Purchase of demonstrated system

    • Failure to visit installed site


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Implications For Libraries

  • Novice students assigned to select based on the course were able to make a selection that satisfied their administrators

    • Selection skills can be taught

  • Despite being informed that canned demonstrations are not to be trusted students were unwilling to ask questions that might make them seem ignorant or rude

    • Selection teams should meet prior to demos and assign types of questions to individuals

  • Easier to use programs with less functionality preferred over more difficult programs with more features

    • Usability prime consideration in system selection


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Implications For Libraries -Continued

  • Students focused on functions and tasks which were relevant in their current position

    • The more experienced the selector the more demanding the criteria

    • Individuals with different areas of expertise and types of experience should participate in the selection process

  • New selectors questioned assumptions

    • Someone new to the profession should be in selection group

  • Unwillingness to explore complex systems

    • Systems are often adopted that are easy to use but do not meet more advanced needs


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Implications for Vendors

  • Students viewed vendors as “authority” not a salesperson - worked with one they liked the most

    • Vendor personality and presentation skills important

  • Students evaluated and/or selected packages from vendors that were easy to contact and readily provided information

    • Poor pre-sale communication is viewed as an indication of poor after sale support - a good website is a must

  • Demos were the key to selection

    • Providing access to full version via demo disks or the web attracts customers


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Implication for Vendors - Continued

  • Students/graduates charged with selecting a system generally selected one they had evaluated in class

    • Working with library schools and providing free full versions of automation software or demos with access to administrative functions is a good investment


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General Recommendation

  • A professional group of SIG involved in automation should develop test data sets that reflect the volume and structure of data for various size and types of libraries

  • Such data could be used to more effectively compare library automation systems


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Conclusion

  • Teaching the evaluation of automation software in library school benefits all

    • Students

      • understand the selection process

      • familiar with evaluation criteria

    • Vendors

      • contact with potential customers

    • Libraries

      • new employees with an understanding of what automation systems can do and capable of participating in next round of selection


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Discussion - Questions


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Thank you!!!

Shelly Warwick

[email protected]


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