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Evaluating Library Automation Software:. A View from the Classroom. Shelly Warwick Queens College, CUNY National Online Meeting 2001 Shelly_Warwick@qc.edu. ©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

Evaluating Library Automation Software:

A View from the Classroom

Shelly Warwick

Queens College, CUNY

National Online Meeting 2001


©2001 - Shelly Warwick

focus of this presentation
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
a change in learning environments
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
context of observations
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
approaches utilized
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
student approaches to evaluation projects
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
student approaches to evaluation projects ii
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
preferred method of learning
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
exceptional reliance on demo
Exceptional Reliance on Demo
  • Preference of demonstrated system in selection papers
  • Purchase of demonstrated system
    • Failure to visit installed site
implications for libraries
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
implications for libraries continued
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
implications for vendors
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
implication for vendors continued
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
general recommendation
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
  • 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

Thank you!!!

Shelly Warwick