Guide to Library Automation: How it Works and Why it Matters

February 22, 2023
Library Management

Libraries serve as critical sources of information and knowledge for us. To ensure their productivity and effectiveness, library managers must embrace technology-driven solutions such as library automation.

In this all-inclusive guide to library automation, we'll study the different types of library automation, examine the reasons and goals behind its implementation, and highlight its numerous benefits.

Additionally, we'll discuss popular library automation software tools and provide real-world examples of library automation. By the end of this guide, you'll have a precise understanding of how automation is transforming libraries.

What is library automation

Library automation is a process of utilizing software and technology to automate and optimize a variety of essential library functions and tasks. This includes, but is not limited to, cataloging, circulation, and acquisition of library materials.

The use of automated library systems eliminate redundancy within a library, reducing the time and effort required to perform manual tasks and freeing up staff to focus on more important work.

Library automation software also enables patrons to access a wider range of resources, including digital repositories and eBooks, and provides a more personalized experience through features such as customized recommendations and tailored research guides.

Furthermore, automation enables libraries to share resources across multiple locations and networks, increasing the reach and impact of library services.

Examples of library automation

Library automation systems have become increasingly popular in recent years and have been adopted by libraries globally.

Here are some notable libraries that have implemented automation:

  • The British Library uses library automation for cataloging and circulation - two of the most vital and time-consuming tasks in a library. Automating such processes allows library staff to focus on tasks such as providing reference services and developing collections.
  • The National Library of China has automated its library for app-based check-ins, allowing patrons to easily check in and out materials using their mobile devices.
  • The Los Angeles Public Library uses a comprehensive library automation system that helps them easily manage high volumes of library items like books, repositories, journals, etc.

Similarly, the New York Public Library and Boston Public Library are also powered by library automation software and hardware.

Types of library automation

Library automation encompasses numerous categories, but discussing them all might be out of scope for this article. However, we'll take a quick look at the three most popular types of library automation:

Automated library management system (ALMS):

  • A comprehensive management system that manages library operations
  • Includes cataloging, circulation, reporting, and acquisitions management
  • These systems typically comprise computer hardware, databases, and specialized software to streamline and automate library processes, ensuring that all relevant information is stored and managed effectively

Examples: Koha, Evergreen, Alexandria, SirsiDynix Symphony

Automated library information system (ALIS):

  • Focuses on providing access to information and knowledge resources
  • Allows users to store, organize, and manage their research materials in a centralized database that can be accessed through desktop applications or web-based apps, depending on the specific tool

Examples: EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero

Automated library circulation system (ALCS):

  • Responsible for managing the lending and borrowing of library materials
  • These systems may be web-based or app-based, or a combination of both; a library might use a web-based interface for staff to manage the lending and borrowing of materials while offering an app for patrons to access their account information, search the catalog and place holds on materials

Examples: Libramatic, Book Systems, Follett Destiny Library Manager

Need & purpose of library automation

The demand for access to information has fueled the need for library automation. With vast collections of books, journals, and other materials to manage, libraries require digital tools to keep up with the growing tech landscape.The purpose of library automation is to enhance the users' library experience by improving library services, minimizing manual labor and errors, saving significant time and resources, and significantly increasing overall efficiency.Automated systems have been proven to save libraries a significant amount of time and resources, while also reducing common errors such as misfiling and incorrect data entry.

Advantages of library automation

Among the benefits of library automation systems are:

  • Improved efficiency and productivity in library operations
  • Reduction in manual labor and errors
  • Cost savings through streamlined processes
  • Increased accessibility to library collections for users
  • Improved personalization of library services for users
  • Ability to offer a broad range of resources to users
  • Enhanced collection management capabilities

Dive deeper into Koha's advantages

10 Advantages That Make Koha Your Ultimate Solution to Library ManagementRead Blog

Popular tools for library automation

The library automation market offers a range of popular tools, including Koha, Evergreen, and Alexandria.

1. Koha

Koha is a free and open-source Integrated Library System (ILS) or Library Software that offers a comprehensive solution for managing library collections and services.With over 3500 installations worldwide, Koha is one of the most widely used ILS in the library community. Its user-friendly interface and customizable features make it an ideal solution for libraries of all sizes, from small public libraries to large academic institutions.Want to know more about Koha? Check out this Beginner’s Guide to Koha.

2. Evergreen

Evergreen is a highly scalable and flexible FOSS ILS, well-suited for both public and academic libraries. With over 1500 library installations worldwide, Evergreen has established itself as a robust and dependable ILS solution.

3. Alexandria

Alexandria is an open-source ILS designed specifically for small to medium-sized libraries with paid options; it is a popular choice for libraries due to its simple and intuitive interface, making it easy for staff to manage day-to-day operations and for patrons to access library resources.

Parting thoughts

Library automation is a vital component of contemporary libraries. With the integration of automated systems, libraries can deliver more efficient and effective services to their users while minimizing manual labor, errors, and resource consumption.By familiarizing yourself with the popular library automation tools available, you can make a well-informed decision on the best system for your library.Investing in library automation ensures that your library stays ahead of the curve and continues to provide the highest quality services to its patrons.

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About the Author

This article is part of a collaborative series between GR Techand industry leaders, aimed at bringing new ideas andinsights to our readers.


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