The nature of library automation projects

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A literature review is defined by Bless& Higson-Smith (2013:49) as the process of finding and examining literature that relates to the topic in order to sharpen and deepen the theoretical framework of the research study. Another definition of a literature review by Albon & Mukheriji (2015:247)sees it as the critical analysis of related literature in a relevant field in relation to the research being undertaken. The researcher used relevant literature to establish which factors contribute to modern service provision in libraries. Furthermore, the researcher consulted literature to define the characteristic of 21st century library services. Based on the information found, the documented state of LELICO libraries was compared to what was reported in the literature about modern services. This study, therefore, provided the necessary background and context that enabled the researcher to conduct research and establish how well services were being delivered by LELICO libraries.

Library automation

Looking at its history, libraries, like any service that makes use of ICT, seem to adopt new technologies and services extremely quickly. Cloete (2008:20) concurs with this statement when she states that the developments in library automation and online integrated library systems, whether internationally or in Africa, take place quite rapidly. Horsfall (2014:1) reiterates this fact when he states that library automation has the ability to increase the morale of library staff, to provide faster and easier ways of getting library functions and services done as well as to provide a cheaper means of purchasing information resources. As a result, the number of libraries automating their services is increasing rapidly.
Early in the 21stcentury, Aina (2004:322) defined library automation as the use of computers and networking technologies to perform traditional library housekeeping activities such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, reference, catalogue access and serials control. In short, Aina (2004:322) sees automation as using computers and networks to execute library services.
Cloete (2008:3); Webber& Peters (2010:2),Ahenkorah-Marfo & Borteye (2010:2) and Faisal (2012: 3) all seem to concur with him. Cloete (2008:3) and Ahenkorah-Marfo & Borteye (2010:2) share the opinion that library automation facilitates the change from manual, paper- based methods of recording, organising and retrieving information to computerised or automated systems.
In essence, these opinions are the same because as Cloete (2008:3) explains, the result of library automation is an online integrated system, which is software that manages library operations with separate modules that interact and share a central database of records. The process of automation occurs over a series of stages; from a simple starting point to a complex or fully automated stage. With these definitions as background, it is necessary to understand that an automated system is an essential prerequisite for modern services. The next section will first discuss the process of automation, while the characteristics of 21st centurylibrary services are dealt with in section 2.4.

The nature of library automation projects

Lesotho’s situation is perhaps not well-documented, but there is ample evidence that libraries in other African countries also struggled with the process of automating their services. Swee & Abdullah (2005:42) report that automation takes a long time. Nok (2006) reiterates this by stating that library automation projects in Nigeria remained at the planning stage for many years before they were carried out. The reason for taking such a long time, according to Nok (2006), is that the projects were usually planned to be carried out in phases. Faisal (2008) concurs with the view that the automation of a library’s services is an extensive project that requires proper planning and active implementation. Simply put, library automation is not an easy task that can be carried out overnight. It needs to be well thought out andplanned in the drawing room before it is executed. The last example is the case of Ghana. Amekuedee (2006),as reported by Ahenkorah-Marfo& Borteye (2010:4), notes that most libraries in Ghana were lagging behindwith regard tothe automation of their operations compared to libraries in the developed countries.
One should note that Amekuedee (2006), in Ahenkorah-Marfo (2014:4), posits that the libraries in Ghana realised the importance of automation. Nonetheless, they were hampered by a shortage of funds to purchase the relevant software, they also lacked support from the university administration, and lastly, they lacked skilled staff to embark on the automation of all library processes.
Nevertheless, Obaseki (2011) reiterates that automation is easy to accomplish when the steps to implement it are followedduly. Horsfall (2014) states that automation is only possible if the conditions necessary to execute it are available. Eyo & Augustine (2014:31) and Obaseki (2011:62) support the view that automation cannot be done overnight. In turn, Marfo (2010:3), &Eyo (2014:31) point out that, in order for automation to be successful, certain steps need to be followed. It is worth noting, however, that these steps may differ depending on the nature of the library, its location and the era in which the project is to be undertaken. This may, therefore, affect the effectiveness of the implementation of the respective automation project. The steps are as follows:
a) Plan the process.
b) Gain support from the institution.
c) Select appropriate hardware and software.
d) Conduct retrospective conversion of the library collections, that is, printed materials and artefacts and records using computer software information machine-readable options .Alternatively, the retrospective conversion of existing electronic records must be carried out.
e) Enter data into the new application.
f) Train the library personnel.
g) Train the end users.
Each of these steps is mentioned in more detail below.

Plan the process

Eyo (2014:31) stresses the importance of planning when conducting automation and expresses the opinion that, since resources are extremelyscarce, especially in developing countries, planning is of critical importance. Proper planning before, during and after automation will ensure successful automation. Furthermore, as stated by Eyo (2014:32), any librarian, anywhere in the world, who wants to embark on the automation of his/her library has to engage in detailed planning as the first step in order to identify the need for or the reason for automation. After that, users, equipment, skilled and unskilled workforce as well as the capital or source of funds, can follow.

Gain support from the institution

Another factor that is part of proper planning for library automation is support from the institution. In effect, a well-planned project will help the library to gain support from both the management and clients. As observed by Swee & Abdullah (2005:29), support from the management is the most important factor in deciding whether or not the library should engage in an automation project. This means that a successful automation project is determined, in part, by the commitment of the institution’s management. According to Swee & Abdullah (2005:29),the majority of libraries in Malaysia lacked the support of the executive management. Consequently, that became a challenge for automation projects to be approved and executed effectively. In instances where institutional management supports the library, management may be able to source financial help on behalf of the library. In other cases, management may mobilise input from other departments, such as the IT or the planning sections, to assist with the planning of the automation project. With this type of support, automation projects are unlikely to fail. These sections will be able to use their expertise to guide the library in choosing a reputable vendor for the system. As stated by Swee & Abdullah (2005:29), if management understands the importance of library automation, it means that they will most probably support the library.

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Select appropriate hardware and software

Based on the above, and on the situation in Nigeria, Obaseki (2011:63) feels that the selection and acquisition of selected software is the most important step to take. Faisal&Surendran (2008:5) had already raised the same issue several years earlier by indicating that selecting the right software is extremely important as the strength of the automation is mainly dependent on the quality of the system software. This means the library should be able to select software compatible with its needs, at a reasonable price. All the modules acquired by the library should be able to manage, organise, and retrieve information regardless of theformat in which the information was captured. Ahenkorah-Marfo (2010:6) explains that, although it is sometimes possible to purchase selected modulesonly, it may not be a good idea to do so, as it will hamper the ability to migrate to new software when it is time to do so. Similarly, Eyo (2014:35) warns that customised software should be avoided as far as possible because no continuity will be builtinto the software.
Another important factor in the selection and acquisition of software is the vendor of the system. A reputable vendor, whose software is maintained regularly at an affordable price, is highly recommended. As a lack of financial resources is one of the major hindrances in library automation, Obaseki (2011:63) advises that software should be purchasedfrom a trusted vendor only. Accordingly, a vendor’s credibility and reliability are vital for a quality assured system. Regarding the issue of a vendor of the library system, Ahenkorah-Marfo (2010:6) is of the opinion that it is necessary to establish whether the maintenance of equipment and the training of library staff are provided by the vendor.
Finally, Eyo (2014:34) acknowledges that the needs of libraries differ depending on their sizes, the funding available, the expertise of the staff and the functions performed by the staff members. Eyo (2014:35) explains that there are several criteria to use for the selection of appropriate automation software to enable libraries to achieve successful automation, some of the questions which should be asked include the following:
a) Who has developed the software?
b) How many times has the software been revised since its first launch?
c) How user-friendly is the software?
d) Who will be providing the training and guidance after the installation?
Once the system has been selected, the library could start capturing the collection.

Conduct a retrospective conversion

When a library automates its services, information that was contained in traditional card catalogues, has to be converted into an electronic format. The process of converting the bibliographic details of the existing stock into a machine-readable form is known as retrospective conversion (Aina, 2004:268; Faisal, 2008:7). Ahenkorah-Marfo (2010:6) is of the opinion that after the crucial selection of software, it is also necessary to recapture all the bibliographic records of materials in the library, in whatever format that is appropriate for the library concerned. The processes necessary to convert bibliographic data are, according to Swee & Abdullah (2005:42), Ahenkorah-Marfo & Borteye (2010:6), Eyo& Augustine (2014:31) and Obaseki (2011:62), classification, cataloguing, indexing, barcoding, labelling, and shelf arrangement.

Data entry into the new application

The next step, after retrospective conversion, is data entry into the new library software. Otherwise known as “dealing with the backlog in cataloguing,” this can either be done by the staff of the library concerned or contracted to data entry companies. Ahenkorah-Marfo & Borteye (2010:6-7) compare the difference between making data entries by the staff (in-house entry) and contracting data entry companies for making data entries. He is of the opinion that data entry conducted by the staff of the library is cheap and the number of errors made during the data entry process islow provided that quality control is maintained. While data entry companies will enter all the data in the databases within a shorter period, the data will require some corrections such as the eliminations of typing errors. Therefore, it is advisable for libraries to weigh their options before they decide which methodof data entry they prefer.

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Backgroundto the study
1.3 Statement of the problem
1.4 Aim of the study
1.5 Objectives of the study
1.6 Research questions
1.7 Concise literature review
1.8 Research methodology
1.9 Limitations of the study
1.10 Importance of the study
1.11 Ethical considerations
1.12 Structure of the study
1.13 In summary
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Library automation
2.3 The nature of library automation projects
2.4 Characteristics of modern libraries
2.5 Challenges experienced in libraries based in developing countries
2.6 The latest wave of automation systems for libraries
2.7 Assisting libraries to provide 21st century services successfully
2.8 LELICO as the primary vehicle to drive library automation
2.9 The current state of library automation in Lesotho
2.10 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Definition of research methodology
3.3 Research approach
3.4 Research design
3.5 Data collection tools
3.6 Target population and sampling
3.7 Data analysis and presentation
3.8 Ethical considerations
3.9 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Response rates
4.3 Presentation of findings obtained from the respondents
4. 4 Presentation of findings from the library system vendors
4.5 Conclusions reached
4.6 In summary
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Research questions and summary of findings
5.3 Conclusions reached
5.4 Recommended actions
5.5. Suggested strategic framework
5.6 Recommendations for further research
5.7 In summary

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