Saturday, November 29, 2014

Automation of special library operations and services

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

Automation of special library operations and services

P- 15. Special and Research Libraries *

By :malhan v,Paper Coordinator


The objectives of this lesson are to know about the prospective of library automation and the services, can best be rendered through an automated library. An historical background of library automation history both at the global an Indian context are highlighted. The technical facilities required for library automation and its usefulness in providing library services is also delineated. Further the chapter will also help us knowing the objectives, need and purpose behind the library automation of any library in general and special library in particular. These are underlined as follows:
  • Explains the need , purpose and objectives of library automation in special library in particular);  
  • Describes various areas and steps in library automation;
  • Explains brief history of library automation with specific reference to India;
  • Examines how and in which ways the library automation helps in library services;
  • Highlights the trend in library automation.


The chapter begins with the objectives and summaries; then follows the details about library automation. The meaning of library automation is described along with few definitions by library professionals taken both from important books and some library periodicals. The benefits of library automation are summarized in two broad categories. On the one hand six areas of library work; circulation control, cataloguing, reference service, acquisitions and serials control. On the other, services apart from the regular library activities are also described. The former, library activities mostly referred as housekeeping jobs in which the library personnel are engaged in regular and day to day activities, in other words getting ready for the users. The latter category is generally meant for the users and in these categories services come under; CAS SDI and others. While describing some of the revolutions in computing used in library automation are also cited including both free and the softwares distributed by the vendors. While narrating the library automation scenario, Indian context has been kept in mind in particular.       


The famous Indian library scientist S.R Ranganathan in his prediction through his five laws of library science was of the opinion that ‘library is a growing organism’. Library as an organization has grown to such an extent that it is often difficult to control over its activities. Internal departments or sectors are being added day by day with new work activities, overwhelming users have been attached with these organizations with articulate expectations of their desired information. Subjects are also expanded with their core and interdisciplinary developments; so that control over these areas has also been difficult for the library staff to get readies themselves for rendering the services for its users.  Library automation not only gets better the image of the library staff but also provides supplementary services to the users with the existing personnel. The libraries once started with their activities manually have switched over to their activities with fully automatic mode or semi-automatic mode. With the advent of the computer and other related technologies have great impact on these information intermediaries professionals. Probably the librarians and the libraries have taken the maximum utilization of this computing development. All the aspects of library activities have now been fully or particularly automated through basic computing as well with high software technology. The impact of mechanization on the library is quite obvious; it creates new situation where each function redefines the conventional organizational structure and renovate it into new institutional entries.   

The following descriptions will narrate the historical development of library automation both at global and Indian context.  The need and purpose of library automation and in some cases success stories are also narrated along with the prominent areas in which the automations process have been fully utilized. 


Library automation, stated in single term, is the application of computers and utilization of computer based product and services in the performance of different library operations and functions in provision of various services and production of output products. Uddin is of the opinion “Library automation may be defined as the application of automatic and semiautomatic data processing machines (computers) to perform traditional library housekeeping activities such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing and reference and serials control. Today “Library Automation” is by far the most commonly used terms to describe the mechanization of library activities using the computer (Uddin, 2009).”  These activities are not necessarily performed in traditional ways, the activities themselves are those traditionally associated with libraries; library automation may thus be distinguished from related fields such as information retrieval fields such as information retrieval, automatic indexing and abstracting and automatic textual analysis” (Kent).”  

All these definitions cited have cumulatively arrived at a consensus that library automation means how library activities are facilitated or eased through the use of technology specially the computing technology. All the definitions provided in the library literature broadly and narrowly explained the usefulness of technology in handling the regular and occasional activities of library works. Though some says it helps largely in the area of cataloguing others affirms its usefulness in classification. Circulation activities are also accelerated with qualities by using this computing techniques and automation also helps in doing reference works. No doubt library automation has helped and also promises a big future in all the activities starting from acquisition to the end-user aspect of information activities in a library. 

Characteristics of automated system

The characteristics of an automated system are:
1.  The library operation is carried out fully or partially automatically;
2.  The automated system saves labour power and reduces human interferences in attending the goals;
3.  The automated system enhances both qualitative and quantitative efficiency in library work productivity. 


For many reasons library automation was a long due, now it is there to see with all libraries in its operation. Since the day of invention of computing and other technologies the human being has started harvesting the usefulness of technological developments. As all aspects of human activities are not free from the use of any machine or computer in particular, similar is the case with library activities. Even those libraries are not even affected, today or tomorrow they shall have to connect themselves to this charismatic usefulness of technology. The first and foremost need is to enhance the human skills with the help of library automation. To save time and facilitate the quick service, automation helps in acquisition activities, so that all detailed record can be stored in procurement related works. Once the book steps in, inside the library, it requires further activities and some of those include the mind work. The knowledge organization activities of libraries largely include cataloguing and classification is also done with library automation. With the help of different sophisticated techniques the class numbers are assigned through auto generated system and the cataloguing process are easily done through the automation software and further gets manifold benefits through these. Circulation and the reference works also conducted with precision so that the library users are happy with their information seeking. All these developments compelled the libraries to have a library automation system. 

Areas of Automation

The acquisition facilities with heavy procurement and the statistics related activities in this operation are successfully being done with automation facilities. Sometimes acquisition, specific customized-development programmes are generated and now acquisition operation is part of a integrated library automation software. Customize acquisition system and its implementation option in automated application, can be regenerated to a particular library specification. But these days’ tailor-made low cost integrated automation packages are plenty available so that the job of acquisition has become simpler. The technical researchers or technology students, design this software as part of their internship so that making use of these tools is not at all difficult. The very extensive statistics can be generated, regenerated, packaged and repackaged the way the library staff desire can also be possible through this software. Automatic indication of consumption of budget and the remaining budget, books on approval and books selected can be highlighted in the computer screen easily which helps in maintenance. Sometimes this integrated package helps to future use of previous data is also possible. The surprise and accidental search of recommendation of a particular book, recommended by which department with date and time is also possible. Approval and recommended forms by the faculties and research scholars is available through the library websites, so that recommending persons can send their recommendations through mail also without coming to the library in person.

 3.2.2   Cataloguing
Cataloguing is one of the key areas of knowledge organization activities of library in which automation process have great promises to be used in. Descriptive cataloguing which claims to be seeking more-mind activities of the library staff or the cataloguing personnel. This activity is no way consumes less time. Probably for these reasons the backlogs of the library materials are piled up and gets clear very slow. By the result the library materials procured are visible in library catalogues very late which hampers and also hides from the user’s knowledge. For further simplification in decision making to tag the subject heading for each book the library staff seeks helps from other libraries who have already done cataloguing of those materials. One of the examples is Library of Congress which prepares machine readable catalogue, so that other libraries can get benefit in providing subject description for their titles. Now this activity has become simple as it all available through online. The library softwares  are so intellectually built-in, any input given  to the system, it resulted series of book descriptors. Many controlled vocabularies and subject headings list are also available in the market and have developed mechanism through their online visibility, from anywhere and everywhere any library can avail the desired book descriptors by feeding the titles or natural language inputs.

In cataloguing sectors, library automation is of immense useful in producing computer generated catalogues. In addition to, using computers to facilitate access to cataloguing copy, libraries have almost engaged in computer-based solutions to the problems of card catalogues. The most frequently talked of such problems include large space consumption, purchase of high cost cabinets and other supporting furnitures, time consuming and manpower intensive catalogue maintenance routines, the choice and form of entries and limited and accurate retrieval capabilities. These traditional problems have been reduced by replacing card catalogues with computer based or online catalogues through its anywhere and everywhere availabilities. OPAC, online public access catalogue is tremendously working with the help of automation process,  so that the users need not to access to know the status of a book or the library materials issued to them by only coming to the library. They can access through at any gathering places, may be in their residences or hostels. Further Web-OPAC or the online version of library catalogue of a library is also globally available. 

3.2.3    Circulation
Automated circulation control was a long time due and solved by the automation process. The manually handling of circulation work was not only labour –intensive but time consuming also. The routine record keeping work, inaccuracy and inability to generate library statistics about circulation activities, and maintaining the files related to circulation was all cumbersome task before the libraries. Now the circulation control is visibly one of the most widely automated library operations which made possible to control over the large users and handling of large books.

Though different libraries have their own circulation policies and sometimes with local variations with check-out and check-in procedure is successfully understood by automation software developers as the work is straightforward and has similar features with big shops handling their customers. So the computer engineers didn’t take much difficulty in developing successful library software with its time to time amendments.  This is the area which has reflected changes in state of the act data processing technologies. Though in big libraries especially in the special libraries and some university libraries across the world and in India are using the vendor developed circulation control system but the input provided by the library staff in a regular intervention has made the software upgradation possible. Once the circulation system is generated the libraries can have many nodal station or circulation counters for its regular or peak days. A large customers lined up will be vanished with in no time actor checking in and checking out of their library materials. The lesser scanner attached with the system handling the circulation activities can easily scanned the tag attached in the library materials for check in and check outs. With the user friendliness of the library softwares the barcode containing details of both users and the library materials are developed very smoothly by the library staff. Its development has reached at such a stage that without even help of library staff the users can operate for operations other than check-in and check-out of the books. This circulation system is multifaceted in many ways as it quickly gives the data of tracking the record of a book circulation. Whether the book is issued to a person with his/her users details, whether it has long due to get back to the libraries are all available through this circulation system.

3.2.4 Reference Service
Reference service of a library though of rare use in some cases with its optimum use in academic and research libraries are found to be one of the key services in library activities. This service is to be given by the reference service department of the library often named as reference librarian. Though these reference librarians are trained in a specific format being aware of almost all basic knowledge of all the subjects still faces difficulties in consulting the manually available tools. Which further make a bad reputation for the library as the information is sometimes too general and not rendered through a stipulated time? The advancement of technology the tools are sometimes generated by the library or regenerated through the tools available by the vendors commercially in the form of CD-ROM. Now the library automation is fully equipped with commercially available tools through their online versions and some open source tools are freely manage to have entry into the reference section of a library. All these are possible through the help of different use of computers and its modern versions of digital library.   

3.2.5    Serial Control
Though of late, serial control activities have greatly been included in library automation activities. The serials are those collections sometimes the universities are known for them. Research is very much affected by both quality and quantitative aspect of serials subscribed to the libraries. The primary job of this department is to simply maintain the subscription, renewal and other regular correspondence with the subscription agencies. These days almost all library automation software have special distinctive feature for serial control. Prior to this manually handling of these resources with spreadsheet and other simple table generated pages have already been replaced. Many international vendors have designed their own serial control system which they sell out to the libraries or sometimes as free of cost along with the large subscription. All the features of serials are included in this module including its ISSN number, the old and the new titles, if any, if merged with others, and special issues related to any specific topic including the exact range of pages. It further helps to locate and to trace by the keywords which is helpful for the users and to get their author’s copy sometimes if it is subscribed by the author’s parent institute.

3.2.6    Other services
The above mentioned services are mostly tagged as internal services in which the libraries are engaged to be ready for the users which sometimes also called housekeeping services. The other services are seems to be adding up as technological developments are increasing day by day and the demand from the users are also escalating. Current awareness services and selective dissemination of information are two key important services imparted by the libraries. Though there are many sometimes unnamed, but all these are possible through library automation services. 

Historical Development

As everything has history this library automation is not free from that.  The technological variations, geographically affect in its use and implementation, this too has happened in both European and non-European countries. Budget was also a constraint and even now this constraint prevails. The popularity of common technology especially computers are basically a European phenomena later reached into Asian and African nations. So far computing is concerned simple computers or micro computers were engaged in the automation activities. Among the Asian countries Japan China and India were leading in the automation field. Many tools especially for preservations on storage have their own history. CD-ROM once ruled for years but now it is online or digital. Due to the popularity of internet the libraries are connected to these world digital features so that the library resources can be accessed anytime at anywhere across the globe. Previously the users run into the library space for searching their resources in their library later on it was upgraded to the wider area through LAN and WAN. Now library automation activities are visibly present in almost all types of libraries starting from the beginning of a school library to university library, public library to special library. Geographically all the locations of the world European and non-European countries have developed into almost all uniform forms of activities. The agencies are coming forward to facilitate these automation activities. UNESCO played a major role in popularizing the library software CDS/ISIS especially among the developing nations. The parent institutions have started allocating separate budget for all these activities. This is of course a good sign for library automation. 


Intellectually, automation is easy and rather comfortable, even though it demands considerable management skill and technological judgment to implement. It does not usually challenge fundamental assumptions about roles and missions. The great thing about automation is that you already know where you are heading and what you are trying to do. Libraries must now turn their attention to defining their mission activities in relationship to their transforming context—the information technology revolution in teaching, learning, and research. Our country (India) is very much behind in computer application in library operations and services. The reasons could be many; however, the situation is changing fast. Conditions are turning to be favorable and also the government is laying great emphasis on modernization, which covers libraries as well. Above all library professionals are getting motivated and showing keenness to get trained to take up computer based work. (Harinarayana, 1991). The future trend leads to further development of library automation. This has become inevitable to get the library automated. This mandate has become true for many reasons as the users don’t have time fur the resource collections and also generalized information has replaced by specified information resources. As the parent organizations are aware of this automated activities they also avoided the budget constraints. In case of special libraries attached with research organizations are availing a good share for library related activities. The green signal from the government is extended as research and development has direct impact on the development of a nation. At the same time the open source movement has cleared the barriers in purchasing the software available in the market. If you look at the Indian scenario using open source softwares DSpace and KOHA, a lot many institutions have implemented library automation facilities. The young and energetic librarians with the encouragement from the parent bodies have implemented all these open sources in engineering colleges, mostly run by private bodies. UNESCO also distributed free of cost CDS/ISIS software in India, so that a popular movement was started. Whatever the limitations were there with this UNESCO product, it was replaced with UGC’ Inflibnet’s with its product SOUL software. The SOUL was distributed with free of cost or with little charges mostly to traditional college libraries and some instances of university libraries also. A professional vendor is rather popular in using its LYBSIS, among special libraries and some university libraries. For its high-cost, the college libraries are not able to afford rather they prefer with minimal activities with the government product SOUL software.

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