Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history.
Joan Wallach Scott

Here at Huddersfield, we’ve had Horizon since 1995 and it was in place for nearly a decade before I started as Systems Manager in 2003. In 2004, we began the year-long process of going out to tender, evaluating the major competing systems — Unicorn, Millennium, Endeavor and Aleph — before deciding that nothing out there was considerably better than what we already had, and therefore it wasn’t worth the pain of changing the LMS. Plus, if we stayed with Horizon, we could eventually move to the all-singing and all-dancing Corinthian!

Within a few months of making that decision, Sirsi bought Dynix and then, just as we were about to formally commit ourselves to moving to Corinthian (aka Horizon 8.0), I got a phone call to tip me off that Horizon was now a dead duck. Oh well, three years of careful planning and change management down the drain!

Since then, we’ve been coasting along on Horizon v7.3.4 (UK) waiting for something better to come along. Speaking to other academic libraries over the years, “waiting for something better to come along” seems to be a standard refrain — as someone else once put it to me after a few glasses of wine at a library conference: “the system you’ve got is crappy and the other systems out there are just as crappy, so you may as well stay with the pile of crap you’ve already got!”

That’s not to say Horizon is crappy, but it is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose and Amy has outlined some of the issues in her blog posts — in particular, the manual batch nature of traditional library management systems, the emphasis on print management, the inability to easily interface with the university’s other key systems, and the duplication of effort required by staff make it difficult to improve workflow efficiency.

As we begin to look at the new web-scale systems — dubbed “Library Services Platforms” by Marshall Breeding — it seems obvious to me that they offer better scope for workflow efficiencies and interoperability with other corporate systems.

So, what would actually be the main barrier to moving to one of these systems?

Until this time last year, I’d have probably answered “concerns about the ability of the vendors to deliver a fully viable product”, but Marshall Breeding’s keynote at the MmIT Conference in Sheffield changed my mind. I’m paraphrasing Marshall here, but he said something like this: “don’t worry about the technology — these companies have a proven track record of delivering viable products — the biggest problem is going to be the cultural shift required within libraries, which will take decades.”

And, of course, Marshall is right. We all moan on about our library management systems — in fact, the only librarians I’ve spoken to in the last few years who seem to genuinely like their system were all college librarians using Heritage — but how willing are we to change to something better? The workflows might suck but, after nearly 20 years, the staff are used to them. We’ve found hack-y workarounds for the lack of interoperability that are good enough, thank you very much. Do we really want all our precious stuff to be out there in “the cloud”?

Amy’s already covered change management in a previous blog post and cultural change is one of the topics we’ll be discussing with other libraries at the HIKE workshop event next week, so I’ll report back with more thoughts after that! In the meantime, here’s some Bowie…

2 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!”

  1. hi
    Belfast Metropolitan College is in the process of moving from Horizon to another LMS. We have 4 demos next week Capita, Eos, Sierra and Softlink.
    Have you selected a system and what criteria did you use?

    thanks
    Liz

  2. Hi Liz

    We are planning to move to a new LMS (probably 2014), but it’s too early to say which one at this stage.

    regards
    Dave

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