Last week, Mary called me and asked me to come in and have a look at the demonstration disc of Oliver Library Management System that Softlink forwarded to the school. The school is coming closer to making a decision and would like the final assessment of the three systems with a recommendation. They hope to make a decision by the end of term three.
On Tuesday 28th June, Mary and I sat in her office and went through the demonstration disc together. After having a good look at it and discussing the benefits, we determined that Oliver, while more expensive than Destiny and Access-it, appeared to have the easiest interface to navigate and appeared the most user friendly.
Visually it is the least cluttered, has a very appealing visual search and seems very straightforward to follow and hence easy to utilise. The system needs to cater to Primary school based clientele; Of the three systems Oliver by far seems to be the best able to cater to a younger clientele. It is the only system of the three that has a junior interface with the development of Oliver Jnr. The other two do not have any separately developed interface therefore they are a one size fits all from K-12 and would require greater input from a school to customize.
We determined that ease of use is at the top of the criteria in making a decision. Of the three systems we have looked at Oliver appears to be the easiest to navigate and use. Destiny and Access-it are both great but require more technical know-how; similar to skills required in websites or blogs. Access-it is the least prescriptive in appearance and requires a greater amount of time to set up in appearance. Destiny has a standard appearance that may be utilised but appears quite fiddly. Access-it and Destiny are quite similar in functionality but seem to be geared towards older students. While Access-it and Destiny both have a visual search interface you can choose, it is not as easy or accessible as the visual interface of Oliver. Oliver‘s visual appeal is strongest with the least cluttered appearance and a greater ability to provide access to very young students, including Prep-2. This makes navigation very easy for children who are just learning to read.
The school does not have a teacher librarian and as a result, ease of use as a consideration is further strengthened. The system needs to be easy to use by all patrons including Casual relief teachers, parents, students and teaching staff. A system that is easy to navigate without needing too much direct instruction is necessary. Of the three Oliver fits this criteria the best. During a library session, a CRT can easily step in and provide assistance with a system like Oliver as the interface is quite self explanatory.
Cataloging~In terms of cataloging, Oliver seemed to provide the easiest process. As all programs are web based, they integrate well with SCIS and reduce steps to importing MARC records thereby reducing the overall process. However, Oliver from the demonstration CD seemed the easiest to follow. More follow up is needed with regards to spine label types and suppliers though.
With Destiny we noted that at the High School we visited they were still trying to work out functionality of the program six months after implementation. They received initial training sessions and were awaiting another training session. They have a teacher librarian who can coordinate this and drive the process. This brings us back to absence of a teacher librarian at the school. If a school does not have a teacher librarian, they need a system that will prove very easy to adapt to and Destiny and Access-it may be a bit more difficult than Oliver in this regard. Mary liked the look of Oliver and the ease of use it presented compared to the other two systems.
Of the three systems, Oliver appears to be the one that can be set up and be ready to go without needing too much customisation. The other two systems needed greater customisation and an understanding of web creation tools to enhance the system will be necessary. Unfortunately, the school is very limited in this capacity and unless there is a teacher librarian, as a dedicated person to drive this aspect, then the system will not be able to meet its full potential.
All three systems will provide the ability to be networked beyond the library walls and beyond the school walls. The library can be accessed from homes with passwords connecting with the relevant links and pathfinders, students should be able to come to websites that have been evaluated via the system. Oliver has the added benefit of a built in simple newsletter template that informs patrons of new books/websites, events such as book week or author focus and so forth ~ useful in promoting the library and learning links.
In terms of making a final assessment, we still need to visit a school that is utilising Oliver. We can then see it in action and be able to ask questions of the school about their evaluation. Mary and I plan to organise a visit early next term for this purpose. Stay tuned for Part 5 in transforming to a Library 2.0…
All in all, the absence of a teacher librarian is screaming out loud and it is clear that no matter how hard one tries, a school library cannot meet its potential without a teacher librarian. The school library will always remain under-utilised, not resourced effectively and with core learning such as information literacy missing or misunderstood. It is difficult to thrust a school library to the centre of all learning when there is an absence of a teacher librarian.
On that note a bit of advocacy for Teacher Librarians is more than warranted; especially in our current lean economic climate with regards to schooling in Victoria!