Library systems and the needs of staff

The staff perspective on the LMS

Most libraries report that their LMSs are reliable, efficient and functional. Their main advantage for students and other users, over alternative routes to information, is seen as their ability to find specific items and report availability. On the other hand around two thirds of respondent agreed that the disadvantages to users were that they were ‘clunky,’ limited to the catalogue and had low visibility to users. From a staff use point of view 70% of respondents said that (lack of) corporate integration was the major disadvantage. Only 9% of respondents (this is a library staff perspective) said they were (definitely) not satisfied with their LMS.
The UK picture is not out of line with that in the USA. In January 2008 Marshall Breeding published the results of his LMS satisfaction study, which although international is cope was heavily biased in results from the USA . Nevertheless, in North America, there a very vocal minority make their strong dissatisfaction with the library vendors. ‘These companies have become unresponsive to the collective goals of our profession and, like so much of our society these days, are no longer focused on the we but the me. It is a sad state of affairs and one that will not be tolerated.’ This attitude reveals a sense of market failure, which needs a structural solution.
Some see Open Source as the salvation and this has led to a small but growing number of Open Source LMS being installed, largely in North America. UK HE library attitudes to Open Source are described later.

What is missing from the LMS?

Libraries were asked to comment on ‘what functionality, if any, is missing from the LMS. There is a wide variety of responses but certain key themes emerged, which are listed below (in order of how often they were mentioned) with some associated comments from libraries.

Improved user interface/interaction
  • ‘Web 2.0 functionality in OPAC’
  • ‘Lack of 'Web 2.0' type components in end user interface’
  • ‘Some aspects of personalisation’
  • ‘Intuitive and modern interface, Web 2.0, etc’
  • ‘Faceted searching. More intelligence assistance re expanding a users search’
  • ‘Vertical, search functionality, personalisation, visualisation, integration’
  • ‘Web 2.0 technologies i.e. RSS feeds, tagging, reviews etc.’
  • 'Integration with external systems and the open APIs to do this easily''
  • ‘Web services/APIs to allow customers to develop their own add on functionality’
  • ‘Ability to interact with corporate institutional systems. Lack of ability to extract data in the format we would prefer’
  • ‘MLE integration’
  • ‘Integration with University finance system and student registry’
  • 'Electronic Resource Management''
  • ‘ERM - electric resources management functionality is completely missing’
  • ‘Electronic resource management - but this kind of functionality is now being delivered by products outside of the traditional LMS’
  • ‘E-resource management – why does this need to be an additional plug-in which has to be purchased (it is a 'library' management system not a system for books and journals - maybe LMS needs to be renamed’''Reading Lists capability''*‘Need better reading list system fully integrated with the VLE, and e-material’
  • ‘Management of course reading material’
  • ‘Reading lists. Third party developed products which provide lots of additional functionality (especially in batch editing) should have been incorporated into the core product by now’

Better Management reporting capabilities
  • ‘Easy-to-use reporting - e.g. statistics.’
  • ‘Easily accessed reports on services / resources (document supply, acquisitions, usage stats, etc.)’
  • ‘Budget management - and ability to extract data that is meaningful’
  • 'Inter-Library-Loan (ILL)''
  • ‘ISO ILL’
  • ‘Poor ILL functionality; lack of ability to link with inter / intra-institutional systems’
  • ‘Better ILL functionality (the UK is different from the rest of the world in having the BLDSC!).’