By Cecilia Cress
The Miller Library is currently undergoing the six-month-long process of transitioning between management systems. The migration began in July and is expected to be completed by December.
The library will switch from its current integrated system, Sierra, to the Folio system. Washington College has used the Sierra system since 1992. According to the Miller Library team, over time, the structure and resources this system provides have become outdated, and WC is due for a more modern upgrade.
The integrated library system manages virtually all library services offered to students, faculty, and staff, including the ordering of new books, research materials, records of who has what materials checked out, as well as outstanding balances an individual may have.
According to Dean of Library and Academic Technology Mary Alice Ball, this proposed migration has been in the works for over two years.
“When I came in, it was clear that we needed to replace the system,” Ball said.
While this change was in the works for years, significant progress was not made until Electronic Resources Librarian Cori Lynn Arnold, who has a background in systems development, joined the Miller Library team and, according to Ball, “took the lead in evaluating the different options that were out there.”
Not only have the Sierra system’s services become outdated, its security features have also been compromised, according to Arnold.
Provided by Elton B. Stevens Company Information Services, Folio is a newer, more efficient management system that is two-thirds the price of Sierra.
“It’s been interesting because you would think that the more sophisticated, up-to-date system would cost more, but that in fact is not the case at all,” Ball said. “[This] means we have more money to put into databases.”
Folio is an open source, cloud-based system. According to opensource.com, open source “refers to software that uses an open development process and is licensed to include source code.” This means that the library will be able to see the specific code pertaining to any features within the system.
“If we don’t understand how something works, we can go in and look at that. It’s good because we don’t have to worry about those proprietary things. We can verify for ourselves,” Arnold said.
According to Arnold and Ball, this update to an open sourced system is a significant step in keeping our library services up to date and in line with what other institutions use.
The other significant resource Folio provides is that it negates the need for a full-time systems librarian staff member, a role the College has recently struggled to fill.
Early in the process of deciding what changes needed to be made to the integrated library system, the team considered partnering with USMAI, The University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions.
Similarly, the library team is also moving forward with a smaller change concerning the Interlibrary Loan system with a new software called Tipasa, which will allow students to track their ILL orders.
“I think especially for faculty members or for seniors who are working on their Senior Capstone Experience, [or] for people that are doing a lot of research, ILL is going to be a gamechanger,” Ball said. “I think there will be a much faster turnaround, when people make a request and actually receive the item.”
According to the Miller Library team, the focus of this new system is to make library transactions easier and more efficient. This will not only allow the library to save money, but also explore better areas of service for staff, students, and other members of the community.
“We live in an age when cyber attacks [and] ransomware is a reality,” Ball said. “So for us to be able to protect student records, us as the College, I think is really important.”
Photo by Izze Rios