Automating a school library is the process which restructures its functions and reinvents its services. By keeping a database as the basis, automation converge new technologies of information storage and retrieval with traditional housekeeping operations. An automated school library can serve the teaching and learning community more effectively. A reduction in the time needed for routine operations can be utilized to give customized services to the users. The process of library automation has a short history in our country. It needs proper planning and active implementation. Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom initiated the automation of its library to cope with the ever changing needs of the students and staff. The modernization of the Library Media Centre helps the students to become skilled information users and life long learners.
Defining Library automation
Library automation may be defined as the application of computers to perform traditional library house keeping activities such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, reference and serials control.
Automation is used to reduce the amount of staff time devoted to repetitive (and often less challenging) activities that must be done in any properly functioning library. It is to remember that, various library operations are automated, not the library as such.
History of Library automation
Punched cards were invented by Hollerith in 1880 and used in tabulating the US census data. The library at the University of Texas was perhaps the first to use punched cards in 1936 for circulation control. The Library of congress used the unit record machines for the production of catalogues in 1950. Many libraries in the US followed the system for automating their activities.
Library automation entered into its second era in 1960s with the advent of computers. The notable ventures were MEDLARS, MARC, etc. Until the early 1990s, “automating the library” involved generally the same features as those in place since the advent of machine readable cataloguing record in the late 1960s.Libraries created integrated text based systems using micro/mini computers in which traditional library housekeeping operations were computerized using the library’s database as the foundation.
In the last decade, library automation has undergone a transformation that reflects changing definitions of library service in general and access to resources in particular. The introduction of global networking such as internet, cheap availability of technology and new media technologies made information more accessible.
Today’s integrated library systems must not only provide modules which automate traditional library functions but also capable of connecting through the local systems into systems of other information or knowledge suppliers, databases and internet.
School library automation
School libraries started automation in the West in 1960’s. Many schools in the US and European countries automated their library operations in a large scale in 1980s with the advent of microcomputers. Nowadays they are integrated with modern information networks which allow the students to access up-to-date information with ease.
In1962 INSDOC experimented the preparation of a Union Catalogue of scientific serials. The Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC) introduced Docfinder (a computer used for finding documents) in 1968. The library automation in India was a slow process and got momentum in 1980s.Research and technical institutions were the forerunners and academic libraries followed them. New professional library management software packages entered in to the Indian market and some Indian companies also tried to make it with Indian flavour.
Some libraries run by Public Schools became automated in late 1980s. More schools entered in the foray in 1990s with more funds and infrastructure. The schools in Govt. sector those had good libraries had been following the conventional library concepts and never looked for automation due to lack of funds.
New millennium witnessed tremendous developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and the concepts of school libraries changed from mere storehouses of books to well-organized library media centers with variety of services (online and offline). Some educational institutions were the torchbearers, but most of them are lagging miles behind.