Librarians on the move

By Sundeep Vaid

Say the word “librarian” and nine times out of ten most people will conjure up an image of a frail old person stooped over stacks of books. Guess what? Nowadays, nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m writing from a conference hosted by the University of Warsaw and for the past three days I’ve been in the midst of 140 librarians from 15 countries and believe me, they’re a dynamic lot. We’re all users of the VTLS library system, the software our library recently adopted. The group meets annually to share experiences and discuss future innovations.

Sharing ideas 
The knowledge-sharing circle provided a forum for the exchange of ideas. There is room to propose and debate about new features we would like to see in the next release of the software. From my side, among other things, I proposed that the next developments should focus on the following important features.

After any search, a user should be proposed with the following options:

  • Staff who borrowed this also borrowed these items.. 
  • See related books from… (this feature would be great for enriching our book collection and targeting it to user needs as it could prompt users to propose new books for the library collections) 
  • Search term / tag clouds that show most popular searches and show the focus of our collection. 
VTLS has promised to look into these enhancements and if successful will include them in its product development stream. This way, it distributes these features free of charge to our user community in the next upgrade of the system.

Sharing experiences 
There was a special session in which volunteers spoke about their recent experiences and new activities they are carrying out. I went over our travails in migrating from the old ISIS system to the current one and how our users find the new library system more friendly to use.

Participants were particularly intrigued when I told them about the daily press clipping service. They saw merit in this in the way we are using it as a vehicle to promote library holdings. If you are a subscriber to the daily clipping service, then you may have noticed how at times, a news item is presented side-by-side with a related journal article or a recent book. The other librarians saw the potential in this for their organizations.

Very few libraries have an Amazon Kindle so I informed the audience that the IFAD library has just purchased this e-book reader to test its uptake by users. Staff can now load numerous e-books and their pdf files of reports to read while on mission.

One full day was dedicated to training. I attended the reports and statistics session. Among other things, I can now tell which search terms are being used the most by IFAD library users.

Learning about new developments 
VTLS showcased its new smartphone app, Mozgo. The application is distributed to users through the iTunes Store or Android Marketplace and enables them to connect directly to the library catalogue to provide real-time information. This is something our library could adopt in the near future.

Making new partners 
This was the first time I am attending this annual get-to-gether. I really found it useful to link up with other libraries. One particular partnership that I was able to cultivate is the library of Warsaw University (our host) and Lund and Uppsala Universities in Sweden. This will now allow our library users to avail of their extensive journal collections within the umbrella of inter-library loan arrangement. It’s been a hectic three days of learning and sharing experiences. I think very soon we will see such a session hosted in Rome!