Automation and Electronic Information Processing Systems in Library:
For more than twenty-five years, university libraries have been investing in information technology due to the awareness that to effectively and efficiently function in the face of increasing stock and variety of media, and provide services to an increasing number of users, they need up-to-date technical equipment. Therefore the fundamental motive behind the rapid adaptation of information technology is the desire for efficiency and rationalization in distribution and management. Paper library has been seen to have serious limitations that make automated and electronic libraries a matter of necessity. For example, it is a strictly localised medium since the resource and the user must be in the same place at the same time and only one person can in general; use a single paper document at a time. Secondly, paper, as a medium is rather inflexible since no reformatting can be done, and finally collections on paper become bulky and create storage problems.
One of the factors that have favoured application of Information Technology in libraries is the present technological trends characterized by improved performance by computers leading to computing power becoming extremely inexpensive, increasing ubiquity of telecommunications and very low cost data storage costs. Other favourable factors include decline in the price of personal computers, new forms of wide area networks using even virtual connections and availability of high density distribution media e.g. the CD-ROM. Library services are labour intensive and about two-thirds of library budget usually goes for labour and therefore since machines can be made more cost-effective in ways that human beings cannot, the use of machines is a viable alternative to increasing labour costs. In contrast, automation of library operations makes easy and less tedious the task of accurate updating of records in files, is likely to improve cost-effective performance by reducing the labour intensive activities and lead to increased effectiveness through decentralized access to records.
Initial automation covered repetitive library processes such as cataloguing, circulation and the aims were to reduce the cost and improve the timeliness of these operations. One of the significant results of automation activities is that electronic data processing in libraries has greatly revolutionized library and information services across the world. It has eradicated time-consuming routine activities, improved the performance of operational activities, and facilitated the collection of useful statistics. Therefore the use of electronic processing systems has enabled libraries to reorganize their work and make them rationalized through the use of detailed statistics thereby being able to conduct user studies and expand services. Through useful reports and more accurate information base more reasonable strategic and operational decision-making is possible.
Online public catalogues with good data organization and user guidance helps the user more accurately than paper catalogues in providing needed information and searches of all kinds are possible with better results while automated lending systems provide information to the user and the librarian on the location and lending status of a particular media and make it possible to renew or reserve it. Most other areas of library operation can also benefit from electronic data processing. These include collection building and budgeting, ordering and acquisition, journal administration, cataloguing and indexing.
As experience has shown, automation is not the panacea to all problems presented by the paper library. Although the automated library represents a significant improvement for those providing the service, it perpetuates some of the problems of the paper library. For example since collections are still in paper there is still need for a local collection, and the separation of documents from users. Issue of opening hours and competition for the use of copies of the same documents in the collection remain as much a problem in the automated library as paper library.
- Original Reference Article: Tonring, R. A. (2009, September 16). Managing the operating systems of university libraries in Tamilnadu A study. Alagappa University.