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    The database has been loaded and cleaned up to your satisfaction; the item inventory is complete; current cataloging and acquisition procedures are tested and operating smoothly; at last it's time to bring the system into production. Several approaches are available to ensure the smoothest possible transition of the IOLS into production.

    • The most straight-forward transition approach is to do it all at once. On the designated day, all use of the old system stops and all functions are performed on the new system. This approach can cause the least disruption because there is no concern with running two systems in parallel; the sudden change, however, can be unsettling for staff, especially if they are not completely comfortable with the new system. If you expect to use the total replacement approach, be sure that there is an adequate backup system so that any unexpected problems do not cause a disruption of service.

    • A very common approach to moving to a new system is to run the old and new systems in parallel until the new system is proven successful. The parallel systems method retains the old system for backup if there are any problems with the new one. This approach also makes it easy to compare the results of both systems and allows adjustments to the new system while bringing it into production. Running systems in parallel, however, requires a great deal of staff time and can be confusing for staff who may be more prone to make errors if they are confused about which system to use and the exact methods of operating each.

    • Probably the most frequently used approach to moving a library system into production is the phased or gradual method. As one part of the system is perfected and tested, that portion of the old system is dropped in favor of the new one. Once the database has been created, the online catalog may be ready for use so maintenance of the card catalog can stop. Libraries that have not completed a retrospective conversion may start with acquisitions as the logical entry point of information into the system. The phased approach is also appropriate in a multi-agency environment where one library location at a time is brought online. Gradual transition gives operators time to adjust and learn the new system although it can make the complete implementation process very slow.

    The right method of moving to the new system will depend on your library's situation and environment.

    Finally, when bringing your automated system into day-to-day operation in the library, do not forget your users! The system should be as carefully introduced to patrons as it is to library staff. Inform them before they actually have their first encounter with the system. If possible, explain the reasons behind any changes that will directly affect them (patron registration practices, for example). As with staff members and management, a positive and open attitude about the benefits of the new system will alleviate anxieties and generate enthusiasm.

Get Involved - After the Honeymoon

    If there is a users' group for the IOLS, get involved in it. This is an excellent opportunity to meet other users and discuss common ideas and concerns.

    Make sure the vendor offers a help desk for resolving questions or problems you encounter with the software. Ask the vendor to keep you informed of new product releases which may offer new features that benefit your library operation.

Just When You Thought It Was Over

    The evolutionary nature of the automation planning process requires ongoing management. Automation should not be managed as a discrete project but rather incorporated as an integral part of a total library system. Once the new system is integrated into daily procedures, you should evaluate the effectiveness of your plans and make adjustments as necessary.

    • Have you satisfied the goals that you set at the beginning of the project?
    • Are there enough public access terminals?
    • Are terminals and printers in the best locations?
    • Are users successful in their searching?
    • Has the cataloging backlog been reduced?

    Upon completing the implementation process for your new system, you will find that the evolutionary cycle that began with the needs assessment and systems analysis continues. Successful automated systems may require more capacity (more disks, extra terminals, more memory) to accommodate added modules or more users. New releases or versions of the software will need to be installed and tested. Database maintenance must be vigilant to facilitate continuing conversion, ensuring adherence to standards and evolving new ones. Your on-going automation plan will grow with your knowledge of the system to allow you to meet the challenge of managing an automated library.

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