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Purchasing an ILS (Part 1): Identify your current needs and explore your longer-term vision (3-5 years)

Part 1 is all about planning, and is essential for the rest of the process to run smoothly. This part can be challenging, but writing down the answers to these questions is a good place to start:

  • What is your timeline?
  • Can you establish an internal team to assist with the work or do you have sole responsibility for this task? If you have sole responsibility, you might want to sign up for some library-related listservs and inquire about others’ experiences.
  • Are you automating your library or looking to upgrade your existing system? If your systems hasn’t been automated, you will need to plan for retrospective conversion (see definition in the list) of your library’s titles.
  • How many titles do you have in your collection?
  • Will you need to weed your collection before automating or migrating it to the new ILS?
  • Are you a lending library?
  • Who are your patrons/clients?
  • Will your library need to be publicly accessible via an OPAC?
  • Are you wanting a commercial ILS or an open-source system? The Library Success Wiki has a good page that lists some of the open-source ILSes currently being used. Brenda Chawner also developed a bibliography on open-source in libraries (last updated in June 2006). One system, Evergreen, is not identified in either of these resources though and should also be looked at if you intend to explore this area further.
  • What type of special library do you manage (some systems are geared to specific special libraries)?
  • What do you envision for your library in the next 3-5 years?
    • Estimate the size of your collection
    • Will your patrons remain the same?
    • How is your subject area (if your library is subject-specific) changing?

The main thing to do during this time is to brainstorm your current needs and future vision. When you start working with vendors, they will ask you these (and other) questions. 

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