School Library Automation

By K.T. Lam

for the In-service Training Course for Teacher-Librarians
Organized by the HK Education Department

18 December 2001

Reading List

Text books:

Automating media centers and small libraries: a microcomputer-based approach / Dania Bilal Meghabghab. Englewood, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 1997.

Planning for automation : a how-to-do-it manual for librarians /John M. Cohn, Ann L. Kelsey, Keith Michael Fiels. 2nd ed. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1997.


L. Anne Clyde. "School library automation : is it an option". School libraries in Canada.  Vol. 20, No.1. 2000. p.2-4.

Hong Kong Education Department. 香港學校圖書館自動化軟件測試報告. 2000.

Understanding MARC bibliographic: machine-readable cataloging / Betty Furrie.  Available:

What is Library Automation?


Library automation can be defined simply as the use of computer and networking technologies in the library.

Areas of Library Automation:

Objectives of Library Automation:

Automation of Library Functions



Examine the library functions available in a library automation system.

Organizational Factors for Changes


Organizational Factors

Human Factors of Library Automation


"The greatest marvel of technology is that if it breaks down, we can fix it; if it has flaws, we can debug it; if it doesn't work at all, we can ignore it; and if it works well , we can make it work better.  No one has as yet figured out a way to debug the human factor.  It is the most complicated aspect of any technological system, yet it's the one that gets the least attention, is least discussed, the least researched, and perhaps the least understood." -- Fine (1982, p. 209).  In Information technology : critical choices for library decision makers / edited by Allen Kent and Thomas J. Galvin. New York : M. Dekker, 1982.

Automation Costs


Library Automation Steps


Planning is time-consuming, but it is usually cost-effective because time spent planning reduces the amount of time required for system implementation. Steps involved are:

Step 1: Understanding existing library services and technology

Step 2: Assessing needs and setting priorities

Step 3: Translating needs and priorities into specifications

Step 4: Evaluating proposals and selecting a system

Step 5: Putting your system into place

Step 6: Retrospective conversion and barcoding

-- Extracted from: Planning for automation : a how-to-do-it manual for librarians /John M. Cohn, Ann L. Kelsey, Keith Michael Fiels. 2nd ed. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1997

Automation Options


Bibliographic Standards


"The creation of a high-quality, machine-readable database provides the cornerstone upon which all future automation efforts will rest. Vendors may come and go, hardware may become obsolete, software may be replaced, but a well-constructed, well-maintained database, with its accompanying local holdings, will be the library's transportable and viable link from system to system." -- extracted from John M. Cohn, etc. Planning for automation, 1992.

Why bibliographic standards?

Major Bibliographic Standards


Descriptive Cataloging

Classification schemes

Subject heading schemes

Metadata standards

Character sets

Protocol for Information Retrieval


What is a MARC record? A MARC record is a MAchine-Readable Cataloging record.

Machine-readable: "Machine-readable" means that one particular type of machine, a computer, can read and interpret the data in the cataloging record.

Cataloging record: "Cataloging record" means a bibliographic record , or the information traditionally shown on a catalog card. The record includes:

-- Extracted from

MARC 21 Bibliographic Format - Content Designation


When the Library of Congress began to use computers in the 1960s, it devised the LC MARC format, a system of using numbers, letters, and symbols within the cataloging record itself to mark different types of information. The original LC MARC format evolved into MARC 21 and has become widely used by libraries worldwide.

All universities and public libraries in Hong Kong use MARC 21.  Major library automated systems in use in Hong Kong school libraries are also based on MARC 21.  Note that some regions uses other versions of MARC.  For example, China Mainland uses CN-MARC, which is an application of IFLA's UNIMARC format.

"It was in the mid and late 1980s that the structure of the databases in [school] library applications began to surface as an issue. Early systems used fairly standard database structures such as dBase, and record definitions varied, based on "common sense", and "what the librarian needs".  Things really came to a head when some bodies started insisting that government would fund only those systems that could import, store, and export full MARC records." -- Extracted from Albert P. Calame. "Hitting the MARC database structure for library automation". School libraries in Canada. Vol. 20, No. 1 -200, p.5.

A sample MARC 21 record displayed on a computer screen:

Sample USMARC Record

Each bibliographic record is divided logically into fields.  There is a field for the author, a field for the title information, and so on.  The name of these fields are represented by 3-digit tags.  For example, Tag 100 is the author field, Tag 245 is the title information field.

Some fields are further defined by indicators, the two single-digit numbers following the tag, to indicate something special about the data that follows.  For example, the value in the second indicator of Tag 245 indicates the number of characters at the beginning of the title to be disregarded by the computer in the sorting and filing process.

Most fields are subdivided into one to several pieces of data. Each of these subdivided data within the field is called subfield. Each subfield is preceded by a subfield delimiter and a subfield code.  For example, "|b" means subfield "b", where "|" is the subfield delimiter and "b" is the subfield code.

ISO 2709

MARC 21 defines a standard for the markup of bibliographic data.  ISO 2709 defines how the marked up record is formatted so that it can be read by computer programs and can be transferred among computers.  ISO 2709 is usually referred to as the MARC communications format.  The following figure shows the screen dump of the ISO 2709 format of the above sample MARC 21 records:

ISO 2709

ISO 2709 format consists of three components:

Does the Library Automation System Make Full Use of MARC?


Download a MARC 21 record from a Hong Kong School Library Union Catalog on the Web and import it to a local library system.

Library Automation System Selection Guidelines


1. The library automation software must be developed and designed based on the best practices that are internationally adopted in the library profession. These include:

2. The library automation software must be supported by a team that processes library experience and qualification. This is essential to ensure that the team understand the library requirements and at the same time is able to provide professional advices to the libraries.

3. The software vendor (or developer) must have long-term commitment on the further development of the software. Particularly:

4. The library automation software must be able to support Hong Kong school library environment, these includes:

Hints for Viewing System Demonstrations


Bibliographic Data Conversion

Barcoding the Collection


Barcoding is the process by which a barcode label is attached to an item in the library's collection.

Barcodes serve as a computerized accession number - a unique identifier that links a specific book, journal issue, compact disc, etc., to the item record that describes it.

Methods of barcoding the library collection:

Patron Data Conversion and Barcoding




System Management Cycle


System Management Circle

Typical School Library System Configuration


 School Library System Configuration

One File Server

One to Two Public Workstations

One Circulation Workstation

One Staff Workstation


Typical Configuration


Server Workstation

The Internet


The Internet is a computer network made up of thousands of networks worldwide.


The Internet spreads across the globe into over 200 countries and territories. All computers on the Internet communicate with one another using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol suite, abbreviated to TCP/IP. Computers on the Internet use a client/server architecture. This means that the remote server machine provides files and services to the user's local client machine.

Client/Server Model of the Internet

Connecting to the Internet


Internet's Challenges to Teacher-Librarians


Acquire the skills on using the Internet

Participate in various teacher-librarians related news groups and email lists, to

Maintain WWW pages that links to useful Internet resources relevant to Hong Kong schools libraries for easy access by teachers, students, parents and librarians.

Produce local school library resources

Train teachers and students to use the Internet

Assist the school administration to formulate Internet use policies on

What is a Digital Library?

With the advances in information technology and the popularity of the Internet, more and more reference resources, which were once available only in books and journals, are now widely available electronically on the network. Libraries are no longer bound within their walls. Not only the library has the option to access a wide range of databases, but also the alternative to digitize their resources and mount them on the network to provide broader access of its collection.


A library is considered as a  digital library if it provides

A digital library usually has:

Two other meanings of digital libraries:

CD-ROM Networking


Why networking CD-ROMs?

Methods of networking CD-ROMs within a LAN:

Sharing CD-ROM drive on a computer

CD-ROM Tower

CD-ROM Server

Issues on software installation

Remote access

 Migration of CD-ROM databases to Web-based

Revised 17 December 2001. Copyright by K.T. Lam.