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Award Report: Library Consortium and Open Source–SENYLRC

The Southeastern New York Library Resources Council (SENYLRC) received a Technology Immersion Award from NN/LM MAR to develop and provide web-discovery portals and enhanced catalog systems to health sciences libraries in the Hudson Valley region in New York. By incorporating two-open source solutions (Koha Integrated Library System and the Drupal Content Management System) and successfully implementing both for two pilot libraries, SENYLRC is positioned to offer these same, centrally hosted and much improved services to the remaining health science libraries in the region. SENYLRC can also serve as a model for the delivery of low-cost, high-tech solutions to other consortia and multi-site institutions.   Through the improved platforms developed with the help of this award, SENYLRC member libraries will be better able to meet hospital user needs and have a new web-based discovery service which libraries could not achieve on their own.  Librarians, health-care professionals, staff, and patients will have a much improved searching and retrieval capability and therefore enhanced access to licensed, library-developed, and librarian-identified, free internet medical information resources.

Librarians from the Nathan Kline Institute Health Science Library and Vassar Brothers Medical Center Medical Library worked closely with SENYLRC staff and contracted programmers to develop additional functionality, test and evaluate the Koha integrated library system software, and to create new Drupal-based library website templates. The project resulted in two separate instances of a discovery platform, allowing each of the pilot libraries to better target the needs of their unique and very different user communities. The templates can be adapted and customized, and will allow librarians to generate their own content with a limited amount of training.

Through this pilot project, SENYLRC staff acquired the necessary experience with open source software to continue expanding the project implementations to additional hospital and special libraries in the region and perhaps beyond. The administrative module maintained by SENYLRC staff was not migrated to Drupal open-source as initially envisioned. Contracted web developers and SENYLRC staff lacked time, resources, and the needed experience to recreate the existing PHP based software within the framework of this project; thus, they decided to continue to use, but improve upon, the existing customized software module, rather than replace it.

Overall the process of technical development was far more time-consuming and challenging than anticipated.  With the addition of a three-month extension to the project, we accomplished the initial project goals, supplemented TIG funds with LSTA funds through IMLS and the New York State Library to engage a professional cataloger’s assistance, and, throughout the project, gained experience with the process and some of the problems with open source development.   SENYLRC staff continues to acquire expertise with both open-source systems. SENYLRC will create training materials for participating librarians as well as migrate all member hospital libraries to the new platforms in 2011. The project and the work, as well as evaluation, continue.

These applications of open source software and the documentation will be made freely available to the medical library community. The code modifications to Koha will be announced to the Koha community and posted on the SENYLRC website. One of the pilot libraries, Nathan Kline Institute, plans to utilize Koha’s circulation module. While this was not fully accomplished during the award period, it is in process and scheduled for 2011, while other modules may also be implemented in the future.

Patricia Carroll-Mathes
Hospital Library Program Manager
Southeastern New York Library Resources Council

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