The term “library automation” refers to the processing of certain routine functions in the library with the assistance of computers.
Library automation is the use of automatic and semiautomatic data processing machines to perform such traditional library activities as acquisitions, cataloguing and circulation. Library automation may thus be distinguished from related fields such as information retrieval, automatic indexing, and abstracting and automatic textual analysis.
In recent years, the advent of microcomputers and many application software packages have made the information professionals switch over to automate their library routines. Thus, a large number of libraries in the world have automated one or more of the functions such as (i) Acquisition, (ii) Circulation, (iii) Serial control, (iv)Cataloguing. Depending on the type of library, all or some of these functions may be computerized according to their priority.
There is a number of ways to go about automating these housekeeping operations. Such as developing one’s own software which is the market or using well-proven application software packages like, LIBSYS, VTLS-VIRTUAL, GRANTHALYA, SUCHIKA, CDS/ISIS, Alice for Windows, KOHA, etc.
Definitions of Library Automation:
According to the Encyclopedia Dictionary of Library Science “The technology concerned with the design and development of the process and systems that minimize the necessity of human intervention in their operation”.
Automation defines as: “The techniques of making apparatus (as manufacturing), or a system (as of bookkeeping) operate automatically”.
Objectives of Library Automation:
These main objectives of automation in libraries are cited below;
- Easy functioning: Several jobs which human beings are taking a very long to do can easily be done by using mechanical or electromechanical devices.
- Accuracy: A computer does not get tired and does not normally make mistakes. The human conclusion is conditioned by several factors such as social, psychological, environmental; hence chances of error may occur. Mechanization avoids mistakes.
- Promptness in service: Several jobs are such that take months and years of labour. The computer is expected to reduce the workload involved. Quires such as a number of books issued to one, the date of issue of a particular book can be handled immediately with the help of automated procedure. It also facilitates promptness in other areas of the reader’s services.
- The economy in Human labour, money and time: Mechanized system controlled by automatic equipment can perform several tasks, it is therefore economical. It reduces human labour, with the result the present staff can be left enough time to furnish better personal services to readers.
- Elimination of duplication of jobs: In automation one set of cards can be used in several processes such as acquisition, cataloguing, circulation thus avoids the duplication of the same process which is used in a manual system.
Need For Library Automation:
This is the age of the computer. A computer has revolutionized all fields of knowledge. It has been gradually weaving electronic webs in various parts of the globe for years now. Now it has been used extensively in libraries. Today, information technology coupled with computer technology has conquered even space and time with regard to the dissemination of information. Increasing the volume of information, on one hand, an increasing number of users and their specialized needs, on the other hand, requires newer methods for organizing information and new services such as the selective Dissemination information service became possible only because of the computer.
The need for automation is emphasized because of the following factors:
i) Traditional methods for handling the information are inadequate. One is bulk and growth rate of information.
ii) Difficult to update the information due to voluminous and rise in the degree of specialization involved.
iii) Techniques are suggested for applying the computers with its advantages of speed, vast storage capacity and accuracy to library work.
iv) The need for co-operation and resource sharing and the hope of achieving some savings through automation made the switch over to automation.
v) To create effective service;
vi) Operational advantages:
a) Offer flexibility
b) Speeds up processing.
c) Greater, accuracy, efficiency, consistency and improved work control.
d) Reduce repetitive staff work.
e) Permits case of bibliographic control checking and updating. 
Planning for Library Automation:
Planning is a process to achieve long-term goals by means of analysis and evaluation of alternatives. The importance of planning in accomplishing a project successfully is updatable. It points out the lacunae a system even before carrying out actual tasks. Libraries are different in their size, diversity of collections, operations, services and the way they are organized and linked with the objectives of their institutions. An automated library activity results when a computer is used to support a library such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, etc. In automated library activity staff and computer share responsibilities for performing work alternatively like a staff member performs the first five processing operations.
The librarian has to decide the sequence in which the activities are likely to be computerized and the manner in which these would be computerized whether independently one by one. In the library, where user services are given more importance librarians would like to start CAS and SDI first along with database creation of holdings of the library. The decision on software for library automation should be done before the hardware. The software buys a commercially produced package. The library software packages available in the market are CDS/ISIS, LIBSYS, LIBRIS, SUCHIKA, etc. While choosing software one should keep in mind’ that a software package should have the following features:
a) Integrated design to support library automation;
b) Supports all library functions;
c) Supports database creation ad information retrieval;
d) Modular design for phased implementation;
e) Compatible to Indian and International standards;
g) Export and import facility through standards;
h) Available on multi-platform;
i) Single and multi-user and model.
Areas of Automation in Libraries:
The information scientists have been very much affected by the significant capabilities of the computers in the field of information services. That’s why the computer is being used in the following areas of the library functions for automation.
a) Housekeeping operations: As a first step in the planning process, it is desirable to formulate a model for computerization listing all itemized and prioritized information systems being maintained on a manual basis by the library. For this exercise it is necessary to break down these procedures into their activities, each item is to be considered of its functional elements. The house-keeping operations of libraries are the acquisition, cataloguing classification, circulation of books and serial control.
b) Information retrieval: The enormous growths in the published information and the increasingly specialized nature of the literature have resulted have serious problems in accessing information, i.e. retrieving information on a given topic. The use of computers has become an application for solving these problems and permit access to users. These are called Information Retrieval (IR) system. IR systems for bibliographic application s are generally characterized by the fact that they permit very large records size, Boolean search capabilities, and flexible output formatting.
c) Computerized indexes: The indexes are compiled by computers in KWIC Indexing. In computerized indexing, the need for making content analysis already becomes low and no need to analyze the whole texts. The document and information should be according to KIWC indexing. It is easily prepared in a very short time by computer with the aid of key punchers.
d) Searching process: The catalogues are prepared for searching the material in the libraries but these are not fully capable to search out the required material out of a large chunk of the literature. By the use of a computer s a file prepared for all possible entries of the documents and the file is organized in such a way that all the queries may be answered. The search for a record of a document may be done for various types of accesses in these systems. It becomes possible only due to the methods of searching by machine-readable files, and which has become due to the efficiency of quickly searched the computers. The computer searches the information from the file and also test the same.
For citing this article use:
- Sadaf, F. (2015). Application and utility of OPAC in Maulana Azad library. Retrieved from: http://ir.amu.ac.in/id/eprint/3218