Talk:Library management systems for small NGOs

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups

Judith Henderson, 2010/05/21

Most of my clients here in Namibia are after ways to organise their "libraries" or "resource centres", which are usually dusty collections of in-house consultancy reports, once glossy donor-funded publications, other people's consultancy reports, freebies and if they are lucky a few key text books and a short-run of donor-funded journals. They ask for systems to organise and develop these few shelves - which I am happy to help with, but am currently feeling bamboozled by all the technology out there that could help and am always trying to find a no-cost/low cost library management system to help them - yes there's CDS/ISIS, which is widespread in government libraries here, taught at the university, but it still requires a level of technical expertise to manage and troubleshoot that I fear my small NGOs can't provide/sustain. Same goes for KOHA which I've recently discovered - but couldn't even access, same with Greenstone. Some lucky clients have IT companies that help them, but most don't.

I'd be eternally grateful for some more of the KM4DEV technical knowledge to help me find a suitable system - it doesn't have to be free, just inexpensive as I think this time we can pay some money, but as usual can't be sure that the finance manager who doubles as the IT guy will have the time or requisite expertise to assist in its deployment or care.

(Yes, I can use EXCEL and all its limitations and we could just about use ACCESS - any thoughts on those?)

Henderson Library and Information Services, Namibia.

Tom Zeppenfeldt , 2010/05/21

Hello Judith,

Just some questions to get a better idea of what you're looking for:

  • do you need a searchable list references to hardcopy documents in your library?
  • do you need to serach through the content (so not just the references) of digital versions of documents?
  • does it have to be an online system?
  • what is the volume of information that you expect?

Judith Henderson, 2010/05/21

Yes to all and the volume is probably about +/-1000 hard copy documents and a smaller number of electronic documents

Basically I need a library management system that can handle bibliographic references, e-documents, .pdf, and desirably photos. It should be linked to their current system, that is easy to manage and maintain and doesn't cost the earth and can be supported in Namibia.

There's also a need for better document management and sharing organisation-wide. it's a small organisation, no more than 20 people, many of whom are out in the field (and when I mean field in Namibia I mean remote!).

They are keen to begin digitising some of the more important reports and documents. any thoughts on that?

Henderson Library and Information Services, Namibia.

Tom Zeppenfeldt , 2010/05/21

Hmm online access to digitized versions of hardcopy documents in a remote area with probably low connectivity ? Challenging :)

In addition, what do you mean by "linked to their current system?".

There are a couple of hosted, online systems out there, including ours, that could handle document (reference) management.

The main question, in any case is however : What is the kind of problem you try to solve implementing a system, and what are the benefits that you expect once such a system would be implemented?

Steve Katz, 2010/05/21

Dear Judith,

We are implementing KOHA at the FAO Library. If you want more info please contact me directly.

Chief Knowledge Management and Library Services, FAO.

Andrew Buxton, 2010/05/21

I would say another important question is whether you are looking for a library management system or a database system. Although many libraries implemented CDS/ISIS it is not really an LMS - it does not have circulation, serials management, acquisitions, etc. Its main library credentials are that it can handle ISO 2709 exchange formats - MARC, CCF, etc. However, there is now a system which derives from CDS/ISIS called ABCD, developed by BIREME in Sao Paulo , which does have more library management functions.

If these functions are not important to you then perhaps you are not looking for a LMS at all. If the organisation is already familiar with a database system such as Access you might be better off with that. 1000+- documents probably does not need anything very sophisticated.

Former UK national distributor of CDS/ISIS.

Judith Henderson, 2010/05/21

Thanks Andrew,

I had a look at the ABCD but again it's capacity and time within the organisation to maintain and manage any database!

It's the same with ACCESS - unless anyone knows of a ready made "library database" in ACCESS is it worth getting someone to develop bespoke database for the organisation. I found an ACCESS "lending library" template on the MS website, but although halfway useful, it wasn't quite what I was looking for and could work, but again requires more expertise to play around with. I am hoping the organisation manages to recruit someone with some of these skills! Sadly I don't have the time or the skills to develop a library system - I wish I did as it would solve a lot of my issues!

Henderson Library and Information Services, Namibia.

Judith Henderson, 2010/05/21


I am really beginning to think that a web-based solution might be best forthis organisation - they have very limited IT capacity in-house and no server! It might be what they need. Also, if their field-based workers dohappen to have cell coverage, they could theoretically tap into the system from afar (actually even in Namibia, there is wide cell phone coverage).

Daan Boom, 2010/05/21

Dear Judith:

We have recently evaluated some opensource library applications and concluded that for our organisation Invenio is a better option than KOHA/ Greenstone, CDS, especially because of its handling of mutliple document types and mutimedia. Invenio is the DMS of CERN Geneva. The differences are really minimal but some features of Invenio, also in the context technical matters were found better for our environment. Besides these more sophisticated applications you also can cosnider stand alone (or apply cloud) applications such as Access, Excel or a bit more advanced for managing collections would be Filemaker which comes if I can recall correclty with a standard library template. It does not have the features of a DMS I'm afraid.

Let me know if you want to know more.

Peter Casier, 2010/05/21

...which makes me think.

Can I broaden, just for a second the challenge you are facing, Judith. Something just crossed my mind.. As I am not sure if it is clear exactly what your are looking for. So on this beautiful Friday morning in the Caribbean, lemme share:

For decades, organisations have been wrestling in getting information to "the field".. using low connectivity means, and supporting offline access.

The "system" itself running in the background is called "OOPS" (stands for, I think "Online Offline Publication System)", shareware and open source recently developed by WFP. The whole package is for free. You will need a person to install it for you on a server (It is based on Plone, Google Gears, Firefox mobile), but once installed, does not need a systems person.

Just like a website, it stores your information (ANY information: text, scanned docs, books, pics, video etc..) on a main server. The remote user can store it on a USB stick (as if he would make a copy of the website) and access it offline, just as if he/she were online.

Once the remote user has connectivity, the data is updated (with ONLY the updates, not copying all of it again, only the "delta"). And not only that, the data input can be happen from multiple sources, by multiple people.

The first application WFP published on the OOPS platform. It is a collaboration effort by a few dozen of agencies and NGO who remotely made an interagency logistics manual.

I think it is the best invention since warm water.

Judith Henderson, 2010/05/21

That also sounds enticing (as much as warm Caribbean water). I'll check it out.

Henderson Library and Information Services, Namibia.