Criteria for evaluation of library software packages
In any endeavor in which we make a substantial investment of money, energy, and time or other resources, we like to know what kind of return we are getting. The ability to evaluate the return on our investment gives us the basis on which to choose between alternative. So an evaluation is basically a judgment of worth. It is a matter of comparison of actual result with external standard, in the light of existing institutional realities which may be relevant to evaluating the future trajectory of the program or services and provide an objective basis for decision making.
Software evaluation is quite a difficult task; we have to consider the following procedure, features and aids to evaluate software packages.
 Preliminary step
- Consults other: You don't want software that stops unexpectedly, slows down on large network, report error message, so consult with other who have already used the software in the same way you intend to use the system or consult other who have already experienced on that software.
- Who refer you: the reputation of person or the institution, his/her experienced on that particular software should also be justified at this point.
- Reputation of the manufacture and vendor the reputation of the manufacturer and vendor should also be considered.
- Existing literature: go for the software after carefully examining the existing literature and documentation on the particular software.
- Training: does the company or authority of the particular software provide training? Where and how the training is conducted, whether it is online, Onsite should also be consider.
- Manual: does the training is accompanied by easy to follow supporting print material or manual. How good the manual is?
 General features of the software
- Various computer platform: the various computer platform needed to run the software i.e. server, wireless connectivity, hard disc space needed etc.
- Multiple platform: does the software able to run in multiple platforms such as windows 2000, windows N.T., windows98, 95 etc.
- Capacity: The restriction in total number of database /information /records in a database it can handle effectively.
- Speed: Speed of operation in different environment.
- Flexibility: Flexibility to handle of records of variable sizes.
- Standardize data format: Does it use standardize data form for importing and exporting of data.
- De-bugging facility: De-bugging facility and scope of proper error message while executing the software.
- User friendliness:
- Is the system easy to use?
- Does the system empower the experienced user with shortcuts and flexible tools?
- Is the system easy to learn?
- Is the system menu driven? Are the commands mnemonic?
- Effectiveness: Does the system meet the specification.
- Reliability: Does the search give consistent result?
- Expandability: Is the system permit addition
- Total cost of the software: Does the system comes in different module i.e. available in only circulation module, circulation plus cataloguing module. What is the total cost of the system?
- Stream less movement of data: Does the database built on open standard technologies such as SQL, cold fusion, or XML that allows different types of software to talk to each other. That means your different system of the software can easily and automatically shares and updates any information
that have in common e.g. students name, address etc.
- Acquisition: Does the system carry out duplicate checking while entering the data. Does it have the capacity to print accession register?
- Data entry and editing: How effective the system is for data entry? Is the software provides easy way for editing of records? Is insertion and deletion of records are easy?
- Circulation: provision of facility for issue, return, computation of fines, reservation of document etc.
- Serial control: Provision of monitoring multiple issue of a serial, provision of grace period for receiving the serial , provision of renewal, overdue alert, entering the abstract of a serial.
- OPAC: Provision of reservation through OPAC, provision of searching OPAC from outside the library, provision of searching the OPAC and web simultaneously (Meta search) using a single word search.
- Library administration: The software should allow generating different reports i.e. collection statistics, circulation statistics and also should be helpful to create your own specialized report to meet your specialized need.
- Enhanced MARC data: Many software allows to catalogue website, E-Books, AV resources in addition to the library resources. These website are added by the library media specialist manually.
- Updating: Does the library automation system company from their own site help to install, upgrade (web based updates), and patches or simply to help you with a particular function.
- New technologies:
- Provision of handling un catalog item
- Provision of internet connectivity, E-Mail connectivity.
- Scope of integration of the software with other school department.
- Provision of accessed the software from computer outside of the school walls via a web browser.
- Does the library software keeping pace with global technology, web enhancement, online information, virtual services etc.
- Many latest software is nowadays hosted by a vendor by an Application Service Provider (ASP) or by the school web server. This is an advantage, here cataloguer can work from remote location and OPAC can be accessed from both home and school, 24 hours a day.
- Can other application besides library software run on the workstation?
- Can the software makes it easy to switch between the OPAC and writing station because there are times when you like that your public OPAC station to function as writing station and there are other times when you like the writing station to becomes function as OPAC.
- Provision of user id /barcode etc.
- Provision of access restriction to certain records/ fields.
- Is there any provision for students and staff to log in and log off on their own.
- How new modification/ new version of the software to be obtain by the librarian?
- Power out feature: Is there any power out feature included? There should be a manual hand scanner available to check material in and out that can easily be connected to the compute system once its back up and running.
- Future exist cost: In near future if you want to switch over to another packages then the cost involved in such cases should also be consider.
- Post installation
- Does the vendor gives performance/ service warranty?
- Post installation support from the vendor.
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2.Baruah,Deepa, A study on the library software packages SOUL and LIBPLUS with special reference to data entry and data retrieval techniques, A dissertation submitted to Gauhati university,2002.Pp.21-22.
3.Borkakati, Shatabdi, Evaluation of library software packages, A dissertation submitted to Gauhati university,2001.Pp.3-4.
4.Rao,I.K.Ravichandra, Selection of hardware and software In: Library automation,1996,Pp. 154-55.
5.Schrock, Kathy, Library automation: A buying guide( http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=17602661
6.Welgus,Barry, Library automation: software functionality issues ( http://www.curriculum.ed.au/scis/connections/cnetw02/42automation.htm
7. Singh, K.P. Automation of libraries: A step-by-step introduction. Library Progress (International). 22 (2); 2002; 91-99