CPS Systems, Inc., has announced that its resource sharing system, recently renamed the Universal Resource Sharing Application (URSA) can be evaluated on-line. We did so and offer these comments:
The major benefit of URSA is that it permits the linking of systems which are Z39.50 compliant and those which are not.
While most vendors of automated library systems now offer Z39.50 support, there are some which do not, and some that do, 'charge prohibitively high prices. A consortium or state library agency may, therefore, seek to implement a linking solution which does not require Z39.50 conformity by every participating library.
Another benefit of URSA is that it provides shelf status information. Some Z39.50 compliant systems offer access to the patron access catalog display, but do not provide access to the separate shelf status screen.
Finally, URSA integrates the searching with an interlibrary loan module. A minority of vendors of automated library systems have completed their interlibrary loan modules. The URSA ILL module is comprehensive, including the ability to accommodate patron initiated interlibrary loans. Customization is available.
URSA has already been selected by at least three major consortia and state library agencies: the North Bay Cooperative Library System of California, the Maryland State Library, and the Pennsylvania Academic Library Connection Initiative (PALCI). The North flay system is substantially installed; the Maryland system, which is partially installed, will be an upgrade to an existing CPS resource sharing system. It will soon be possible for Marylanders to search several public library systems simultaneously, rather than sequentially. There are plans to move to patron initiated interlibrary loans. PALCI, which will link 37 academic libraries, will begin with a pilot system connecting five libraries in the third quarter of 1997.
The URSA demo is available at CPS's Web site (www.cps-us.com) by clicking the "products" icon. It takes 20-30 minutes to go through the whole demo.
The initial screen is a patron sign on screen which requires the person to enter his/her patron number. Because URSA is accessed using a Web browser, a patron can choose to do this from within a library or from home or office. URSA then accesses the "home" library system and authenticates the patron.
The second screen offers a choice of author, title, or subject search. More search options are available at the discretion of the consortium or state library. After the search is entered on the third screen, it is "broadcast" to several systems simultaneously, but usually no more than ten.
The search results are sorted by ISBN-if available-thus making it possible for de-duping to occur before brief records are displayed on the fourth screen. Clicking on a "D" at the end of a record displays more details for an item on the fifth screen. The amount of detail is customizable. From here the patron can select the item, begin a new search, or request availability information.
The sixth screen, the availability screen, displays "live' information obtained directly from the library system holding the item. URSA is able to retrieve shelf status with or without Z39.50 and regardless of the level of support provided by the Z39.50 server on the target system. At this point, the patron has the option of selecting the item, returning to item details, or returning to search results.
If a patron selects an available item, the seventh screen, an item delivery screen, displays. The patron is able to specify the pickup location and the "need by" date. A default date is available. The eighth screen confirms that the request has been placed and returns a transaction number-a number the patron is instructed to write down.
As a request is processed, the URSA system records all activities and status changes. Patrons can check the status of their own requests from anywhere using the transaction number.
The request string can be designed to reflect library preferences or it can be set to "load balance" so that no library receives a disproportionate number of requests. A library profile prepared by each participating library controls the maximum number of requests per patron and the maximum number of days an URSA request will stay at a target library before moving to the next library in the request string. A library also may choose to mediate or review all ILL requests before they are sent. A library can designate which types of materials it will not loan.
URSA places a hold on the item sought in the library system of the target library. This allows that library to handle the ILL request with its circulation module. When the item is checked out to the requestor's designated pickup address, URSA creates a record which details all aspects of the transaction. It is possible for patrons to inquire about the status of the request by entering the transaction number; and for staff to check by transaction number, book barcode, patron ID, patron name, author, or title.
When the item is received at the requestor's home library, it is checked in by scanning the item barcode and a temporary barcode known to the local automated library system. With the two barcodes, URSA is able to associate the item with the outstanding request and with the local circulation system's transaction file. The transaction number is entered into the local library system's circulation module. When the item is returned, it is checked in using the temporary barcode. That record is deleted, but the permanent barcode continues to track the item back to the lending library. When the lending library checks the item in, URSA updates its records to show that the transaction is "complete."
URSA keeps a detailed audit trail, including the transaction number, bibliographic information, permanent and temporary barcodes, patron ID, lending library, borrowing library, pickup location, "need by" date, and the dates for request, shipment, receipt, return, and completion. A statistical report can be generated which shows the total number of filled and unfilled requests for each library-both borrowing and lending. The number of days to shipment is also available.
Despite its relatively high cost ($100,000 or more, with the exact cost depending on the number of systems and the amount of customization done) , URSA is an impressive product. While we hope the number of screens can be reduced as the product matures, there is nothing which is more attractive at this time for a consortium or state library seeking to facilitate resource sharing when Z39.50 and interlibrary loan modules are not available for all of the systems to be linked.
CPS is affiliated with CPS Systems Pty, Ltd. of Australia, the company that provides some of the underlying technology for URSA.
[Contact: CPS Systems, Inc., 6053 Hudson Road #180, Woodbury, MN 55125; telephone 612-731-8993; FAX 612-737-7113.]