The past five years have witnessed a quantum leap forward for public library resource sharing in Georgia. Georgia Library PINES, which began as a Y2K compliance project, now includes 44 public library systems and 249 libraries and bookmobiles. With more than 1.3 million active registered patrons and access to more than 7.7 million items, PINES is a national model on an unprecedented scale. Yet the growth and scale of PINES has not come without a cost, as everyday PINES pushes the limits of the available software. Extensive alterations to the software and additions such as the Web-based reporting system have been necessary to sustain growth and meet the needs of participating libraries.
As most of you are aware, the award in 1999 to the present vendor included renewal options through June 2005. As we move closer to this deadline, the future direction of PINES has been a primary focus of the Georgia Public Library Service and PINES participating libraries. Much time has been spent researching, viewing demonstrations of integrated library system (ILS) products, discussing options with vendors, collaborating with the Board of Regents Office of Information and Instructional Technology (OIIT) staff, and, most importantly, processing feedback from PINES participating libraries. Every available software option has been thoughtfully and extensively explored in the effort to make the best possible decision for PINES.
All available options include both challenges and benefits. Certainly, making any software change will involve extensive training and conversion efforts for both Georgia Public Library Service staff and for PINES participating libraries. However, PINES participating libraries have made clear to us that change is needed if we are to continue to grow and develop, and that they are willing and eager to take on the challenges required. While the current system has many strengths, from a system administration standpoint, we need a system that is more flexible and scalable than the present system. We have spent more than four years making extensive alterations and writing program enhancements to a product that was not designed for a public library consortium on the scale of PINES.
We strongly believe that the best choice for PINES at this critical crossroads is an open source system developed by the Georgia Public Library Service. This system will be custom-written for a library consortium as large and complex as we have become and into which we will continue to evolve. After careful analysis of the library automation marketplace, where we noted the possible benefits and potential shortcomings of every vendor-driven solution for our particular needs, Georgia Public Library Service and OIIT personnel agree that a custom-developed solution is the direction that we should take.
Development of an integrated library software solution will take 18-24 months. We have the option of extending our current software contract for an additional year. This means that we would remain on the present system until at least June 2006. After one year of software development (June 2005), we will evaluate our progress. If, at this time, our development efforts are not sufficiently advanced, we will have adequate time to pursue a vendor-supplied solution through an RFP process.
Many more details will follow this announcement. The underlying database structure will be the first piece of this puzzle; before we reach the time to design the functional layer, there will be ample opportunity for the PINES community to share your needs, desires and wildest dreams for library software functionality with us. Solicitation for participation on a PINES development committee is forthcoming, and we encourage staff at all levels to participate. We can't do this without the support and the valuable experience of our libraries.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns. Your confidence and support will make this endeavor a great success.
Lamar Veatch, State Librarian
Georgia Public Library Service