MELBOURNE. Australian librarians are enjoying a stress-free existence after switching from running their own computer systems to using Civica's managed services solution.
Wendy Heale, Information Systems Manager at Glenelg Regional Library, in the state of Victoria, calls it the Colgate Solution – it gives her a 'ring of confidence!' while Julie Rae, Chief Executive of Central Highlands Regional Library Corporation, says the new service gives her peace of mind.
Mitchell Shire Library and Information Service, at Kilmore in Victoria, and North Western Library Service at Warren in northern New South Wales have also opted for Civica's managed services solution.
According to Chris Thewlis, Civica's Sales and Marketing Manager, Library Solutions, regional libraries in particular lack resources to handle the complexities of information technology, with hardware, software, communications and peripherals often provided by different suppliers.
In contrast, Civica takes complete responsibility for their systems, running the company's Spydus library management software on servers at its Collingwood facility and connecting to customer libraries via a secure virtual private network (VPN). The libraries receive annual software upgrades and full 24x7 support for a fixed fee, while full backup and disaster recovery facilities include a mirror site in Sydney.
Already a Spydus user, Central Highlands Regional Library with 12 branches is Civica's biggest managed services user. Chief Executive Julie Rae explains why she made the move:
“In libraries we don't have high level IT skills and cannot afford to buy in the appropriate expertise, so usually a staff member with an interest in computers takes over to the best of his or her ability. But a library system is such a huge, integral part of our operations that the cost of having someone with the expertise to run it to optimum advantage is, at times, prohibitive.”
She recalls: “We had physical problems with our hardware and needed to budget for a replacement server, plus there were issues of conflicting responsibilities between some of our suppliers. So we looked at outsourcing and Civica was the obvious choice, having vast experience in Australian library systems.
“Now we have peace of mind and the system is being managed better than we could ever have done. The reliability is fantastic. The cost is similar and we are getting much more for the same money, however in real terms we are probably making a 5-10% saving. We are also saving staff time, since I can deploy staff members in other areas.”
Central Highlands Regional Library encompasses six municipalities: Shire of Hepburn, Rural City of Ararat, Shire of Moorabool, Central Goldfields Shire, Pyrenees Shire and the City of Ballarat. Serving a population of 157,000, the library has 65,000 members and 270,000 available items for lending.
At Glenelg Regional Library, also a Spydus user for more than a decade, Wendy Heale says a server upgrade was due and the operating system needed upgrading.
“That's always a big event in our organisation as we don't have the expertise and we have very limited funding,” she says. “It made more sense to outsource to someone who knew the Spydus product well.”
The library switched to Civica's managed service in mid May, first introducing ADSL broadband. The move was relatively painless, with systems down for less than two days at all branches. The time included couriering the data to Melbourne.
From the cost point of view, Wendy expects the library to break even since it will no longer have to pay the expenses of changing over to a new server, or for the extra training required for server upgrades.
“For about the same cost as before, we receive a far better service,” she says. “I call it the Colgate Solution – it gives us that ring of confidence!”
Wendy says an additional bonus will come since they will no longer need to justify upgrading either hardware or software. Being a regional library serving two Council areas, Glenelg Library previously had difficulties in applying formally to each for additional funds whenever regular upgrades were required.
She says: “Now it's all covered by a fixed service and support fee, so funding is no longer an issue – that's a big bonus.”
Glenelg Regional Library serves a population of 37,000 across 13,000 sq km in Glenelg Shire and Southern Grampian Shire, from four branches and one mobile library. The library has 16,500 members and effective staff of 10.8.
Civica's Chris Thewlis says that while country libraries such as Glenelg and Central Highlands have shown early interest in the managed service, all of the benefits would also be realised by the larger metropolitan libraries, who are also showing significant interest.
“Sometimes a local government's IT department would prefer not to have to manage the library's system in addition to the core Council system, due to the long opening hours and diverse support needs” says Chris, “Many are now seeing Managed Services as a means to deliver a high level of service to their libraries while also dealing effectively with risk management and disaster recovery issues”.