1998 was again a successful year for Pica. The total turnover increased with 18% to over 15 million Dutch guilders due to an increase of all product groups. In the field of library services, an increase of the shared automated cataloguing system GGC is noticeable. In clause co-operation with libraries Pica worked at making all Pica's systems year 2000-proof and at preparing the consequences of the introduction of the euro.
A new version of Pica's local library system LBS was prepared with as basic principles: Webbrowser technology, platform independence and modularity. It goes without saying that the integration of LBS with the central Picasystem will remain fully as it is.
In the field of end user services, the most important milestone of 1998 is that PiCarta became operational. Within PiCarta, end users can do one integrated search within several databases simultaneously. The most important extra functionalities to note are new search facilities, the grading of search results and the extension of request facilities. As can be read in this report, PiCarta will be further extended and improved.
In 1998, a lot of attention was paid to the development of end user services by type of customers. In the co-operative body Delta, in which university libraries and the Royal Library participate, work was done to realise an operational electronic academic library. A service called “Publiekwijzer”, which will be operational in 1999, was prepared in close co-operation with public libraries. The co-operation with the foreign partners of Pica in Germany and France continued. The first phase of the 5-year project, started in 1997, to automate all university libraries in France was finished in April 1998.
At managerial level, the actual completion of the strategic long-range plan that had been established in 1997 was prepared. With it, it was decided that the foundation Pica will be transformed to a B.V. (a limited liability company under Dutch law), which will be divided in three business units in accordance with the principal activities of Pica: Software development and services for the other business units and the foreign partners, Library services Netherlands and Flanders and a business unit End user services.
As part of the preparations, Pica also spoke with OCLC, an American non-profit company for library automation and information services, in order to come to a close co-operation. All these developments will come to a conclusion in the course of 1999.
In July 1998, the period of Mister Dr. M. Kooyman as member of the Board of Pica expired; he had been chairman of the Board and of the Board of governors respectively since the establishment of Pica as a foundation in 1985. During his chairmanship Pica grew into an international service company operating successfully without any government funding or government intervention.
The central theme of 1998 was the so-called “transformation”. In the second half of 1997, the Board and the Board of Governors had approved of an internal long-range plan. As a result of this there were consultations with several advisers on legal, fiscal and strategic issues. In the middle of 1998, the consultant firm Adstrat B.V. concluded that Pica would have to adapt its organisation and structure. It was advised to transform the foundation into a B.V., a company with a limited liability, so that the legal structure of Pica will form a better basis to realise the intended activities in the Netherlands and in Europe. In connection with this, it was also advised to turn the internal organisation from the strongly technology driven organisation which Pica still is to a more customer-oriented and product-oriented market organisation.
The conclusions of Adstrat B.V. were subscribed by the Board and the Board of Governors, with the addition that in a businesslike B.V. structure the not-for-profit character of Pica was considered to be of essential importance as well as the necessity to have specific guarantees to ensure the continuity of the Pica-supported national infrastructure for academic and public information.
As part of the transformation process, Pica had talks about the intended changes with the members of Pica and other important partners and customers both within the Netherlands and abroad.
At the end of 1998 Pica talked with OCLC, just as Pica a non-profit organisation in the field of library automation and information services, established in Dublin, USA and discussions were held to come to a close co-operation. To this end, OCLC will participate in Pica by a gradual acquisition of part of the share while Pica will at the same time continue its current products and services in full force.
The input of users in the development of new services and systems is of the utmost importance. Regular user consultation takes place in the three governing committees and user councils: Library Management, Services and Implementations. In 1998 several sounding board working groups were set up which advised and supported Pica in the development of technical provisions and functionality, such as year 2000 proof systems, PiCarta and the development of the new LBS4 system. With this, users have an important contribution to the success of Pica's services.
Already since 1989 Pica makes use of the services of SURFnet for the exploitation of all its services. In 1998 attention was paid to a complete transition to IP, Internet and consequently the discontinuation of X.25 connections. This should be fully realised in April 1999. An inventory was made from all customers of Pica central services that did not have an IP connection yet. These libraries have been informed about the gradual cut down of the X.25 facilities and solutions to be able to continue the services were discussed with them. In June, a new version of OpenCAT was delivered to libraries who have a Pica LBS system, which solved the last problems concerning the transition to Internet.
An order to do an investigation into the problem of authority control of personal names had been given to the committee “The Future of Cataloguing” in 1997. The results of this investigation became available in 1998 and they will, in relation with results of other investigations, serve as a basis for further discussions in 1999 about the quality of Pica's central database.
The user group library management set up a sounding board working group for menu-driven cataloguing. This will be a menu-driven help function in WinIBW with which a simplified access to the use of the shared automated cataloguing system GGC will be achieved and which will help beginners with cataloguing (format and regulations) through the application itself.
Regarding shared subject indexing, the new Dutch basic classification system was adopted in Pica's systems and made visible. The committee for shared subject indexing (GOO) had the GOO main entry thesaurus translated from Dutch into English. After Pica's systems will have been adapted to adopt these translations it will be possible to search on English main entries, too.
Talks were held with the technical universities of Delft and Eindhoven and with the agricultural university of Wageningen as part of the projects for national coverage of the NCC concerning the integration of titles of these universities and developments were done. It is expected that these projects can be finished in 1999.
A point of attention within NCC/IBL for interlibrary loan was the diminishment of the number of ILL invoices between libraries themselves by stimulating the mutual settlement between big libraries through the facilities developed by Pica. For smaller libraries an active policy was pursued together with the Royal Library to have these libraries open a deposit account at the Royal Library.
Local library system
Seven libraries migrated their local library system LBS in 1998 from a VAX platform running under VMS to an Alpha platform running under Digital Unix. Four other libraries started in 1998 with this migration and it is expected that all LBS libraries will have completed migration in 1999.
In 1998 preparations were started to renew Pica's LBS. To this aim, a staff member was appointed for product development in order to outline the renewal in close cooperation with two sounding board working groups (one with Dutch users and one with German partners). The fourth generation LBS system will be based, as its predecessors, on a client/server architecture in which the clients will consist of Webbrowsers and in which servers will be portable and in which the Unix platforms of Compaq Digital and SUN will be supported. The integration of LBS with the central system of Pica, an outstanding identification mark, will also remain fully available in the new implementation and it will be extended and improved as much as possible.
Other new functions are the simplification and improvement of the management and maintenance of the system, extension of the possibilities to generate management information and a user-friendly interface. Initially, it was the intention to develop this new generation in a strategic co-operation with the German company Sisis and the British company ALSi. However, in the course of 1998, it appeared that the philosophy of development, the establishment of priorities and planning of the three organisations involved were too far apart and Pica decided to realise its own planning and to come to a renewal on its own. At the end of 1998 it was decided to develop the acquisition module in house on the basis of Sybase 4GL-development environment, Powerbuilder and the Enterprise Application Server. At the beginning of 1999, the same decision to develop in house was taken regarding the loan module. As to the cataloguing module, OPC4 (OPAC) inclusive, Pica will use the software that has been used in the PiCarta search engine (with strongly improved search possibilities) as a basis for specific development in a local environment. The result will be an LBS4-system that will consist of a portable server and of client software based on a standard Webbrowser. The first version of LBS will be delivered in the year 2000.
The titles of the 26 libraries of courts in the Netherlands were converted into Pica format and subsequently added to and made accessible in the Central Catalogue of Court Libraries. In December, the database was officially taken into use.
An important new customer was the Christian College of higher education Northern Netherlands in Leeuwarden. Besides a connection to the shared automated cataloguing system GGC preparations were also made to install a Pica local library system. With this installation, the total of LBS installations in Leeuwarden amounts to three (the other two are the Northern College for higher education and the Provincial Library Friesland) which means that Leeuwarden is the town with the most Pica local library systems in the Netherlands.