May 21, 1998 -- As part of the most massive library automation effort in its history, the Library of Congress has awarded a contract to Endeavor Information Systems of Des Plaines, Ill., to provide comprehensive integrated library system (ILS) software and support to the Library.
"This is a momentous occasion in the history of the Library," said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. "It marks our transition to a new era of automation that promises improved library services to Congress and to the nation by bringing disparate operations together for the first time. The Library will start its third century with a unified system that will enable us to accommodate the inevitable changes that American technological innovation will bring. We are grateful to our Congressional supporters for their steadfast commitment to this ambitious project."
In making the award announcement, Deputy Librarian of Congress Donald L. Scott said, "Implementation of an integrated library system is one of the Library's highest automation priorities. This new system will facilitate the Library's re-examination of our business processes to improve the security and accessibility of the collections and provide inventory control."
The Voyager system from Endeavor Information Systems will replace many of the Library's older, independent automated systems -- some of which date back to the late 1960s and early 1970s -- with a single, modern client/server system that will support all standard library operations, including acquisitions, cataloging, inventory and serials control, circulation, and the on-line public catalog. Using the ILS, the Library expects to improve control over its collections, increase the efficiency of its operations and provide better service for its many customers. In addition, the system is "year-2000" compliant.
When the ILS is fully operational, users will be able to perform comprehensive searches of the extensive collections of the world's largest library. A search for a keyword or subject area will result in a list of resources that may include books, maps, manuscripts, periodicals or sound recordings -- as well as the precise location, whether on the shelf, in use, undergoing microfilming or in storage. These searches may be conducted on site at the Library or via the ILS on-line catalog, which will be fully accessible through the Library of Congress Web site (www.loc.gov). Currently, electronic searches of different collections in the Library require the use of several separate catalogs.
In addition to installing software on nearly 3,000 staff and public workstations, and loading approximately 12 million bibliographic records and 4 million authority records into the new ILS system, the project will involve converting information now in two mammoth card files -- the 12-million-card manual shelf list and the 900,000 title serials check-in file -- from paper to electronic format.
According to Barbara Tillett, director of the ILS program, "Over the next 18 months, about 300 staff members on 66 project teams will move the Library from our present systems to the new ILS. We will train our staff and test the system during this period, and look forward to having all operations up and running by our target of October 1999. The ILS will simplify and enhance the work of the Library staff, allowing them to use a single system to perform many tasks in processing items in our collections. Furthermore, it presents a great opportunity for our staff to prepare themselves for the enormous changes anticipated in the next century."
The award of the ILS contract is the culmination of many years of effort to modernize the Library's core systems and automate its remaining manual processes. In the last five years, vendors of automated library systems have demonstrated the capacity to support successfully a collection of the Library's size. For that reason, the Library began to seek cost-effective solutions already available in the commercial marketplace, rather than invest in developing its own system.
"It has long been my dream that we would be able to acquire an integrated library system that would help us perform our core functions in a holistic manner," said Winston Tabb, Associate Librarian for Library Services. "The ILS will make it possible at last to implement some of the great ideas that staff have generated over the past few years."
Congressional appropriation of $5.6 million for the project in fiscal 1998 will cover the Endeavor Information Systems software, training, maintenance and support, in addition to some new system hardware and other items to support inventory tracking and the initial conversion of the card files.