Imagine still having library cards! You must be the laughing stock of your mates if you still use them. Schools have over the years begun to use automated fingerprint identification systems for registration, library book borrowing and cashless catering. Gimmicky? Futuristic? Not really – it’s part and parcel of the here and now and a common feature of an integrated library management system where the software runs itself.
Talking of which, softlink.co.uk is one of the world’s best when it comes to knowledge, content and library management solutions… or so they say; I put them to the test. Softlink has been around for a while now and the team has evolved its services and products over time to an impressive level of functionality and usability. From an automated library and resource manager in 1985 to Oliver today, the company has taken some giant leaps.
Oliver V5 is a web-based library management system that comes out of the corner fighting boasting all manner of features and benefits. Is it punching above its weight? I don’t think so. This is a state-of-the art, very canny and highly engaging multi-media application that is a bit of a knock-out.
What Softlink says is that Oliver will provide every school with a unique experience comprising an instinctive, easy to use management function and a personalised OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue). Each pupil can access his own OPAC where he can manage a unique library profile in order to reserve, renew, request, review and create his own reading lists as well as interact with and connect to online libraries and resources, access book reviews and make recommendations. The intelligent interface has a familiar Google/Amazon feel to it and is very clear and simple to use. There are different search interfaces for diverse ages and abilities. The predictive searching feature makes finding what you want less of a chore and results are ranked in order of relevance. One cracking feature is that Oliver can plot resource locations using digital photographs of the library with flashing coloured dots. Can’t find a resource? Oliver will show you a photo of your library and flash the location for you. It will also send an email alert so you can be notified once a resource you are after becomes available. Also, based on a pupil’s current interest, Oliver has the ability to recommend books and suggest them via email. Why doesn’t my local library do this?
Oliver is a sociable sort and will integrate with all and sundry it would appear, including Biostore, Meet the Author, ClickView, Weblinks, Accelerated Reader, Online cataloguing services, and Cover image library. What is very exciting is that it will allow dynamic integration with VLEs, so you can search the library catalogue and view your account information directly from your personal space in the VLE. Oliver also offers a mobile app for iPhone and Android, which again enables the users to see account information, search your library catalogue and even pop into the local book shop and scan in the ISBN bar code from the back of the book so they can search your library catalogue for it. Another high score.
Of course, libraries aren’t just about the books these days and again this is where Oliver can help to catalogue ebooks, websites, DVDs, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, school equipment, and act as a booking system for rooms and equipment.
Technical support is something that needs to be assessed over time; it can’t be too much of an issue though because there is a long list of educational establishments that are using Oliver. Based on user feedback, Version 5 is one of the largest updates ever made to a Softlink product, incorporating over a whopping 1200 enhancements!
If you are looking for an exciting, engaging and versatile tool to increase information literacy skills and get everyone thinking differently about the library, then Oliver V5 is something to study and get to know. The key to a successful library management system is involvement and participation – and Oliver has it in the bag. If I were a pupil using this system then I’d have no trouble getting motivated to read and being resourceful in my search for information. And I’d also have no excuse for being overdue with my books.
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