Software to help you manage your library

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How intuitive is your library software?

All vendors of library software will claim that their product is “user friendly,” but how can you tell if a product actually lives up to this claim? How to determine whether a product is actually user-friendly is explained in this article.


Intuitive Library software

What is "usability"?

The term “usability” is used to describe how quickly and easily users can use software to complete tasks. Also known as the “user experience,” it can refer to how simple it is to move between screens and how adaptable the software’s workflows are for accomplishing tasks in an elegant manner.

Unfortunately, despite newer products on the market being more advanced in this regard, these principles are not as often applied to library software as they ought to be. Usability matters because

The system will be used by library staff all day, so they must create efficient routes to the activities they perform most frequently.
Usability equals less expensive training costs and shorter training periods for temporary or new employees.
Staff retention rates are higher because they are happier at work and are less annoyed by the library system.
Better user experience – how users view your library services will be heavily influenced by the software.


Usability checklists

The following are things to watch out for in library software:

  • When working on the same item, must you constantly return to a main menu or are you free to switch between modules?
  • Can you see and use, for instance, the acquisitions, serials, or loans information for that item when you are in the catalog?
  • Are your menus able to be customized?
  • Is it possible to see the history of recently viewed tasks or catalog items?
  • How are mistakes dealt with?
  • Is the user guided as to what the issue is, or must they abandon their current task or, worse yet, shut down the system and restart?
  • Do updates take effect right away or do you have to wait for the screen to refresh?


Usability in the Circulation or Loans module

Consider that your issue desk is busy. Your staff must have quick access to all information about a user’s records in order to give them important messages, renew items, pay fines, and reserve items. If the workflows between these functions are cumbersome, for example, if you constantly have to go back to the menu and find the borrower again, it will slow down the desk staff and cause lines of impatient users.

These are some inquiries to make:

Can staff members search by ID or name, barcode or title? Is there flexibility in how they locate items?
Can you easily switch between different functions once you’ve found a user?
Can patrons perform some of these tasks on their own, freeing up library staff to assist patrons in other ways?


Usability in the web OPAC for library users

There has been a lot written about usability in web design, and these principles apply just as much to user interfaces that are web-based.

The following questions are specific to libraries:

  1. Is it logical? It should be expected that users won’t need any training to use web screens.
  2. Can they return to their search and switch back and forth between the search results and the details?
  3. Can they independently perform tasks like renewing or making reservations, if desired?
  4. How simple is it?
  5. How many clicks or screens are there overall?


Usability in the Acquisitions module​

  1. You should be able to record the receipt of multiple items with a single click.
  2. As few steps as possible should be required to call up and record invoices for multiple items.
  3. Make sure you can access the supplier details or the catalog record from within this module when you need to.


Usability in the Serials module​

  1. Once it has been put to use, can the predicted pattern for expected serial issues be changed?
  2. Can you easily add, edit, or delete issues from different screens?
  3. Can you use the serials functions for books and other types of content as well?
  4. Is it simple to switch between monograph and

These are only a few of the inquiries you might make. These inquiries have less to do with specific functionality and more to do with how easily the software operates. Purchasing procedures frequently place an excessive amount of emphasis on functional checklists while ignoring equally crucial usability principles. The software must be effective and easy to use for the purpose of its purchase, which is likely to be to enhance staff task performance.