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Seamless Service via Technology
Virginia Beach Public Library, VAGo to Website
Innovation SummaryVirginia Beach Public Library and Tidewater Community College partnered to build a Joint-Use Library with a vision of providing seamless service to all customers, regardless of whether they held public library cards or college IDs. Creativity, dedication and ultimately, technology, made it happen.
During a chance conversation in 2004, Virginia Beach City Manager Jim Spore and then Tidewater Community College President Deborah DiCroce discovered that their organizations were planning to build libraries across the street from each other. These leaders decided to build one library together, with a vision of truly integrated, seamless service - not two separate libraries operating out of one building. Their goal was for any customer, whether a student, faculty member, or citizen of any age, to receive seamless, quality library services. For their vision to be realized when the doors opened in 2013, staff and behind the scenes processes must be fully integrated. Customers, whether community members or college students, should be able to visit the library and check out materials without having to worry whether staff and resources were from the public or academic library. Public and academic libraries have different ways of doing things: different missions, cultures, customer bases, collections, cataloging and technology systems. Merging all the differences into “seamless” service was challenging, especially regarding the two Integrated Library Systems: VBPL's ILS: local SirsiDynix Symphony and eLibrary; self-check with CircIT; 315,000 titles; serving the general public via 10 branches. TCC's ILS: hosted Ex-Libris Aleph; no self-check; 170,000 titles; serving students and faculty via 5 campuses.
Information technology professionals from the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach Public Library, Tidewater Community College, Virginia State Community College IT support and Tech Logic (a library vendor that provides RFID checkout systems) created a first-of-its-kind "Integrated Library System Connector," aka "The Connector." The new, state-of-the-art Connector allows the library catalogs, collections and user databases to "talk" to one another with a single transaction. As part of the ongoing process, there is a nightly exchange of pipe-delimited files of user records, a weekly import of 30,000 TCC records into VBPL's Symphony. Sirsi API calls for importing and exporting files; user category and user ID differentiate TCC and VBPL records.
The Connector ensures truly seamless service to customers, who are able to check out materials from either or both TCC/VBPL collections, regardless of whether or not they hold a TCC student ID or a VBPL card. Lessons learned in implementing this solution: allow plenty of time to implement, manage the project with authority and TEST, TEST, TEST.