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A Review of Shelflister, an OpenSource Voyager Client

The University of Texas informational website for the Voyager client Shelflister describes this OpenSource program as a “client for generating real-time shelf lists” including charge statistics, browsing statistics, and item status (e.g. missing, charged, circulation review, etc). With the help of our automation librarian and a loaner iPad, I downloaded this program to find out if it was something that might be useful as part of the bi-annual shelf reading process at my library (a mid-sized academic library).

As a little background, we are still very low-tech in our shelf reading practices. Twice a year the 3rd floor library stacks are divided equally among the circulation staff. Then each shelf and row is manually read for call number order, to look for missing materials, and to check the condition of the materials. The entire process usually takes three or four months to complete as the shelf reading takes place in addition to the regular duties of the staff. Since we do not have a budget to purchase portable scanners and the magnetic or electronic tag systems that read a shelf with a pass, it was my hope that we might find a free application or client that could be used with existing software and materials (we have several iPads, for instance) that could speed up or automate this process.

The product I tested: Shelflister, a Voyager client written and made available by Michael Doran and his crew at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Copyright 2003-2012 by the University of Texas at Arlington

Cost: Free

Required Hardware Environment: Reports can be processed with a desktop PC but use in the stacks requires a compatible tablet or iPad (Bluetooth scanner optional).

Required Software Environment: The client is a platform independent PERL application that will run on most computers and Microsoft operating systems up to Windows XP.

The software and hardware environment: The trial was conducted using both an iPad and a PC running Windows XP Professional, service pack 2.

What happened: I loaded the program client on the iPad and was presented with a screen asking me to provide a starting barcode or call number and an ending barcode or call number in order to generate a list of what was included in that range. The data is pulled from the OPAC so I knew that it would display what should be located in that data range and not what was physically on the shelves.

IMG_0032

Shelflister Main Screen

For example, when I selected the call number option and entered “BS472.D6” and “BS475.3 .H9” for the start and end parameters, I was presented with a list of materials that should be on the shelf that I was reviewing at the time. Again, I had a choice as to how I wanted the data displayed. In this case: call number or title. Both displays let me know at a glance how often the items in this data range had been charged, their browsing statistics (if that information was available) and their current status (e.g. if they were currently charged, reported missing, etc). Selecting an individual item provided more detailed information on the status and the option to apply a status of my own. For example, if a book that should have been on that shelf was missing, I could have applied a lost status right there in the stacks.

Individual item display

Individual item display

Any status that is applied using the Shelflister app, however, does not impact or change the OPAC. Instead the information is listed as part of a librarian or staff-generated report at a later time. This allows student assistants or volunteers to conduct shelf reviews using this program with the oversight of a librarian or qualified staff member.

Some possible uses that immediately occurred to me was this application’s potential as a tool for weeding or maintaining a collection. An item that was obviously out of date,  badly damaged, or otherwise unsuitable for circulation could be marked when it was noticed with the appropriate status and then weeded, replaced, or sent for mending as part of a bulk process at the convenience of the library.

Another perfect application for this program is the roving reference librarian model. When assisting patrons, a roving librarian would not have to return to their desk to determine the status of materials in the collection or to locate them on WorldCat. Additionally, unlike accessing the OPAC from the typical web browser on his or her mobile device, Shelflister would allow the reference librarian to report missing materials or an item in need of repair without interrupting their normal workflow.

Conclusion: For the purposes of shelf reading on a large scale (e.g. checking the call number order of an entire row or section), Shelflister is of limited use. The program generates a list of materials based upon what the OPAC indicates are in that call number range, but not what is actually on the shelf or whether the materials are shelved in the correct order. As a tool for reference and collection maintenance, however, it could be a welcome addition to an academic library that uses Voyager, especially when the program is available at no charge. The developers provide a great deal of user support and tutorials on their website that make it easy to use for someone with a basic to intermediate grasp of computer applications, though installation might require assistance from library automation or your IT department.

Though its functionality is limited to a Voyager environment and very specific purposes, the software does what it is designed to very well. I would recommend it for any academic libraries with a limited budget that want a little bit more functionality out of Voyager or who want to implement a roving librarian reference model.

Pros: Cons:
Allows for marking a status such as weeding, mending, lost, damaged, etc, for the purposes of processing materials at a later date. The voyager status does not change; instead a file is saved on the server. Information that is generated for call number ranges reflects only what information is already available in Voyager. Does not account for mis-shelved items or lost items that are not yet known to be lost.
Easy to use; requires little training. Requires a mobile device (iPad, tablet, or smart phone) and potentially a Bluetooth scanner.
Excellent for a “roving librarian” reference model or to help patrons locate books in the stacks since it displays real-time status of materials in the collection (charged, missing, etc). Not a good tool for shelf reading or inventory because it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know (e.g. if a book is missing from a section but not yet reported missing).
Aids in making decisions on weeding by having browsing and charge data available at a glance. Not compatible with other common cataloging environments, such as Evergreen
Free Software support is primarily of the do-it-yourself variety.
Compatible with Voyager
A variety of self-help tools are available on the applications website including PowerPoints, manuals, and tutorials.
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