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One Year of Working in a New ILS

October 21, 2021

We started looking for a new ILS before the world knew what COVID-19 was. In looking for a new product we had a few areas that we wanted to prioritize: a better patron experience, better customer service, lower cost, and the ability to retain EBSCO EDS as our discovery tool. We looked at a few ILS platforms and decided that the best fit for us was going to require us to go outside of our comfort zones and become early adopters of Folio, an open-source ILS. What really sold us on this option were the cost savings that came from bundling our contract for FOLIO with other EBSCO subscriptions and the ability to get customer support through Bywater. So, we signed on the dotted line and ended up being one of the first five libraries in the whole United States to go live with this software. 

Folio library system logo.

We expected pain points transitioning to any new ILS system, but this transition was complicated by COVID-19. All the library staff were working from home and receiving training on the new system over Zoom. I work with three other library staff to make up our Tech Services department and we really struggled to get things moving. We went live on Folio in July 2020 but we were not able to catalog a new book in the system until January 2021 because we were waiting for some of the modules to be further developed and with each of us primarily working from home, access to materials was limited. So, I count this January as the end of year one working with this system in Tech Services. Looking back, many positive changes have occurred because of moving to a new system and dealing with COVID.  

We had not been acquiring ebooks through direct purchase but that changed with COVID. In the past year, we developed an acquisitions process for our liaison librarians to select ebooks – indicating platform and user-model and then have our acquisitions assistant purchase them, import records for them, and add the access links to the record. For a time period we established a direct link between our system and Gobi to test if it would be a more efficient workflow for purchase information to be brought into our system from Gobi rather than manually added. That ended up not being a great fit for us, however, it was cool to have the flexibility of the system to try something like that.  

We also took this time to re-think how we manage print periodicals. This was another workflow helped by COVID. We knew when we signed the contract with Folio that they did not have a module for print periodical predictions & check-in. We had already made a decision to focus on transition from print to electronic periodical which was sped up during COVID. Luckily, with the money we saved by choosing Folio as our ILS we had money freed up for more electronic content. We are down to just 12 print periodical subscriptions and we’re able to manage that using a spreadsheet.  

While Folio does have modules that allow for the creation of PO’s and receiving items in the system as we implemented our workflows, we struggled to use these modules at first. This prompted us to have a discussion in-house as to whether these processes were doing anything for us or if they were just additional work. For us, a small library with a small staff who is purchasing even fewer print items, we were able to eliminate these steps and just import records to the system and then pay the invoices. This has streamlined how quickly items move through our system and out to the shelves.  

Is everything perfect after a year together? Not quite – we’re still waiting for spine label printing and the ability to generate reports. However, the reporting issue (and many others we’ve dealt with along the way) is offset by the amazing customer service we receive from Bywater. Our implementation team still has weekly meetings with Bywater to address issues we’re experiencing. With our past system, updates were infrequent and labor-intensive but with Folio and Bywater we get quarterly updates and Bywater helps prepare us for the changes that will be coming and pushes out the updates overnight, with very few interruptions to services. They also help us when it comes time for us to cast our votes for which areas should be prioritized to be developed in the Folio community. Since they’re familiar with our workload and the areas in which we have had trouble, they are able to guide us to the projects and proposals that have the most potential to help us.  

In my office right now is a book truck with two-shelves of “low priority” books waiting to be cataloged that were rolled into Folio from our old system. It is my goal to have these books out on the shelf by the time we hit our true one-year anniversary of using Folio in Tech Services. I’m finally ready to put thoughts of our old system out of my head and embrace our new ILS. If you’re considering Folio or want to hear more about our implementation experience, two of my coworkers will be presenting with EBSCO on Folio on November 10th at 10am.  

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alex K. permalink*
    October 26, 2021 3:20 pm

    Very interesting. I’m curious to see how Folio develops over time.

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