Technology use in library management
The use of technology in the management of public libraries was one of the focuses in the interviews with local system coordinators, as well as in the interviews with library managers. The computerization of the collection catalog of libraries and the use of social networks and blogs to publicize their agenda were identified as the most frequent and most significant “uses of technology” in the researched public libraries. Few libraries in Brazil have the privilege of publishing the computerized catalog on the internet, and making it possible for users to consult a book’s availability from their homes or any other internet access point. Among the libraries that integrate this study’ sample, only the libraries form Sao Paulo city system, the Guarulhos System, the Piracicaba Library and the Bahia State Library offer this service. Apart from these, the Manguinhos Library, visited in the initial phase of the research, also offers this service. The computerization of the library collection is seen by library managers and library coordinators as a fundamental factor to intensify the circulation of collections. The State of Acre Library, Floresta Library (Rio Branco, AC), and the municipal libraries of Porto Alegre (RS) and Tramandai (RS) have computerized collections, but they aren’t available online. These four libraries use the Biblivre software, which is free and recommended by the SNBP. Among small libraries, it is still common to have either the catalog record in cards or the absence of a catalog of the collection. In three small libraries, located in small cities, it was observed that the loan records are handwritten in notebooks, since there is no card system. Another small library uses Excel spreadsheets to control and record collections.
Among the libraries and systems that have computerized catalogs available online, all of them use proprietary software for such service. The types of used software are: Alexandria, Sophia and Pergamum.
The process of computerizing the catalog, at the beginning of the use of software for collection management and library services, represents a challenge for libraries because it takes up a lot of time from the available workers. The library system of the city of Sao Paulo promoted a public notice to hire a company for this task. Another challenge mentioned by coordinators of the system from São Paulo (capital) is how slow the internet signal is in libraries and how it hinders the tasks of employees to access collections and make records of loans and returns.
The use of the internet to advertise the library program or new collection acquisitions was observed in almost all the libraries that were visited, except for a few small libraries in rural areas with little access to technology (less than 10% of the sample). This disclosure is made by library employees that feed blogs and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Most libraries visited, including some of the big libraries, do not have autonomy to create and manage their own web site. Often, Culture Departments from local governments directly manage the websites that advertise these libraries. These departments manage the disclosure of library information through websites and other vehicles used by local governments, but wind up limiting the autonomy of library staff for the interaction with the communities served. Some exceptions are made for the Sao Paulo State Library, Piracicaba Library (SP) and Floresta Library in Rio Branco (AC), which all possess their own websites.
From the interviews and visits, followed by analyses of library social networks, it was found that there is a limited use of social networks for joint networks or debates on information found to be interesting by the local community. The analysis of library pages on Facebook shows few comments on the library’s original posts, indicating the use of this resource as an informative vehicle without exploring its potential to facilitate interaction and participation from the local community.
The use of technology among professionals that work with library coordination or local public library systems is less frequent or happen with less intensity if compared to professionals from other areas of knowledge in Brazil. The interviews with state system coordinators and representatives from the SNBP reveal that the communication between the SNBP and the state coordination and between these and local libraries could be optimized if it was made a bigger and better use of information and communication technology. This communication has been improving but is still a challenge due to the lack of connection equipment, but mainly for the lack of habit of the use of technology by professionals involved.
In 2012, the SNBP began using an interactive environment on the internet to strengthen the communication among coordinators from state systems and from the SNBP. Before, the communication was limited to telephone calls and e-mails. The speed and frequency of e-mail replies was a problem both between the SNBP and some local systems as well as between local systems and libraries.
The observation of the National Meeting of the Public Library System is another source that allows us to see how the use of technology among leaders on the libraries environment is not something as frequent and intense as with professionals in other areas. In one-week event, few participants (less than 10%) had laptops or tablets with them. The auditorium did not have Wi-Fi and it did not seem to be a concern for most participants. This would be very different in conferences of professionals from other areas in Brazil in 2012, in which it is common to see participants verify the communication with their bases during breaks, or even using digital devices during presentations to make records (written or multimedia) or access extra information about the topic in question.
The Public Library of the State of Bahia has many librarians, at least one for each department or room, with the exception of the Biblioteca Viva department, which is responsible for the cultural animation of the library and hosting events, where cultural producers, historians, journalists and communication professional all work together. It is in this section that the most intense use of technology takes place. The remaining departments display several other opportunities to intensify the use of technology.
The activity of cutting newspapers to organize news in folders is an example where the librarian could use technology to optimize his time and improve the service of providing information to the population. The librarian responsible for such service, in the department of newspapers of the Bahia State Library, uses scissors to cut articles from printed newspapers, glues them to fix the articles to white sheets of paper, then files the papers in folders that are stored in drawers with hanging folders.
The loaning section of the Bahia State Library could also benefit from providing the public with computers to browse the collection. In this library, the circulation of users between shelves of the collection is not permitted, which increases the users’ needs to access the computerized library collection. At the time of the visit, the section had five computers located behind the loaning counters, all with restricted availability to employees of the department.