BC’s Best Kept Secret?

BC Public Library System A Leader In Collaborative Technology.

Were you aware that the Provincial Government, in partnership with libraries in BC, is one of the leading proponents of collaborative library technology in North America? The BC Libraries Cooperative, a partner of the Libraries and Literacy branch of the Ministry, has been in the forefront of helping the province’s diverse population gain access to affordable library resources and collections.

Sitka Spruce

In August, the Beaver Valley Public Library became the fiftieth library to join Sitka, a collective of BC libraries sharing technical infrastructure to better serve their users. Now, nearly eighty percent of the public libraries in the Kootenay Library Federation are members of Sitka, as is the College of the Rockies in Selkirk and Emily Carr University in Vancouver.  BC Sitka users benefit through increased access to library resources and services, and more effective use of local library investments.

Sitka uses the award-winning open-source Evergreen software, a cost effective, robust technology solution complete with a mobile interface for users to manage their library accounts.  The BC Libraries Cooperative is focused on the delivery of shared operational infrastructure, management and resources for its members. The Cooperative strives to improve efficiency through continuous innovation, to reduce costs and to work with its membership to extend service delivery in libraries, as vital community and literacy agencies.

Recognizing the historic pressures on public library collections and services, the BC Libraries Cooperative was formed in 2009 as a member-owned, non-profit community enterprise. The Cooperative is supported by a dedicated BC-based team and funded by libraries in a strong partnership with the Province of British Columbia.  There were over 30 Million in-person visits to British Columbia’s public libraries in 2010, up 10% over 2009 and 30% over 2005. In addition to borrowing physical and downloadable books, library visitors are attending literacy programs, using computers for job searches and accessing wireless services to stay connected. Libraries collaborate to offer invaluable services to individuals in local communities across the province.

The Sitka project itself was initiated in 2006 through the vision of the leadership of the Public Libraries Services Branch (now Libraries and Literacy). Jacqueline van Dyk, the Director, had become familiar with the evolution of the open-source Evergreen software, primarily through the state of Georgia in the US. In Georgia, the public library system there had decided earlier in the decade that developing their own software as an open-source project would have significant benefits, both in collaboration as other library systems became involved in it as well as in helping them to manage their costs. BC, like Georgia, has faced public-sector funding pressures and the collaborative nature of both the development and of the Sitka system itself mean that the Province can offer public libraries a way to build collaboration with neighbouring libraries and the community college system.

The Evergreen project has expanded greatly since 2006 with some major library systems (such as the King County Library System in Seattle) coming on-board. The leadership shown by Ms. van Dyk and her colleagues have raised BC to the vanguard of public library systems across North America. And the BC Libraries Cooperative and the King County system will host the 2013 Evergreen International Conference here in Vancouver – recognition of the great work being carried out in the Province to maintain public libraries as a key resource for citizens.

About Des Dougan

I’m Principal of Dougan Consulting Group which is located in North Vancouver, B.C. I founded the company in 2000. In Parallel with operating Dougan Consulting Group, I served as Director, Information and Computing Services at Vancouver Community College from 1997 to 2007. Before arriving at VCC, I served as Manager, Administrative Application Services at Douglas College in New Westminnster. My Core expertise includes over 30 years’ IT management experience in various industry sectors, specializing in providing effective leadership, and with a background in organizations in Canada and the UK. Major Strengths include: Communicating well at all levels, including excellent written communications skill; focusing strongly on developing effective trust based relationships with clients and the provision of high-quality service. An analytical and enthusiastic attitude showing a high level of commitment, resilience and flexibility.

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