Choosing library management software (LMS) can seem like an overwhelming task. This is true, especially if you’re choosing between multiple solutions with varying levels of functionality and costs to match. But how do you know which one will work best for your library? The human factor matters more than ever when you are choosing library management software. Let’s look at some specific ways that you can make the right choice. It’s not only about price and features.
When you entrust your data to a Software as a Service or SaaS library software supplier trust is essential. You will trust them to provide a reliable service and protect your data from loss. In turn, they will trust you to pay for their services on time and not abuse their resources. If either party breaks that trust, business suffers. For example, if you don’t pay on time, they may decide not to give you access to your data until they receive payment. If they see that you are using more resources than agreed upon in your contract, they may decide not to give you access at all until it has been addressed.
Once you’ve established trust with your software vendor, it is time to address fair pricing. Is there an up-front cost? Do you pay per month or yearly? What are your options if you want to add or take away modules or reduce the number of licences in the future? How often do they increase their prices?
Does the supplier offer a free-trial so you can try the software before you buy? You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, so why would you trust a supplier who only lets you have a short demo?
Another importance consideration when choosing library management software is to check out the quality of their support services. You can’t ask a salesperson about that, can you? None of them will tell you that they offer poor customer service! You can enquire if they have a customer service help desk system. If they do, the likelihood of your questions being answered in a timely manner is much higher and you can track them. You might want to ask them what their service level targets are and benchmark them against it. Also ask if they have a searchable help centre available online 24/7. If they do, you know you can get answers even out of hours.
I also suggest you check the client testimonials on their website and look for reviews externally on Google or SourceForge, for example. Do they mention customer service? Are they happy with it? Review the Terms and conditions on their website and look for details on customer service conditions. It won’t take you long and the effort will pay off.
It’s not enough to have a static, dusty system that never changes. Your chosen software provider should have constant updates and make improvements regularly. As such, ask them about how often they deliver system updates. If the updates are frequent, then fixes and improvements will be provided promptly, and you will be able to benefit from new features sooner. It would be better if they had free upgrades instead of you having to pay more money each time they improved their software. It would also be better if you don’t have to install updates yourself whic creates delays, so check that the suppplier will install updates automatically and without extra charge.
Starting off on the right foot will set you up for success with your library software implementation project. Make sure onboarding services are included in the cost. If you are subscribing to a configurable product, I recommend you make sure you get high-quality onboarding, which should include guided setup and configuration, training for the different features, and a dedicated project manager.
Check that they have the staff resources available for your project in your planned timeframe. You don’t want to sign up and then find they have no staff availability for three months!
Proven companies will be listed on resource pages for library associations, have a Google presence, and have reviews on specialised technology sites like Capterra and SourceForge. Are they listed as a Crown Commercial Supplier on G-Cloud? If they are, they would have answered extensive technical and security questions to get listed. This provides you with another source of information about their SaaS offering. Our recommendation: If a provider can’t be found on at least one of these lists, keep looking.
In addition to asking your librarian friends for a recommendation. Be sure to seek advice from the wider library community on forums. Remember to include details about your library sector, the size of library and the sort of functionality you need as not all library systems are will be appropriate for your requirements.
Finally, check that the client testimonials on their website are real people and organisations.
From my experience as a library consultant, I can say that successful projects are achieved when you work in tandem with a committed, dependable, hard-working team of individuals who are 100% committted to helping you with your goals. Do your research and ask the right questions!
Here’s my top ten questions to ask your shortlisted SaaS library software vendors when you’re in a position to choose libary management software:
As you can see I have cheated a bit – there are more than 10 questions!