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Subject: Computer systems

Computer systems

From: Robert J. Milevski <milevski>
Date: Monday, January 25, 1993
In response to Mark Ritchie's query:  I feel that a paperless system is
a non sequitur.  The more we automate operations, an equal or greater
amount of paper is created elsewhere in the system.  Is this Murphy's

As some of you know, inventory control is something I have spoken about
here in the past. At all the institutions I have worked at, knowing what
entered the shop, where an item is if it did enter the shop, and when an
item left the shop, are mysteries.  Mysteries because of an ineffective
inventory control system, assuming one existed at all.  It is a
challenge to track the thousands of items which come through any of our
general collections treatment units in a quick and easy and foolproof

My automation wishlist, which I hope to get working on soon, includes
inventory control of materials in the lab.  I want to be able to scan
the barcodes of materials coming into the lab into a Mac database which
will create an item record for each piece, the first piece of
information being the barcode.  (We will have a bar code reader for our
Mac to facilitate this operation.)(We haven't decided on which database
yet.  Any of you have a personal favorite which will do the job I
describe below?)  I want to be able to link our database with the online
catalog or the online circulation system, whichever is appropriate.  I
want our little machine to tell the library's big machine to look for a
particular barcode in its files.  Then, for each barcode matched, I want
to copy certain information from the big machine's item record, eg,
author, title, call number, and then to send this information back to
our little machine (Mac).  The database program will then dump the
information about each bar code into the proper fields within the item
record.  The program will also "stamp" each item record with the date
the item was received in the lab.  All the fields within our database
should be indexable and searchable.

Then the item will be treated in the lab.  We could create a subsystem
in the inventory control database which will track the item through the
lab.  In our lab the item will be only on a particular shelf in the
holding area awaiting repair or at the bench of one of the conservation
technicians, students, or volunteers.  After treatment the item will be
discharged on both our automated circ system as well as our Mac
database.  A student will do the discharging and inputting.  The
information input into the database could include, among many other
things, date treatment was completed, technician completing the
treatment, and treatment(s) executed on the item, including protective
enclosure or commercial binding or routing to brittle books.  You can
also input information about these treatments based on ARL statistical
reporting format (something I want to do).  By the way, in order for the
inputter to do his/her job, a piece of paper must accompany the piece
which provides the appropriate information.  This is especially true
with items which have not been and may never be barcoded.  (I propose
dummy barcodes which we use once and throw away or re-use over and over
again.)  (All the materials/items referred to above, a great many items
in fact, are general collections items.  Special collections items are
tracked manually with a paper system because of the low volume of them
entering the lab.)

If you provide enough information to the database you can also use it to
write weekly, monthly, and yearly production reports for your
supervisor, including production stats for individual workers.  If you
establish shop standards regarding the amount of time it normally takes
to execute particular treatments, you can extrapolate about the
productivity of each technician and whether retraining is required to
bring someone up to speed, or to slow them down if high production is
hurting quality.

Of course a similar system can be instituted for other units within a
preservation office, including a brittle books operation, where the
inventory control function is the most important aspect of the database.
The production end is difficult to monitor in this case because of the
variability or complexity of searching time for individual titles.  (Of
course, folks will say that treatments cannot be cookie-cuttered into
timeframes either, but how the hell are you supposed to track treatment
productivity effectively anyway you look at it?)

Another of course, is that it would be nice if we could get ad hoc but
effective inventory control through our institution's online circ or
catalog system(s).  But I feel that a stand alone system, linked to the
library's mainframe, provides us with the answer we need to effectively
track items in our departments as well as slow down the rate of paper we
generate to treat materials.

Robert J. Milevski
Preservation Librarian
Princeton University Libraries
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544
fax, 609-258-4105 or -5571

                  Conservation DistList Instance 6:40
                 Distributed: Friday, January 29, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-6-40-003
Received on Monday, 25 January, 1993

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