Development of Academic Library Automation in Brazil

Development of Academic Library Automation in Brazil

Michelângelo Mazzardo Marques Viana (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3938-6.ch008
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The automation of university libraries in Brazil underwent a restraint of trade on computers and software, which took place in the country between 1980 and 1990, restricting the initial use of automation systems. However, they were often developed in creative ways: systems and applications were created and used in various universities, some as free software, others based on the ISIS platform from Unesco, in addition to using modern foreign systems, which only occurred in the 1990’s. This chapter provides a historical overview of the development of automation in the country’s university libraries, from the moment in which Brazilian researchers began to disseminate information technology, creating an automation culture in higher education institutions. Many people and institutions have also contributed to promoting and implementing automation in university libraries. This paper is on future perspectives of academic library automation in Brazil with discovery tools, next generation cloud-based systems and library automation equipment. Some possible future developments are also presented.
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What does library automation mean? I would like to introduce this chapter by assuming the position by Rowley (1994) and Barsotti (1990). Professor Roberto Barsotti (1990), an Italian naturalized Brazilian, former professor of Librarianship at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Teresa D’Ávila Integrated Colleges (FATEA) in his book Computers in librarianship and documentation states:

When we speak of library automation, we mean the automation of the library’s technical processes. Basically, acquisition, cataloging and/or indexing and circulation. This automation is often confused with the creation and exploration of databases containing the library archives. They are different things, with different focuses and results, involving different software. (Barsotti, 1990, p. 65)

I believe that when computers were first being used in Brazilian libraries, there was a bit of confusion on the part of students, professors, librarians, researchers and systems analysts regarding this distinction, which occasionally led to a lack of focus in the efforts in automating library services in Brazil, which were concentrated on creating cataloging, indexing and metadata search systems. This does not mean that these systems were not important. On the contrary, I am aware of all of the efforts that existed in the country when systems were adopted for generating bibliographic databases (such as ISIS by Unesco), creating record and exchange formats (such as CALCO - Catalogação Legível em Computador1, based on MARCII), as well as broad spectrum indexing methods, such as LILACS (created by BIREME - Latin American and Caribbean Center of Information on Health Sciences). However, the main focus of this chapter is on automation systems for academic library services in Brazil.

In general, automation should be thought of as comprehensively as possible: using technology so that machines – equipment and computer programs – carry out human tasks: the same definition that appears in the Webster dictionary (Automation, 2012): “automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor”, which means using technology for basic services (cataloging, catalog search and retrieval, acquisition and circulation), user services (reference interviews, document requests), to retrieve information stored locally and in remote providers (using catalogs, metasearch, discovery tools and any other technology applied in libraries), for internal processes and user services, staff management, access control for physical spaces, security, financial transactions (service payments), interactions between the library and all of its stakeholders (employees, users, coordinators, private service providers, print and electronic information providers, the government,…), in other words, all of the services and processes carried out by the library, inside and outside of its building or room.

The automation of library services started to happen in Brazil only from the 1980’s on. According to Ohira (1992), “From 1980 on, automation began to move out of the embryonic and experimental level towards the operational,” (p. 234). The first studies and projects for automation, on a national scale, began with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), between 1960 and 1980, and with the National Library, in 1973, when Manoel Adolpho Wanderley carried out a preliminary and general survey of the possibilities of partial or total automation of the services of the Brazilian National Library, in which the pros and cons of each case are shown (Wanderley, 1973).

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