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The Internet offers a new solution to librarians’ traditional problem of loading and maintaining library software and library data on their organizations’ networks. As networks and software programs have become larger and more complex, conflicts have frequently arisen between networks and software. This has created a lot of finger-pointing when trying to solve problems. In addition, librarians have had to compete with other departments for the information technology (IT) department’s attention. In the early days of the Internet, there were many who predicted that it would house all the software and data, and that PCs would only be used to view the information. In this scenario, the PC is called the “thin client” and shows only what is on vendors’ computers via the Internet. This concept is now catching on and is called an Application Service Provider (ASP). In the last year, the number of ASPs has grown, with the result that they are becoming a viable alternative to maintaining specific software and data on your PC or network. With an ASP, the primary problem-solving is done between the library and the vendor. Instead of having to mount and maintain specific software on the network, your IT department only has to make a minor configuration to your firewall to allow the ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol to be active. ICA technology handles the transactions between users’ PCs and vendor servers on the Internet. ASPs are not necessarily ready to answer all your problems, but they are a viable option. WWW.SIMAINC.COM BECOMES AN ASP Last fall, many customers recommended to Sima Dabirashtiani, the director of SIMA, Inc., that she convert her programs (SIMA OCAT Electronic Library for online catalog, SIMA Serials/ Acquisitions/Accounting 2000, and SIMA ILL 2000/MLN) into ASPs. She readily agreed and set the changes in motion. The company acquired the necessary servers, ICA technology, and broadband Internet connection. SIMAnet completed its beta testing, and since December 1999, has been fully operational as an ASP, with unique user IDs and passwords. As users work with SIMA software interface, 100 percent of the software executes on the SIMAnet server. ICA protocol separates application logic from the user interface; sends keystrokes, mouse clicks, and screen updates; and enables SIMA’s library software to be accessed with exceptional performance from existing PCs, Windows-based terminals, and network computers. BEING ON THE INTERNET — CONVERSION AND MAINTENANCE The conversion to the Internet from the networked version is painless if you are already working on a SIMA program. You can send your data to SIMA, Inc. electronically, and they will upload it to the Internet within a day. If you are converting from another vendor, there is a short delay while the data is converted. The program generally operates the same on the Internet as on the networked version. The main difference is that you are now using your Internet browser to navigate and enter data into SIMAnet programs. Using the Internet to house the software and your data is a totally new concept for many companies and for most libraries. The first concern is that your data are housed at SIMA, Inc. While this may be a valid concern, SIMA, Inc. will provide a backup copy of your data for a nominal fee. Each library’s data have their own protected area on SIMA, Inc.’s server. The biggest advantage of using an ASP is you always have the latest version of the software without having it load updates onto your network. Another great advantage is that, when there is a problem, SIMA, Inc. staff can view what is happening when you are working on your data. When the software and data were on your network, SIMA technical staff had to work with your IT department to view the software and data that were being entered to see how the program was working with it. As an ASP, SIMA technical staff can see what is happening and can usually solve any problem immediately. Now all you need to access your data is the Internet. You no longer have to be at your office or dialing into your network. All you have to do is download the ICA executable file, which is available from the Web site. While some may not feel this is an advantage, it is. Firm employees can now access the SIMAnet programs via the Internet at any time from any location, including their desks, homes, or other remote locations. If you have SIMA, Inc. performing your cataloging, the new catalog information is available to you as soon as it is entered by SIMA, Inc. There are no updates that have to be loaded. You are no doubt wondering about the speed with which the programs operate on the Internet. The only correct answer is, “it depends.” Every librarian knows how frustrating it can be when the Internet slows down and how difficult it is to determine whether the slow connection is due to the type of local connection, the Internet service provider, the Internet backbone, or the server at the desired site. Generally, SIMAnet programs operate about as fast as they did when installed on our network; occasionally, they are slower. The potential savings in time and productivity of using the programs over the Internet, as opposed to using your network, outweigh occasional slowness on the Internet. Using the SIMAnet as an ASP is the best way to harness the power of the Internet. The access speed of the Internet is also becoming faster. SIMA SERIALS/ ACQUISITIONS/ ACCOUNTING 2000 This is the latest version of the SIMA, Inc. program that was developed in the mid-1980s specifically for law libraries. With many other serial programs, learning how to operate can take days. The SIMA program was specifically developed to be easy to learn and operate. Through working with their customers, SIMA, Inc. has added functionality over the years. Access to the main information from title screen for daily mail check-in, routing, and book processing makes the program practical. It now contains the serial record, which includes fields for title, author, location (call number), notes, subject, publisher, missing (you can produce reports on which issues are missing), account, budget, labels, codes, date, expiration date, cost, and frequency. There is a separate field on the screen where you enter the date, volume, expiration date, and frequency. There is another field where you maintain routing information. Names are in a relational database so you avoid having multiple spellings for the same person. Acquisitions and accounting are integrated into the serial record so you can immediately check to see the payment history. There are data fields for the descriptions, vendor, invoice number, account number, record date, budget category expense type (expensed or capital), cost, patron, amount, tax, postage, total amount for the invoice, approval date, check number and date, action, copies, date ordered, and, finally, whether the item was canceled. SIMA OCAT ELECTRONIC LIBRARY FOR ONLINE CATALOGING The SIMA OCAT Electronic Library for Online Cataloging is a Folio-based, online catalog, developed in 1993. The program is flexible enough to include the level of data elements that you want. Converting records from MARC to a user-friendly format on the screen is simply done by uploading the data through a utility file from OCLC or any other source. In addition, you can list multiple locations for multiple copies of the same title. You can place an electronic “post it” on a record for additional information. Hyperlinks can be incorporated into individual records and are visible on the record with an icon. When SIMA, Inc. does your cataloging, the records appear as soon as they are entered. SIMA ILL 2000/MLN SIMA ILL 2000 is an interlibrary loan program that can be used alone or can be connected with MLN (SIMA, Inc.’s Metropolitan Library Network which, at this time, is primarily in Washington, DC). The ILL portion is used for keeping track of all interlibrary loan transactions — both incoming and outgoing. The interlibrary forms may be created, printed, e-mailed, faxed, or posted to MLN. In addition to the standard data elements (title, author, call number, patron’s name and department, lending library and borrowing library), it has a cost category that allows you to keep track of total cost (including messenger charges) for each interlibrary loan. Many fields (lending library, patron name and department, staff name) are relational databases that can eliminate multiple spellings for the same person or entity. There are global and customized reports that allow you to create standard reports on such things as reminders for overdue items, department usage, check-in materials, costs, and directory of lending libraries with contact names and telephone numbers. In addition, you can perform your own searches of the data and make customized reports. Also, client charges can be electronically uploaded into your accounting system. Interlibrary loan forms sent to lending libraries are posted to the Web site for access and processing by the lending library (member or non-member of MLN), and includes automatic updating of the MLN member’s SIMA ILL 2000 database. The Web site also has the complete Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC (LLSDC) General Legal Publications Union List, 4th edition, 1999, with links for quick searching. Summary SIMAnet is one of the first library systems to exploit this technology. The three primary advantages are: (1) Internet access to your library programs; (2) the vendor is responsible for the software installation and maintenance; and (3) minimal IT department involvement in library software applications. I believe ASPs (software and data over the Internet) are the wave of the future, not only in private law libraries, but throughout the business world. Contact Information: SIMA, Inc. P.O. Box 248 Springfield, VA 22150-0248 Phone: (703) 569-0993 Fax: (703) 569-5161 Electronic Mail: Technical support questions: [email protected] Product information, proposals, and general information: [email protected] To view a demonstration of these programs, visit SIMA, Inc.’s Web site, www.simainc.com. Thomas B. Fleming is head librarian at Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe in Baltimore.

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