On Wednesday 6th March I attended the winter meeting of the Heritage User Group. Heritage User Group (or HUG as it is known) is a group of people who use the Library Management System Heritage. It is independent from (although has strong links to) IS Oxford who develop Heritage. The aim of the group is to support users providing an environment in which to share information, discuss problems and highlight future needs. Heritage User Group also has a number of localised sub-branches. (You can find out more at their website: http://www.hugonline.co.uk/index.htm) The main group meets twice a year and this was my first attendance.
Neville Jones from IS Oxford began the day's meeting with a demonstration of the new features available in Heritage Cirqa. We are likely to upgrade our version of Heritage in the summer (either to version 4.2.10 or to Cirqa) so it was really useful to see a demo. Neville highlighted the new features along with improvements and functions that have been removed, all the while showing everything on screen. I was impressed by the developments available in Cirqa (although some functions, such as the option to renew all items in one go via the OPAC, haven't yet been made possible). I was able to gather lots of useful technical how-to info from Neville's presentation and the question and answer session at the end highlighted several useful tips that I hadn't thought of before. Furthermore, Neville was able to spend a little time advising me on an issue I am currently trying to resolve with our OPAC results display.
I think it would be more prudent to upgrade to Cirqa rather than 4.2.10 for our next upgrade although I am undecided whether we should remain hosted within our own IT department, or allow IS Oxford to host (an option with Cirqa). We don't have any other services which are outsources so it would be a new experience for us.
After a very nice lunch the afternoon kicked off with the AGM. We heard brief reports from the chairman, treasurer and secretary on the current status of the group. The rest of the afternoon then consisted of short presentations showcasing different innovate uses of Heritage within different institutions. The first was Rob Collier from Oxford & Cherwell Valley College. Rob spoke about how he uses information obtained from Heritage to send out texts to students, for example, overdue reminders. Our marketing department does order text bundles for the College. However, in the past, we have had an unfortunate experience in send out texts (unrelated to overdues) which has made us very cautious!
Following Rob were Julian Dawson from ARUP, Gill Kaye from an NHS library and Ian Cockrill from Gower College, Swansea. They each spoke about how they have applied SDI within their own institutions. SDI (Selective Dissemination of Information) runs off the subject field within catalogue records and sends an email alert to any users who have that subject allocated to them about new resources that have been added to it. I think SDI can be a very useful marketing tool to help inform tutors of new resources. We don't currently use it and, for us, it would mean setting up from scratch subject listings and planning how we market the service to staff. Having heard the three speakers I found it interesting how they each took different approaches. For example, whether subjects of interest are 'forced' onto users by the library team or whether users are invited to join, and how strictly or not they match subjects to Dewey classifications. I thought Ian suggested a very good tip regarding the design of the email alerts. He spoke of a colleague in another institution who, when they started sending SDI alerts, had several staff coming in demanding to know why they had been sent overdues for items they didn't have! They did see a lot of irate members of staff but also several who hadn't been to the centre in years! Therefore, Ian made the point that the design of the email is key in ensuring that its meaning is quickly established and not confused with other Heritage generated emails.
Next, Gill spoke again about the reality of upgrading to Cirqa. Her library had just upgraded and had been 'live' for 12 days. They opted to have IS Oxford host their server and paid for additional support during the upgrade process. It sounded fairly straightforward and Gill said that overall they were very pleased with both the upgrade process and Cirqa as a system.
Emily Armstrong gave the final presentation which looked at how Heritage can be integrated with your VLE, specifically Moodle. This was the least useful presentation for me as the subjects that she demonstrated - embedding live reading lists and inserting the Heritage 'block' - are ones that we have already implemented.
Overall I found the day extremely useful and would recommend that anyone who uses Heritage become a member of the Group. You have access to a range of helpful resources and advice and the opportunity to discuss with others their experience of Heritage. Of course, this isn't the only Heritage forum environment - there is the Marvin mailing list and the HUG sub-groups. However, for very little membership cost there are big benefits.
I next plan to attend the summer meeting of my local HUG branch in May/June.