Computerised Information Systems
The main purpose of information services, be they libraries, corporate records, global information networks or information systems, is intricately linked to facilitating access or disseminating information to assist people and enable problem solving and decision making. In other words, the emphasis will be on tailoring the information services to meet clearly defined and individual customer needs, no matter whether it is in the context of operating in an organisation or in delivering public library services in a small community. Information will have to be packaged in terms of content, method of delivery, format and timing specially targeted at the end-user or customer.
Technology has had major effects on the services that libraries provide and the way these services are used. These effects can be categorised into: i) modification of traditional services; ii) introduction of new services; iii) disintermediation of services, and iv) extension of these services to remote users.
Modification of traditional library services such as the gradual substitution of electronic access to conventional tools like the Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) for the card catalogue and electronic databases for the use of printed indexes has probably, improved their performance as search tools. Such developments are generally considered to have improved the quality of services. Library use surveys indicate that majority of the users prefer the new tools to the old.
Also, the new tools like OPAC have expanded the horizons of library users by replacing the catalogue of a single library by the one covering the holdings of many libraries.
The use of new Information Technology facilitated libraries to develop services that would have been impossible to offer earlier. For example, the ability to access databases in electronic form has allowed libraries to offer a number of non-traditional services to their users. Computers can be used in two ways in libraries and information centers in providing information services. The first option is to design a local (in-house) information storage and retrieval system, which is limited to the resources available in a particular library or information centre and render services to the users. The other is to use the computer as an access tool and obtain information from externally operated information storage and retrieval systems. Generally, a local information system is designed to serve the requirements of users of a library based on its own resources. Now-a-days, the same computer is used to access information from external sources globally located anywhere in the world, using modern telecommunications facilities. Also, libraries are becoming members of networked information systems and are sharing the resources available in different libraries and information systems. As a result, many resource sharing libraries and information networks have come into existence. It may be mentioned here, that due to the advances in computer and telecommunication technologies a global network of networks like the INTERNET has become a reality.