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Preparation: Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is the process of collecting data about an existing system (or systems) and then determining what you already have versus what you need. It is difficult to isolate library automation from the overall mission and goals of your library. Therefore, it is beneficial to review your library's goals to determine how automation can support them.

  • As you consider library automation, keep the following questions in mind:
  • How does automating your library help educate and inform the public?
  • How does library automation fit into your overall technology plan?
  • How does library automation fit into you technology budget?

What types of things do you need to assess?

  • Demographic statistics
  • Environmental constraints
  • Collection Assessment
  • Budget Assessment
  • Equipment Assessment


  • Town population size
  • library service area
  • collection size
  • circulation statistics

Environmental Constraints:

  • Do you have up to date wiring in your building?
  • Is your building large enough to accommodate additional computers?
  • How are the phone lines in the area in which you live?

Collection Assessment:

Physically examine your collection. What areas could use more titles? What items should be withdrawn? This is a perfect time to begin that long overdue weeding project. Automation is an expensive process; the more titles you have to create records for the more pricey your project is going to be. Weed, weed, weed! You may want to refer to your collection development policy in determining items to weed. A couple of sample policies can give you a start in creating your own if the library doesn't have one. See for guidance on writing collection development policies. WebJunction Connecticut has a PowerPoint on weeding. Accessible at:

Specific Data to Collect:

  • Number and types of items in your collection:
  • Adult and Children's
  • Reference
  • Special collections
  • Periodicals
  • Videos and audio
  • Government documents
  • Other

Circulation Information:

  • Number of patrons
  • Special categories of patrons (children, seniors, out of county, etc.)
  • The number of patrons in each category


  • Number of new items you purchase each year
  • Vendors you use for purchasing
  • Can you purchase MARC records from these vendors?
  • Usage Statistics
  • Number of patrons, number of staffs that use the card catalog
  • during average and peak hours (Once you automate, these numbers may change

Budget Assessment:

Throughout the process of automation, budget concerns will always be an issue. Whether you are looking at different types of software or trying to figure out how to purchase new computers, your budget will affect the entire process of automation. Budget is not the only factor to consider in automating because there are creative ways to fund your automation project such as grants, but you definitely have to think about sustaining the costs.

Major Areas of Cost Consideration:

  • System Purchase
  • hardware, software--modules you choose to purchase. Purchase the automation system before the hardware. Hardware purchases can be based on the software you choose.
  • Site Preparation--updating power supply, updating electrical wiring, cable for networking, furniture, remodeling that may need to be done, adequate HVAC system
  • Telecommunications Dedicate at least one standard (analog) phone line that the vendor can use to dial up to your system. Internet accessibility is become more common for vendor troubleshooting, but you may still need that extra phone line.
  • Conversion Costs--This includes the costs of converting the catalog and patron records. However, also consider the cost of staff time dedicated to the project. Bar-coding costs also fall into this category.
  • Operating Costs--This category is often forgotten in automating a library. Typical costs in this category include on-going utility and telecommunications costs, software license renewals, software updates, system maintenance fees, and miscellaneous supplies.

For additional information, email: Regan Harper (

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