Two seemingly straightforward requests received in as many days, produced groans when I first knew about them. Now, I’m not starting a post Christmas slump, one from which I would be unlikely to emerge until the clocks go forward at the end of March. The requests themselves don’t require a feat of mental gymnastics such as that needed to consolidate the different spellings or misspellings that we have for Russian authors in our catalogue. So where’s the problem.
The requests were: how many items were returned yesterday and what transactions were processed at a Campus Library around a particular time on an afternoon in December. Straightforward certainly, however frustration arises, because for these requests it takes so long to get the data out of the Library Management System. The report ends up grinding through nearly 21 million loans; and can’t be run on our live system for fear of bringing it to a halt.
I’ve worked in Libraries for the past 5½ years and before that I worked for a small company producing Business software. Even back in the dim distant past of the early 90’s, up to the minute sales and transaction reports could be produced by end-users without any impact on the live system. The slowness of the current reporting is due to database design not just system speed. I know, Libraries have very different demands and pressures from commercial companies, but it is still galling to know that I could have produced equivalent figures in a couple of minutes, when mobile phones were still the size of a brick (or two).