The FAILURE of software:
Aleph500 cataloging
program
Outline
The importance of software
 Software failure
 Library software
 Brooklyn College software specific
functions
 Aleph500
 Aleph500 software failure
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THE IMPORTANCE OF
SOFTWARE TO THE
BROOKLYN COLLEGE
LIBRARY
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Volume of books
Retrieval time
Unavoidable
Automation
SOFTWARE FAILURE
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Introduction
Bugs
Organization specific Vs. User specific
software failure
Common reasons for software failure
Some historical cases of software failure
Relation to our presentation
Introduction
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Hundreds of thousands of software projects
fail everyday
Software companies, not eager to share
disaster stories
Reducing the number of software failures is
one of the most challenging problems of
software production.
Bugs
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Murphy’s Law
Cost to U.S. economy
“Death March mentality”
Unachievable deadlines
Too few programmers
All-nighter credo of college-age jockeys
Shrinking budgets
Automotive aerospace industry study
specific versus User
specific software failure
What an organization needs might
not be what a user needs
 What a section of an organization
might need might not be what the
organization as whole might need
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Common reasons for
software failure
Software aging
 Data corruption
 Numerical error accumulation
 Exhaustion of system resources
 Programmer does not understand
the project requirements
 Microsoft o/s XP
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Some historical cases of
software failure
Knight Trading Group Inc
 FFASTFILL GET
 FURNITURELAND
 African Renaissance
 USMC Osprey crash
 Air-Traffic “glitch”
 INTIUT’s tax software
 Ebay
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Historical cases of software
failure cont’d
London Stock exchange (Taurus)- book
reviews
 London Ambulance Service dispatch project book reviews
 Integrated reservation system -book reviews
 The Performing Rights Society -book reviews
 NASAs’ 1999 mission to launch craft into orbit
of mars, $125 million
 YEAR 2K
 SATURDAY’S JAPANESE AIR TRAFFIC
SUSPENDED 30 MINUTES SOFTWARE FAILURE
TV GET PAPER
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Relation to our presentation
Software failure is a fact of life
 Automation exists due to software
 As a result software failure is imminent
 The library employs automation
 Therefore software failure should not be a
surprise
 Rather, it should be a REALITY
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LIBRARY SOFTWARE
The good old days
 3”x5” card catalogs- no more
 What would we do without automation?
 No more
 Automation can help locate books, journals
etc, at light speeds. The electron travels fast.
 Library staff can efficiently manage their
collections and better point students in the
right direction
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The history of cataloging at
Brooklyn College
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Card catalog used until 1980
 1980 Microfiche
 1988 first online system / NOTICE from
Northwest university
 Technical service end of the program
 CUNY + student end of the cataloging tool
 Aleph500 January 2002
BROOKLYN COLLEGE
SOFTWARE SPECIFIC
FUNCTIONS
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Cataloging
Circulation
Etc.
Library structure and needs
Brooklyn college library structure
 Technical services function
 Technical services old software
 Technical services New software
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Brooklyn college library
structure
Technical services function
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Cataloging, Cataloging, and more cataloging
Technical services old
software
Technical services New
software
Technical services function
and structure
Cataloging R us
 User, PC, dot-matrix printer,
Aleph500, Operating system
 Let’s get going
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Technical services picture
Technical services New
software
Some companies that offer
automated library software
 Aleph500
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Some companies that offer
automated library software
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Checkpoint
MARC cataloging software
Athena version 7.1
Winnebago Spectrum 4.0
All above are
SydneyPLUS
Horizon cataloging software
Follet software
ITS International
Voyager
MANDARIN M3 Version 1.5
Some more companies
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Via
Surpass
ILLiad
Precision One
“Impact”/ONLINE
HomeMade software D – Wisconsin
based school librarian Nels Akre
MARCit inexpensive tool $50.00 for
cataloging websites
ALEPH500
ALEPH500 Introduction
Historical background
 Self advertisement
 Partnerships
 Organizations that chose Aleph500
 Organization specific functionality
 Brooklyn College specific functionality
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Historical background
1980: Created
 1991: UNIX migration , 1st library software
 1996: Outside U.S. presence
 1998: Notre Dame Library, Michiana Academic
Library Consortium
 Chicago, Ex Libris
 Summer 2000 Boston office
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Self advertisement
Manages all aspects of the library, for staff and
patrons (cataloging?)
 Flexible
 Open
 Scalable
 Expandable
 Trustworthy
 Multilingual
 Client/Server
 Cataloging with extensive control
 Customer support
 Internet Live sessions
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Partnerships
SF-Systems : library binding
 SFX provides reference linking
services among electronic vendors
even if they are from different
vendors
 Sweet Blackwell : serial invoicing
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Organizations that chose
Aleph500
London University of East Anglia Summer 2002
 PALNI (Private Academic Library Network of
India)
 DELCAT
 SUNY
 CUNY
 University of London
 Universidad Nacional de Columbia (UNAL)
 Brandeis University, MA
 The Universidad
 Russian state university
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Some more organizations
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Biblioteca Nacional de chile (BN)
Mcgill University
Notre Dame University
Sorbonne Nouvelle Univesity (Paris)
University of East Anglia (London)
Univesity of Iowa
Brandon University
Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany
Center for Advanced European Studies and
Research (Bonn)
And some more
organizations
Harvard University
 MIT
 University of California
 UNILINC LTD.
 CA digial
 University of Delaware
 CO CONSORTIA
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Brooklyn College specific
functionality
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Cataloging tool
Automation makes it easy, or does it?
Label dispensing
A cataloging tool, what is it?
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Automated system for creating and editing
complex records in MARC format
Has to have a highly trained individual who
knows cataloging practices in general and
AACR2 specifically
It must take a significant amount of time to
create each record
Automation makes it easy,
or does it?
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Aleph500 promises the ease of use of its system to
create labels for our library resources, namely books
DOES IT?
The Problem
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Conversion of Aleph generated
script in the form of a Microsoft
Word document into two pocket
labels and a spine label
Problem background
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The following is a listing of steps necessary
to complete the task
We start by retrieving record
by bardcode
Enter barcode
Information is
displayed/double click label
We get a Microsoft word
document
Pocket label
Spine label
Combined label
Software Failure Timeline
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Old system rendered not operational and removed
from Technical services office
New system rendered operational and fully
implement able with Windows XP
XP is installed on almost all machines in Technical
Services office
Installation of new Aleph500 cataloging software
takes place
Information that was migrated from old system into
new system is present and all seems well
Users try to print complete labels, but can
not.
 Users seem to think that it is their
inexperience in software that hinders their
tries
 Head of Technical services contacts Library
director for assistance
 Library directors assigns associate director to
handle the problem.
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Associate director arrives at technical services
to apply his knowledge of computers into
solving the problem
 Associate director discovers that Aleph can
only print spine labels and not pocket labels.
 Also, the spine labels that Aleph prints are
out of order and rendered useless to Brooklyn
College format.
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Associate director begins to read the Aleph manual,
he soon discovers that through a maco, it might be
possible to generate labels
Associate director assigns a software developer to
work on the problem
Through the work of the developer it is discovered
that printing of labels could not be done in Microsoft
XP or Microsoft 2000 platforms, since necessary
driver for controllling custom paper size is not
supplied by printer manufacturer.
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From initial time of Aleph deployment to discovery
that Macro will not work, 3 months have passed
Technical services has become a very slow moving
machine.
Users can not use the old system
They resort to manually typing cataloging information
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The last time that regular type writers have been
used to type cataloging information was 30 years ago
As a result, books are not returning to shelves quickly
enough
Technical services is back to using “stone age” tools
Manpower is lost
Technical services, a viable department is shutdown
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Technical services is to the Brooklyn college library
what air traffic control is to an airport
The work of 10 is done to achieve the work of 1
Frustration is in the air
Tensions between the library executive branch and
technical services department are rising
Resources of other departments are being exploited
and pointed towards fixing a problem that is a result
of an outside agency
In conclusion
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The systems office of the library is now involved, a
software developer and a technical engineer are
working concurrently on the problem of software
failure and hardware compatibility
Aleph500 software failure has caused havoc in the
flow of information of the library, the core of the
library, the controlling unit of the library
Software failure is inevitable and a fact of life, we
have witnessed it in this case
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Technical services is an important branch of the
company
It was practically shutdown
Software was not able to meet needs of technical
services, the chief operator of the software
An alternate software solution needed to be
developed
Alternate solution was developed but it was
discovered that it could not work due to hardware
compatiblity issues
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Even if the Aleph500 software problem could be
solved through Aleph implementation, their software
does not support fully the Windows XP enviornment.
The windows XP operating system is the only
supported platform of the Brooklyn College Library
It looks like older is still better
The Brooklyn college library is a technological
achievement, but its software is a technological
nightmare
Summary
Software problems are inevitable
 They exist in every organization, no matter what the
cost of the software
 Aleph500 was touted as a great cataloging program
 It did not provide for the complete needs of the
Brooklyn College Technical Office
 The office that is the lifeline of the library
 It was not completely hardware compatible as it is
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self advertised and sold
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It did not provide for complete organization
specific task management
 It caused the effectual slow down of work
 It was supposed to be a tool of automation
but it became a tool that is useless
 Countless worker hours were lost
 Resources of other departments were
wasted
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The functionality that it provides still does
not work
 You as a student might be feeling the effects
of this failure the next time you approach a
librarian and ask the following question
 “Where can I find this book?”
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I hope that this presentation has made you
understand
 The causes for software failure
 The reality of software failure
 And the effect of software failure on your
school
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The Failure of Software: Aleph500 cataloging program