SCIS is more

By Dr Ben Chadwick

Dr Ben Chadwick, Director of Research and Information Services at SCIS, announces an exciting new feature that will be available to subscribers over the coming year.

Some things are fundamental to providing a library service. Of course, you need a decent collection of resources, but you also need to support students to discover it, explore it and use it to meet their interests and research needs.

Now, imagine a student came into your library and asked if you had any music by Ye. You could answer ‘Not by that name, but we do have CDs he released as Kanye West’.  Or you just say ‘No’ and smile pleasantly. 

Imagine a student told you they had a project about bugs, and instead of showing them all the books you had with the subject heading ‘insects’, you smirk and say ‘No, we don’t have anything about “bugs” per se’.

Image of girl reading book with the caption 'we're thrilled to announce an exciting new upgrade at SCIS!'

Imagine they were researching ‘disarmament’ but were not happy with what they had found. You shrug your shoulders and walk away, when you could have encouraged them to explore other topics, like ‘arms race’, ‘international relations’ or ‘antinuclear movement’.

You would not do any of those things, but too often that is exactly what students get when they use a library catalogue. 

Catalogue records contain a number  of what are referred to as controlled values: author names, subject headings and possibly series titles. But these pieces of information do not contain any context. That’s where Authority Files come in. 

Authority Files are a SCIS product that can be imported into your library system to provide context around authors, subjects and series titles. This crucial network of information includes see references (for instance ‘Kennilworthy Whisp, see JK Rowling’) and see also references (including broader, narrower and related topics). They provide the data that enables your system to level up its support for research and discovery. In terms of library practice, this kind of data is not secondary to the bibliographic data in your system – it is fundamental.

SCIS has been working with library system vendors to support automatic downloading and installation of Authority Files

SCIS updates and re-releases its Authority Files twice a year. Occasionally subscribers have told us they are a bit intimidated by Authority Files. They’re not sure what to do with these files or what the files might do to their system if they import them. Rest assured they are very safe, and all major school library systems work with us to ensure the import process is safe, painless and fairly fast.

Even so, we’ve decided to make it even easier. So here is the big announcement: SCIS has been working with library system vendors to support automatic downloading and installation of Authority Files. SCIS Authority File subscribers will no longer have to download the files from our website and upload them into their system. It will all be done by your system talking to our system’s API.

It’s up to each system vendor to decide whether to use our new feature and, if they do, how they go about it. For example, solutions may involve a degree of automation but still require you to ‘press the button’ twice a year when we let you know the files have been updated. Talk to your system vendor if you would like to know how and when you can make the most of SCIS’s new API for downloading Authority Files.

If you’re not a SCIS Authority File subscriber but would like to start providing this important service to your students, visit our website or get in touch with our friendly customer service staff. SCIS also provides plenty of professional learning to help our subscribers get the most out of our Authority Files, so keep an eye on our professional learning page.

With that big announcement out of the way I’d like to welcome you to Connections issue 121. I hope you enjoy it!

Dr Ben Chadwick

Director, Research and Information Services

Education Services Australia