(Sometimes technology doesn't work the way we expect. A great post from Alison Pruntel was lost in our spam filter, so I'm re-posting it now. Enjoy! -sarah)
Last year I was tasked with finding an alternative to our then current PC management software, CybraryN. We had been using CybraryN for I think about 5 years or so and had experienced some ups and downs with it. While it met some of our needs for enforcing time limits and getting people on a waiting list for a PC, we did experience a number of problems/strange behavior and the tech support was pretty non-existent. The customer was/is expected to figure a lot out for him/herself and sometimes it seemed like I knew more than the “software engineer.” Anyway, I looked at most of the major players – Envisionware, SAM, Pharos and Librarica’s CASSIE. I created a spreadsheet that listed out the various benefits and drawbacks of each in order to help me make a objective decision aside from just cost considerations (download my Envisionware vs. CASSIE analysis spreadsheet [xls]). I also involved our network manager in the county IT department to make sure he was comfortable with our selection (I handle the library software versus our IT department, but they need to sign off on anything that sits on the county network).
All of the products had unique features (and Envisionware customers seem rabidly happy with their product), but I found that CASSIE seemed to have everything we needed (time and print management, ability to customize for our patrons, including the messages users received, ease of use, easy installation and maintenance, robust customer support) at a fraction of the cost of the others. Our first quote from Envisionware was prohibitive. They did come down about 6 months later (by half!) which made me more skeptical of the information I was receiving from the sales rep. I also liked that Librarica allowed me to test the software (install, have it working) before making any sort of decision. With Envisionware, you had to sign a licensing agreement even to test.
The other thing for me was that I was able to understand the manual for CASSIE. I do not have a computer science background, but I found their documentation to be easy to understand. Their solution seems much more simple/elegant than the others. Envisionware’s various tomes brought back memories of calculus classes. I knew that if I ran into problems that if I had to consult and actually understand the documentation, I would run into problems. Granted, Envisionware seems to have a great online support site (knowledge base, listserv), but when I compared the online resources to what Librarica/CASSIE offered, I found Librarica’s much more intuitive.
To recap, the key features that sold me on Librarica versus the others:
- Easy to install and configure – no need to be a systems librarian or PC expert to do this;
- Easy to push out updates through our SMS server (IT department very happy with this);
- Support is excellent – lots of self-help on the site which avoids putting in a ticket/call, but when needed, answered promptly. Their support site even has a number of videos you can watch to understand patron experience and that show you how to configure the software;
- Cost – CASSIE was definitely the most cost-efficient choice. We did end up purchasing and putting it on a server (which was more expensive than the license), but you actually don’t need to have a server to host the software. Any PC will do as long as you keep it online at all times. Our IT department pushed for it to be on a server for redundancy, ensure no issues;
- Sales was very low key – they answered any questions but no push to get you to purchase. I ended up contacting a number of their customers and the responses I received were invaluable. It helped to hear back from the staff that actually installed/configured; -Intuitive interface for both staff and patrons – very easy to use and the staff really seemed to like CASSIE during the testing phase. I had to have buy-in from staff…they are on the front lines with this;
- Makes my job much easier!