My path to PC Management heaven: CASSIE

(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!

Alison Pruntel
Electronic Resources Librarian
Fauquier County Public Library
Warrenton, VA

--> For more information on PC Management, check out Meal Plan 5  in Recipes for a 5-Star Library Cookbook
 

Comments

Wanted to let you know that the folks from Envisionware called me (apparently some of their customers have forwarded this post) and take exception to a few things in my spreadsheet comparing their print/PC management software against Librarica's CASSIE. Specifically: (1)Envisionware Rep - "One year of product updates, allowing you access to new features and enhancements - the spread sheet says this information is confidential but we are very open about the fact that 1 year of support and updates are included with all purchases." **AP Response - I did not want to include any pricing, etc., so as to not violate any sort of confidentiality agreement. It is okay to include with CASSIE, actually, because Librarica allows you to calculate/explains everything right there on their Web site. Also, usually 1 year of support/updates is standard. (2)Envisionware Rep - "Works with coin machines (printing)- no aam required." **AP Response - Our concern/need was not with regard to the coin machines. We actually needed the AAM because we wanted global enforcement of policies (time allotted would include all 3 branches) and global stats. Envisionware sales rep confirmed that the AAM would be needed for that. That is something that I think any library would want (global enforcement) and it was disappointing that yet another module had to be purchased in order to have that in place. Hence why in my spreadsheet. (3) Envisionware Rep - "There is something listed under software updates that says 2-4 times a year. I just want to verify that we offer updates one or more times a year but do not require that the updates be pushed out that often. A customer may choose to do them all at once or as they become available. Each update package contains the previous updates released." **AP Response - As with any software, you don’t HAVE to install every update, but IMO, it’s best practice to run the latest version. Maybe I was told that the updates would be more often because the rep thought that was a selling point (always enhancing the product!). Hopefully it is clear that my spreadsheet and comments relate to MY library system's setup, needs, etc., and other library's conclusions will vary. The spreadsheet simply points out features you may want to compare across product lines. I certainly did not intend to malign any particular vendor.

I'm just wondering if you're still happy with your selection of CASSIE? We're currently using Envisionware, but are seriously looking at other alternatives since they do not yet support Vista and probably won't support Windows 7 in the foreseeable future. I've asked around libraries in our state and some use CASSIE, but most fell short of actually recommending it. The only "recommendations" I've had so far was for SAM, or just staying with the unsupported Envisionware. Cost isn't a concern, functionality, uptime, and fair distribution of Patron PC time is paramount. Thank you for your insight.

We are running envisionware and they do support vista, and windows 7 support is coming in the near future.

Hi Rob - Yes, we are still very happy with CASSIE. I'm surprised that you spoke with other libraries in your state using it and they fell short of recommending. I would recommend enthusiastically. CASSIE does support Windows 7, too. Good luck!

Alison