Calgary puts K-12 school libraries online

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Fujitsu Consulting have announced a $2.2-million, five-year partnership intended to benefit K-12 students, teachers and parents by replacing the

board’s dated library information system with an Integrated Media System (IMS) capable of providing onsite and offsite access to resources.

Fujitsu will use the Application Service Provider (ASP) model to deliver the solution, allowing the CBE to save money by paying based on overall use of the system. The ASP arrangement will not only make it more affordable to deploy a solution designed to facilitate access to library holdings, licensed databases and education-content Web sites, but also allow the board to meet the future needs of its 200 schools, 99,000 students and 5,000 teachers without its having to come up with huge up-front capital investments.

“”We were moving into an era where the old way of looking after libraries with card indexes and all those kinds of things was not going to work for us into the future,”” said Lynn Nishimura, chair of the board of trustees at the CBE. “”The cost of our school district buying the software program to look after and link all of our school libraries was prohibitive for us. This partnership with Fujitsu is going to enable our schools to link together their library systems and will make available to our students a much greater array of resources.””

According to Lloyd Rehman, senior vice-president of client relations at Fujitsu Consulting (Prairies Region, Canada), the process leading up to the partnership started about one and a half years ago. Fujitsu Consulting was ultimately successful after the CBE had gone to the market through a public tender.

“”The arrangement under which the solution is being provided is the first in Canada, that being the ASP provision of this service,”” said Rehman. “”(It) allows the board of education to fix costs for the next five years. They know what their costs are going to be. They know what the service level is going to be. They know what functionality is going to be delivered. And they don’t need to own and operate any of that solution. We’re doing it on their behalf. It creates a great opportunity for other boards of education in Alberta and across Canada to tap into that same service.””

Although not getting into specifics about the other school boards currently considering the IMS, Rehman said that Fujitsu Consulting, along with its partners in the CBE agreement, Bell Canada, which will provide infrastructure services, and Sagebrush Corp., which will provide K-12 library information systems, plans to market the IMS ASP model nationally to boards of education.

It’s certainly no surprise that the ASP model is as popular as it is, said Laura DiDio, senior analyst at the Yankee Group.

“”What they’re doing is outsourcing their IT headaches,”” said DiDio, referring to many of the entities that go the ASP route. “”Libraries or governments or municipalities are running on very tight budgets, and they’re not going to be able to pay very high IT salaries that you see in the commercial world. What happens to a small municipal agency or academic agency if their one IT person leaves?””

Nishimura from the CBE said that the IMS rollout will likely begin in September 2004, but because there are so many schools in the district, it will take a while to complete the rollout. Nonetheless she stressed that the partnership will benefit students.

“”It’s really important to recognize the hard work of developing a partnership and finding the partnership that works for both partners,”” she said. “”Certainly we were very pleased that Fujitsu was willing to enter into this with us. And we see really good things coming from this partnership that will have a positive impact on student learning.””

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