So I spend the past few weeks, writing and researching about OPAC's That Suck, learning about what makes an OPAC unsuck, and trying to think of a dream OPAC for Quatrefoil Library. I read about NextGeneration catalogs, installed Wordpress and tried out widgets. I downloaded koha, openILS, VuFind, and blacklight. I tried to translate my rudimentary perl scripting skills to Ruby on Rails (Rosetta Stone For Scripting Languages). All this was a fun exercise, but dang it I have a paper to write and a portal to do.
And Quatrefoil can't wait for me to finish geeking out over the latest Library2.0 tools. We need a new ILS system like yesterday. Our current software is unsupported, if it goes down we have no tech support, no nothing. While Athena has an adequate cataloging system, really that is all it has going for it. No circulation system, no inventory, no label printing, no serials module, no acquisitions module, no OPAC.
Our options seemed limited to high dollar-locked into vendor control Big Names (Sirsi-Dynix, Innovative Interfaces) or "free" open-source---which really is not free as in no cost. We would still need to invest in new hardware, have someone on call when something went wrong. With no paid staff, and 3 volunteers on the Tech Committee, it is all we can do to keep our 3 public computers and our wifi functioning.
Luckily we did find something "in-between": a library automation system called LibraryWorld.com. It is hosted on their servers, accessed over the web, and has a yearly subscription fee of $395. It is made for small libraries, has a circ & inventory system. We give up much control in how the systems looks and functions. (You're calling the Location Code a "Branch"--srsly?!") The OPAC is fugly, but it seems to return more relevant results than our old catalog. Ranking! Yay!
With the way "everything" is changing, I am comfortable knowing that something better will replace this soon, but we got what we needed. And I'll keep improving my tech skills.