By the end of this year, Hong Kong will see the world's largest bilingual library system in operation, handling more than 31 million loans by 2.6 million borrowers annually.
The US$16.7 million library system will connect the 66 existing libraries throughout the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the new Central Library in Causeway Bay, which is slated to open by December.
Because the libraries previously were managed separately by the disbanded Provisional Urban and Regional Councils according to their geographic locations, two individual library systems currently are deployed. Therefore, the volume handled by each of the two systems is approximately half that of the new system.
Jointly delivered by Hewlett-Packard Co. and Hong Kong-based SCS Information Technology, the new library system, apart from providing increased capacity, will support Web-based as well as multimedia applications.
With the new integrated system in place, patrons will be able to borrow books from any library and return them to any other library in the SAR. Currently, this is not possible because the separate systems only allow patrons to borrow and return books to libraries administered by the same Council, according to John Li, managing consultant for Hewlett-Packard Consulting.
The existing X.25 data network will be migrated to TCP/IP, allowing users to access library information from anywhere at any time, whether to renew an existing loan, reserve a book or search the catalogue. Hewlett-Packard is looking into the possibility of enabling library patrons to conduct monetary transactions over the Internet, including payment of fines for overdue books.
In addition, 1,500 new workstations, more than 90 percent of which are to be supplied by HP, will replace all existing terminals and desktops and will run graphical applications. Since all workstations will be connected to the Internet, the public will also be able to make use of them to access the Web.
The new library system, running Dynix application software on four HP 9000 Enterprise Servers, will be implemented in two stages.
Within the first half of the year, all existing desktops and terminals will be switched to the new system. Li said the challenge lies in manually switching each machine one by one in a single day while making sure both the new and old systems run smoothly during the transition.
The second phase, to be completed by December, will focus on the development of functional enhancements to the new system.