Kochi college introduces novel initiative of integrating WhatsApp with its automated library management system

The service makes the library services more easy to access for its student members

March 23, 2024 12:33 pm | Updated March 27, 2024 01:38 am IST - KOCHI

The library of Sacred Heart College at Thevara, Kochi. 

The library of Sacred Heart College at Thevara, Kochi.  | Photo Credit: R.K. Nithin

Sacred Heart College, Thevara, has come up with arguably a first of its kind initiative by any educational institution in the country of integrating WhatsApp instant messaging service into its library management system thus making the library services more easy to access for its student members.

The college had automated its library by customising Koha, a free and open source library system, back in 2013. But that automated system was largely restricted to basic services like checking the availability of books, date of return etc. The seamless integration of WhatsApp APIs with Koha has taken the automation to the next level facilitating automated notifications, due date reminders, and real-time updates on book availability, reservation notification all underpinned by a robust user authentication system to prioritize data security.

Mahesh Palamuttath, the librarian of the college’s east campus library, had written the code for the integration of WhatsApp into the library management system. The college has been conducting a trial run of the new improved system for the last few months before it was inaugurated on Thursday. A chatbot service has also been weaved into the system for replying to frequently asked questions.

“To our knowledge, no other educational institution in the country has integrated instant messaging service into their library management system and many are approaching us to help them with the innovative technology. Once we stabilise, we will start helping others to set up a similar system,” said Biju V.V., chief librarian of the college.

Since the admission database of the college remains integrated into the library management system, a student receives a welcome message the movement he/she is enrolled. With access to the date of birth of each student, hitherto, the library may also be the first to deliver a birthday day message to a student as soon as the clock strikes midnight.

“That it has spared students of coughing up fine for late return of books is one of the major highlights of the system. Earlier, students used to forget the due date. But now the system alerts them the day before the due date,” said Mr. Biju.

Also, reservation of titles has become a lot easier. Earlier, the library authorities had to manually alert the students who have reserved a title when it became available. Now, an instant message is delivered as soon as the title becomes available enabling students to borrow it.

“We are also planning to conduct a survey among students to assess how the system has eased accessing the library services, modifications required etc. The survey is part of a scientific article complete with the source code we plan to publish in an international journal,” said Mr. Biju,

The college manager Varghese Kachappilly inaugurated the new system. Principal Jose John, vice-principal Joseph Kusumalayam, Tomy P.P., bursar of the college, were among those present.

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