The Failure of Software - Computer and Information Science


The FAILURE of software:

Aleph500 cataloging program


The importance of software

Software failure

Library software

Brooklyn College software specific functions


Aleph500 software failure





Volume of books

Retrieval time






Organization specific Vs. User specific software failure

Common reasons for software failure

Some historical cases of software failure

Relation to our presentation


Hundreds of thousands of software projects fail everyday

Software companies, not eager to share disaster stories

Reducing the number of software failures is one of the most challenging problems of software production.


 Murphy’s Law

Cost to U.S. economy

“Death March mentality”

 Unachievable deadlines

 Too few programmers

 All-nighter credo of college-age jockeys

 Shrinking budgets

 Automotive aerospace industry study

specific versus User specific software failure

What an organization needs might not be what a user needs

What a section of an organization might need might not be what the organization as whole might need

Common reasons for software failure

Software aging

Data corruption

Numerical error accumulation

Exhaustion of system resources

Programmer does not understand the project requirements

Microsoft o/s XP

Some historical cases of software failure

Knight Trading Group Inc



African Renaissance

USMC Osprey crash

Air-Traffic “glitch”

INTIUT’s tax software


Historical cases of software failure cont ’ d

London Stock exchange (Taurus)- book reviews

London Ambulance Service dispatch project book reviews

Integrated reservation system -book reviews

The Performing Rights Society -book reviews

NASAs’ 1999 mission to launch craft into orbit of mars, $125 million





Relation to our presentation

Software failure is a fact of life

Automation exists due to software

As a result software failure is imminent

The library employs automation

Therefore software failure should not be a surprise

Rather, it should be a REALITY


The good old days

3”x5” card catalogs- no more

What would we do without automation?

No more

Automation can help locate books, journals etc, at light speeds. The electron travels fast.

Library staff can efficiently manage their collections and better point students in the right direction

The history of cataloging at

Brooklyn College

 Card catalog used until 1980

 1980 Microfiche

 1988 first online system / NOTICE from

Northwest university

 Technical service end of the program

 CUNY + student end of the cataloging tool

 Aleph500 January 2002







Library structure and needs

Brooklyn college library structure

Technical services function

Technical services old software

Technical services New software

Brooklyn college library structure

Technical services function

Cataloging, Cataloging, and more cataloging

Technical services old software

Technical services New software

Technical services function and structure

Cataloging R us

User, PC, dot-matrix printer,

Aleph500, Operating system

Let’s get going

Technical services picture

Technical services New software

Some companies that offer automated library software


Some companies that offer automated library software


MARC cataloging software

Athena version 7.1

Winnebago Spectrum 4.0

All above are


Horizon cataloging software

Follet software

ITS International


MANDARIN M3 Version 1.5

Some more companies




Precision One


HomeMade software D – Wisconsin based school librarian Nels Akre

MARCit inexpensive tool $50.00 for cataloging websites


ALEPH500 Introduction

Historical background

Self advertisement


Organizations that chose Aleph500

Organization specific functionality

Brooklyn College specific functionality

Historical background

1980: Created

1991: UNIX migration , 1 st library software

1996: Outside U.S. presence

1998: Notre Dame Library, Michiana Academic

Library Consortium

Chicago, Ex Libris

Summer 2000 Boston office

Self advertisement

Manages all aspects of the library, for staff and patrons (cataloging?)








Cataloging with extensive control

Customer support

Internet Live sessions


SF -Systems : library binding

SFX provides reference linking services among electronic vendors even if they are from different vendors

Sweet Blackwell : serial invoicing

Organizations that chose


London University of East Anglia Summer 2002

PALNI (Private Academic Library Network of





University of London

Universidad Nacional de Columbia (UNAL)

Brandeis University, MA

The Universidad

Russian state university

Some more organizations

Biblioteca Nacional de chile (BN)

Mcgill University

Notre Dame University

Sorbonne Nouvelle Univesity (Paris)

University of East Anglia (London)

Univesity of Iowa

Brandon University

Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany

Center for Advanced European Studies and

Research (Bonn)

And some more organizations

Harvard University


University of California


CA digial

University of Delaware


Brooklyn College specific functionality

Cataloging tool

Automation makes it easy, or does it?

Label dispensing

A cataloging tool, what is it?

Automated system for creating and editing complex records in MARC format

Has to have a highly trained individual who knows cataloging practices in general and

AACR2 specifically

It must take a significant amount of time to create each record

Automation makes it easy, or does it?

 Aleph500 promises the ease of use of its system to create labels for our library resources, namely books


The Problem

Conversion of Aleph generated script in the form of a Microsoft

Word document into two pocket labels and a spine label

Problem background

 The following is a listing of steps necessary to complete the task

We start by retrieving record by bardcode

Enter barcode

Information is displayed/double click label

We get a Microsoft word document

Pocket label

Spine label

Combined label

Software Failure Timeline

Old system rendered not operational and removed from Technical services office

New system rendered operational and fully implement able with Windows XP

XP is installed on almost all machines in Technical

Services office

Installation of new Aleph500 cataloging software takes place

Information that was migrated from old system into new system is present and all seems well

Users try to print complete labels, but can not.

Users seem to think that it is their inexperience in software that hinders their tries

Head of Technical services contacts Library director for assistance

Library directors assigns associate director to handle the problem.

Associate director arrives at technical services to apply his knowledge of computers into solving the problem

Associate director discovers that Aleph can only print spine labels and not pocket labels.

Also, the spine labels that Aleph prints are out of order and rendered useless to Brooklyn

College format.

Associate director begins to read the Aleph manual, he soon discovers that through a maco, it might be possible to generate labels

Associate director assigns a software developer to work on the problem

Through the work of the developer it is discovered that printing of labels could not be done in Microsoft

XP or Microsoft 2000 platforms, since necessary driver for controllling custom paper size is not supplied by printer manufacturer.

From initial time of Aleph deployment to discovery that Macro will not work, 3 months have passed

Technical services has become a very slow moving machine.

Users can not use the old system

They resort to manually typing cataloging information

The last time that regular type writers have been used to type cataloging information was 30 years ago

As a result, books are not returning to shelves quickly enough

Technical services is back to using “stone age” tools

Manpower is lost

Technical services, a viable department is shutdown

Technical services is to the Brooklyn college library what air traffic control is to an airport

The work of 10 is done to achieve the work of 1

Frustration is in the air

Tensions between the library executive branch and technical services department are rising

Resources of other departments are being exploited and pointed towards fixing a problem that is a result of an outside agency

In conclusion

The systems office of the library is now involved, a software developer and a technical engineer are working concurrently on the problem of software failure and hardware compatibility

Aleph500 software failure has caused havoc in the flow of information of the library, the core of the library, the controlling unit of the library

Software failure is inevitable and a fact of life, we have witnessed it in this case

Technical services is an important branch of the company

It was practically shutdown

Software was not able to meet needs of technical services, the chief operator of the software

An alternate software solution needed to be developed

Alternate solution was developed but it was discovered that it could not work due to hardware compatiblity issues

Even if the Aleph500 software problem could be solved through Aleph implementation, their software does not support fully the Windows XP enviornment.

The windows XP operating system is the only supported platform of the Brooklyn College Library

It looks like older is still better

The Brooklyn college library is a technological achievement, but its software is a technological nightmare


Software problems are inevitable

They exist in every organization, no matter what the cost of the software

Aleph500 was touted as a great cataloging program

It did not provide for the complete needs of the

Brooklyn College Technical Office

The office that is the lifeline of the library

It was not completely hardware compatible as it is self advertised and sold

 It did not provide for complete organization specific task management

 It caused the effectual slow down of work

 It was supposed to be a tool of automation but it became a tool that is useless

 Countless worker hours were lost

 Resources of other departments were wasted

 The functionality that it provides still does not work

 You as a student might be feeling the effects of this failure the next time you approach a librarian and ask the following question

 “Where can I find this book?”

 I hope that this presentation has made you understand

 The causes for software failure

 The reality of software failure

 And the effect of software failure on your school