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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Horizon Information Portal - The Card Catalog

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 10, 2008

If you are in the library, and you hear one of the staff talk about the "hip," they aren't referring to a part of their body.


HIP stands for "Horizon Information Portal," and it's what I still call the "card catalog online."


Horizon is the name of the software that operates our automation system, and

"information portal" is what libraries call their computerized system that accesses online data.


Our HIP contains the holdings of 73 library systems in Ohio.


Those library collections total 5.8 million items, all available for loan to any library cardholder of the system.


Those library cardholders total 665,392 in the 73 libraries that are part of the system.


In 2007, the system checked out 13.3 million items to those cardholders.


The amazing statistic to me is that the HIP took 3 million electronic requests from the public for items held in those 73 libraries.


That means that every 10 seconds, someone is placing a request on the system!


A software upgrade was needed to the HIP to allow it to keep up with the heavy demand placed on it for library materials.


The complex process required several outages of service on the HIP, and it was amazing how quickly people noticed that the "HIP was down."


When you place a request (or a hold as some call it) on the HIP, the computer identifies the item, tags it for you, and establishes a list of requests for that particular item.


You are assigned a chronological number for the request, if there is more than one person waiting, and the request and the library owning a copy of the item is matched and the library is electronically informed.


The requests are filled by first matching the holdings of your local library to local holds, then its branches, and finally all system holdings.


So, if you are number 200 on a request list, that doesn't mean that 199 requests will be filled before yours.


It depends on who is requesting, and which library owns the item.


Back in the days before computers, requests were placed on paper and circulated to libraries in the area twice a week.


This method took about four weeks to complete, compared to today's daily delivery.


Panic would take place whenever one of the red metal clips designating a request was found on the floor where it had "popped off" the manual card system.


This has certainly proven the usefulness of computers and automation to the successful operation of a library in the 21st century.


Thinking back, the greatest improvement in my mind is the fact that librarians can answer the simple question, "Is that book checked out?"


The 1975 answer was always, "well, if it isn't on the shelf, it must be out."


The part of the answer that we never used was, "and if you want me to look through the 6,000 cards in these trays arranged by date due to find that particular book, I don't have the time."