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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.

SEO Library Automation System

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 15, 2011

It was a summer day in 1985 when four librarians got together at the St. Clairsville Public Library to discuss joining with the State Library of Ohio to automate the checkout and checkin of our library collections.

 

No one was sure that it would even work, the transmission of data could be achieved over telephone lines up to 16 terminals per line, but the equipment operating in a rural area was still unknown.

 

Regardless, libraries in Woodsfield and Cadiz, were joining with St. Clairsville and Steubenville (yes, I was there) to see if we could link to the State Library’s SE Ohio Center to going “online.”

 

I had some computer experience in college, mostly doing “key punch” onto data entry cards, and a little transmission of data to a computer center by putting the phone set into a cradle, but hardly anything that would have been much help with this project.

 

In Library School, the computer sat in the basement of the library in a locked wire cage, and connected to Columbus.  Large libraries were connected in some way.

 

The four libraries continued to meet, and by 1988 things were ready to begin developing a database of our collections.

 

When we went online in Aug. 1988, the Barnesville Library had joined us and we began checking out our collection by computer.

 

The five of us got together for a one-day workshop to train us in how the system works, so we could share our knowledge with all the library staff.

 

Here we are 22 years later, preparing for the annual workshop of libraries that belong to the State Library’s system, now simply called the SEO Library Consortium.

 

The Workshop has to be held in Newark, as that is central to all of Ohio and the 78 library systems that are part of the automation project, and the estimated 1,400 computers that are online on a given day, serving 600,000 library customers.

 

Attendance at this year’s workshop is expected to exceed 150 people who will return to their libraries and share their knowledge with the other staff.

 

The system has gone through numerous software and hardware upgrades, and we are preparing for the move from the Horizon SirsiDynix system to the Symphony System.

 

Classes will show us what new features and operating systems will be added, and what it will mean for staff and the public using the system.

 

E-book downloads, Learning Express, and Enterprise searching are all classes offered.

 

It is a far cry from that 1988 workshop that concentrated on checkin and checkout of books, and how to pay an overdue fine online.

 

The nuts and bolts of moving all of the stuff around to the 78 library systems will be covered as well, from the correct number of rubber bands and staples to the correct bubble wrap to protect DVDs in transit.

 

It is a shared system, so laundry carts full of books, DVDs, CDs, and journals are moving around Ohio on any given day.

 

The services offered in 2011 by this collaboration of libraries exceed the abilities of 1988 to such an extent, that it cannot even be compared.

 

Online searching and electronic requests for materials have long since replaced card catalogs and lists of items that were manually searched.

 

And I am the only one left of the original group of librarians, everyone else has retired and left the profession.

 

The new generation of librarians is creating their own history of collaboration and shared library services using computers.