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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.

Library Computer Upgrade

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 27, 2012

You probably haven’t noticed any change in the library’s automation system, but the work has started to migrate to a new software package.

 

It is called “Symphony,” and is a product of the SIRSIDynix Corp., a major supplier of automation systems for libraries.

 

We are part of the SEO Library System, a consortium of over 80 library systems in Ohio.

 

Your library system was one of the first four libraries to form this automation system in 1988, when shared computer networks were still in their infancy.

 

Libraries in Cadiz, St. Clairsville, Barnesville, and Woodsfield joined with us in linking to the State Library’s system that operated from their SE Center in Caldwell.

 

Within 5 years, the system had doubled in size, and now 25 years later there are 80 library systems in the network with more “waiting in the wings” to join once the upgrade is complete.

 

Over 6 million items are in the database, and the new upgrade will bring more resources in a variety of formats into the system for public use.

 

In 1988, the system looked like a card catalog file drawer, except in electronic format.

 

With the upgrade, the look will change to resemble Internet searches, and cross-links to other resources.

 

Several libraries have been editing the database for more than a year to clean up old entries that dated from the early days of the system.

 

Duplicate entries in the system were merged into single entries to allow easier use by the public.

 

Within a generation, libraries have progressed from the wood drawers of card catalogs to online systems that can be instantly updated with the stroke of a key.

 

It has been estimated that less than 10 percent of library users knew how to use a card catalog effectively; a statistic confirmed by librarians of that era.

 

Today, anyone with some computer searching skills can use a library online catalog to locate materials in a library’s collection, which has expanded to include databases of materials beyond the traditional books on a library shelf.

 

The linking of multiple library collections has enhanced the public’s ability to locate information regardless of the person’s home location.

 

Despite all of this new ability and technology, public libraries are still staffed with human librarians whose jobs haven’t changed, but their tools have.

 

In 1902 when our Main Library building opened, there was some debate as to whether the library desk needed a phone.

 

Today, that same question would relate to the need of Internet service into a modern library.

 

You can pick-up a paper copy, we can e-mail it to you; scan it and send it, tell you via phone, send it in the mail, or text it to your phone.

 

New portions of the automation upgrade relate to communication that is related to today’s era of “smart phones” which provide information in the palm of your hand.

 

It wasn’t so long ago that a library user asked me “if something was burning in the library.”

 

My response was, “Oh, sorry, we are receiving a telefascimile and the stylus burns the letters into a heat sensitive paper.”

 

Imagine that took place in 1980, slightly more than 30 years ago.

 

And yes, public libraries still use the Dewey Decimal Classification to arrange books, CDs, and DVDs on our shelves and those numbers will appear in the new Symphony system.

 

All that has changed is that the spine label is no longer typed on a typewriter on those little labels that were always getting stuck on the machine’s platen roller.

 

Now they get stuck on the roller of a Zebra TLP 2844 laser-jet computer printer.