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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.

Using the New Library Computer System

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Library’s computer migration is now 3 weeks old and generally things are operational and have been adjusted by the Computer Center.


This large upgrade, the first in 7 years, has involved more work than the five earlier upgrades since the system was installed originally in 1988.


A major difference with the current upgrade, when compared to the last time we upgraded is the fact that library users are now utilizing the system at home and work, and it is no longer a system used just by librarians in our libraries.


You can access your library account, you can place online requests, and you can manage your online information from home or office.


People using the former system had grown accustomed to the look and operations of Horizon Library Services.


Now people are looking at Symphony Library Services, which is the same company, but a vastly different product with different operations.


In addition to preparing for the migration of 80 library systems, 1,500 library staff, and over a thousand computer connections, we should have prepared our public users for the changes that would take place with the computer upgrade.


The migration was required because Horizon would have no further development and support beyond the current system.


In addition, new products required new technology from the vast amount of information provided on eBooks to the scanning of smart phones as a library card holder.


Major changes were made in the cataloging and bar-coding of items being added and deleted from the library collection, and we are just now processing the backlog of new materials into the collection.


Overall, nearly 99 percent of data and functions came over correctly to the new system, and we have flagged and corrected any problem areas.


Symphony has more Windows-based operations, and will be more functional when fully operational and all of the “bells and whistles” are in production.


We have encountered problems with connectivity in areas where slow Internet speeds are still in use, or computers that are older with limited memory capacity.


Symphony uses a lot of “drop-down boxes” and terminology that may be foreign to some users, and the colors seem to appear differently from computer to computer.


The Computer Center has been able to address some of the operational issues, such as the “pick-up point” for your request being a list of hundreds of libraries, as opposed to just our 7 locations.


There are a few of us remaining in the library world who remembers the pre-computer era, and some of the big issues of those days.


One day all of the cards fell out of the catalog drawer as the clip on the rod that held them in the card catalog broke.  It took most of the day to re-file the drawer of cards.


A red clip was found on the floor behind the Circulation Desk of the library, and we had no idea which book card the clip had fallen off, so we checked card-by-card the 2,000 cards in the tray.


The hub came loose in our Rolodex file of overdue fines causing everything to spill in a heap of what were called “P-Slips.”


My favorite involves the Main Library’s copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”  The book, which had been acquired in the 1940s, was missing the last chapter which had been missing since the book’s printing.


When finally discovered in the 1980s, one can only wonder the confusion of the many people who had read that copy and wondered at the strange ending.


The most important aspect of the computer upgrade is that you can always contract the library for help; we still employee people to use the computers.