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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 Automation System

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 11, 2005

It has been three months since our library system migrated to the new automation system. I am pleased to report success in the transition from the former text-based system to the new Windows product. We are part of the SEO Cooperative of libraries, consisting of 68 libraries all around Ohio sharing one automation system. The process began over two years ago with the writing of specifications for a new system.

What we quickly found was that our shared system was large, and only a few library automation vendors could meet the specifications. The process continued with three companies providing a bid for the new system.Each company's product was reviewed against the specifications, and the Horizon product of the Dynix Corporation was selected.

Shortly after installation, Dynix merged with another of the vendors. The library marketplace for automation vendors continues to shrink. Library computer companies are unique to the computer market.  Libraries want everything in our collection tracked, and then wants it all returned. Add to it the need for public use of databases, and the variety of e-book products and the system becomes more complex that even business applications.

The new library system has 5.2 million items, and over 600,000 users spread across 68 library systems in Ohio. Data connections needed to be upgraded to handle the computer traffic, with many libraries changing to T-1 lines to the State Telecommunications Network in Columbus.The biggest project was the movement of data from the old system to the new system.

The other part of the project involved staff training. From March through May, 1,200 library staff members attended one-day training sessions at six locations around the state. Fortunately for us, one of the sites was in Cadiz, allowing easy access for our staff. Twenty trainers instructed library staff on the new system.  A test database was provided to allow staff to practice before the "go-live" date.

There were some glitches, but nothing serious to the operation of the new system. The biggest problem has been the computer viruses that bounced around the country in August, and created havoc in libraries nationwide. On one hand, libraries want the public to access the library catalog and databases, and use Internet computers in the library. On the other hand, we must protect ourselves from computer viruses.

It was a hard mix in August, one that cost most libraries significant time and money for new security equipment and upgrades. It is all part of library services in the 21st century.  Computers are simply part of libraries and there is no turning back.