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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.

Computer Upgrade

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 3, 2016

For the last 30 years that the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County has been connected to a main frame computer network, I have groaned every time I received a notice that it was time for a hardware or software upgrade.


A computer programmer cannot upgrade anything without changing everything; or at least that is what it seems from the user’s perspective.


Every change is touted as a “vast improvement” that will send the computer user dancing down the hallway with glee and delight in using the “new system.”


Reality is often quite different, and leads to a series of patches to correct the errors of the new system.


Shortly after the first of this year, notice was received by the 92 library systems using the SEO State Library of Ohio SirsiDynix Symphony System that the time had arrived to replace the 2009 Production hardware.


Many people still drive a 2009 model car; I am running on a 1954 frame, but a mainframe computer is at end-of-life at 7 years.


This upgrade will be different from the rest as the whole system moves into the “Cloud” with the hardware being eliminated.


Actually, there are several computers around the country upon which the 92 library systems and their 215 locations will house the computer data.


The advantage of this system includes automatic never ending back-up of data, and redundant operations allowing various links to be out-of-service for repairs.


At this point, I ended my questions and will assume that the computer folks know what they are doing.


Another interesting aspect of the upgrade, which will take place on April 11-12, is that unlike earlier computer upgrades, the system will continue to operate check-in and checkout on those days.


Library staff will have to record item requests and enter them on April 13; and no new library books or CDs/DVDs can be added to the system on those days.


Exciting to me is that following the upgrade, our Library System will be able to use the new BLUEcloud line of information products including the analytics and cataloging.


If that means nothing to you --- don’t worry.  I didn’t understand it either, until it was explained to me in librarian terms!


Think back to the days of the card catalog, when 3 x 5 cards filled the drawers of a cabinet and they provided a means for knowing what books a library owned that you could use.


Back then libraries owned lots more things, such as pamphlet files and journals that didn’t appear in the card catalog.  Hopefully a librarian would help you find those items.


Today the card catalog is online showing the holdings of 92 library systems and 7.5 million items, including DVDs and CDs.  But still the pamphlets, and journals, eBooks, and all that other stuff isn’t in that online catalog.


Well, that’s the BLUEcloud line of products, allowing EVERYTHING that the library owns to be in one database of information.


No longer will the librarian suggest that you should have looked here and there, and used this database and that database.


For the librarian, this is mind-boggling.  The volume of information that will be cataloged in the BLUEcloud will be enormous.


But don’t worry, librarians will still be here to answer your questions, we will simply have more tools to use.


My library career spans 46 years, and I have decided that my generation of librarians handle information research much differently from younger generations that have literally grown up with computers.


I have learned, but I process information differently than the age who thinks everything falls out of a Google search.


Oh well, none of them can clean and oil an electric typewriter like I can!