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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 # 2

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 17, 2012

About a year ago, the computer center informed the 80 library systems that are part of the SEO Library Center network that it was approaching the time for a major systems upgrade.


I am sure that my facial expression was similar to 80 other library directors.  “Gee we just learned the Horizon system, and now we have to learn something new!”


Well, it has actually been 7 years since the current automated library system was installed and in “technology years,” that is absolutely ancient.


During that time, we had several minor upgrades, but the component system has not been replaced.


Our shared system of 80 library systems, and several hundred locations, with over 1,500 staff using the system is one of the largest shared library networks in the U.S.


There are literally a handful of companies that make a product to manage and handle our size of library network, and the two largest companies in that handful have merged.


Following a lengthy RFP process and review by the Ohio Dept. of Administrative Services, the contract was awarded to SIRSIDynix; the makers of our current system.


“Go live day” was set for June 7, 2012 last December, because those 1,500 library staff members all had to be trained, and countless migration tables, charts, and guides had to be prepared.


Various assignments were given to libraries.  Our task was to work on the database, merging and deleting records so the new database would be up-to-date and cleaned of old information.


In the meantime, 6 new libraries expressed their desire to join the SEO system; but all were told to wait until the upgrade was completed.


My former library in Delphos is one of the folks holding their electronic records in-hand, awaiting the conversion.


There are three specific reasons for upgrading the computer network at this time:


---The previous Horizon system will not be maintained by the company after 2012.

---The advancement of new information sources, such as smart phones and eBooks, require a new system that can handle the dissemination of the new media to the public.

---The continued growth in library usage requires that we use every available measure of technology given the limited funds for libraries.


Knowing all of that, and attending the two training sessions, my mind did a slow groan as we approached the day of system activation.


The Symphony system is not an upgrade of the Horizon system; it opens a complete new chapter in information management.


Old familiar tasks will disappear, and the screens will have a completely new look.  I call it “a whole pile of Google” with Windows over Windows.


The warm and fuzzy paper-printed and bound book has to make room for other media and databases, and endless interconnections with yet unknown media.


The fact that the upgrade is needed relates to the place of libraries in our society today.  Public Libraries are indeed part of the fabric of our society in the new Information Age.


So, allow the library staff to mutter, grumble, and growl as the transition takes place; and every day will be an improvement as we become familiar with our new pair of house slippers, and toss the old comfortable ones in the wastebasket.


And my best wishes to the library staff for a great job in the transition.


I was out-of-town at the computer transition time attending graduation at The Ohio State University for our son.


Some of you may remember the contest 23 years ago, to name the Library Director’s new baby.  The winner of the name contest was “Carnegie Hall.”


That little fellow, who did not use the recommended name, received his Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from OSU, and will be working in the energy industry in Texas.


He did follow the computer transition process, and made a couple of suggestions for dealing with transitions from one computer system to another.