Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New, but not Improved

August 2006, East Central Regional Library of which Mille Lacs Lake is a branch, implemented a new automation system called "Horizon". It was said to be faster and have more features than the obsolete system the library was then using. Despite some problems such as software that wasn't completely operational, poor staff training and a system that overloaded easily, ECRL went ahead and implemented the new system. From the start it was a disaster--it could not do holds, the most basic function of a multi-branch system. It was much slower than the old system taking much longer to check in and out books and print receipts. Finally the system crashed the following October 2007. Six months worth of records, both patron and material were lost. After a month or so, ECRL began using the Unicorn computer system. Though this system works okay, ECRL patrons have had to adjust to poorer service in a number of different ways.

1) Holds come up to two days later than under the original system. Holds can only be received once a day and only Monday through Friday. The original system was able to generate a holds list several times a day. One Cambridge librarian always prided herself on running the holds list before she left work for the day.

2) Exchanges of materials used to be regular part of our routine. Every six weeks branches would exchange both print and nonprint items, such as videos and books on tape. Though we have had a few exchanges in the two years, this is no longer part of our service to our patrons.

3) Patron services brochures are no longer available. Because the software we are using is temporary, ECRL doesn't want to print up a new brochure. The old information is outdated, leaving librarians with nothing more than an hours card to give to new members.

4) Longer waits for new materials are also a problem. Initially this was due to having to catch up with all the lost records, but the time frame has not improved.
As a branch librarian, I try to give good service to the people who come in to the library. I know that people are often anxious to receive their materials. I wish I didn't have to keep blaming "the new system". I wish that this Dickensonian lawsuit with SirsiDynix was over and we could return to a system that could be modified to best meet the needs of ECRL clients. Maybe then we could return to our former level of service and Gosh, maybe even try to "improve" service!!