Friday, May 14, 2010

New Software--Will it be better?

Next week all the libraries in the East Central Regional Library system, including Mille Lacs Lake Community Library, will be closed. We are changing our circulation software from Unicorn to Evergreen. We need to transfer all the book and patron records so that will take a couple of days. We also need a few more days to work the bugs out. All of us at ECRL are a little worried--last time we did this in 2007 our whole system crashed.

We're hoping that doesn't happen this time. Evergreen is "open source" software meaning that our tech support people can modify and adjust the program to meet our needs. That is a big plus. Unicorn was a product of Sirsi Dynix and they housed the server that contained the records.
Unicorn is set up so that different functions are in different screens on the computer. If we want to check-in, pay bills, renew or place a hold, we have to click on different screens. With Evergreen we are able to scan in a patron's barcode and do all of those functions from one screen. Check-in is on a separate screen, but we will be able to set up tabs so that we can move back and forth quickly between different screens.
Running the holds list is a daily function for us as a branch. What this means is that we get a list of items that people from other libraries want from our library. We take these items off the shelf and scan them to find out what branch they go to. With Unicorn, we received an e-mail in the morning of the holds for that day. With the new system, we will be able to get the holds as they come in. For example, if someone in the North Branch area requests a book that is on our shelf on a Wednesday afternoon, I can go to a screen on my computer and check the holds before I leave work. I can get the hold and put it in delivery and it will be on its way to North Branch a day ahead of what it would have with Unicorn.
There are minor things with Evergreen that are not as good as Unicorn--it doesn't print up a renewal list--it prints up everything that you have checked out. It also has new terminology that we will have to get used to, such as "bucket" and "grocery". The search screen has more graphics so it runs slower when you want to place a hold.
Evergreen is part of the PALS system which has been used by the Minnesota State College System, so we hope it is reliable software. Be patient as we learn this new software system together. We hope that patrons can make the adjustment and that in the long run, this will have been a positive change for ECRL.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I suppose every library has its regulars. Most of our regulars come in to do a task or two, such as check e-mail or pick up a book and then leave after half an hour or an hour. This is not the case with Paul.

Paul lives across the street and he usually comes in the door when we open at 10:00 a.m. He takes his book, which he purchased from the library when we downsized our reference collection, and diligently copies out information. He sits at the back table with his books and notebook. When you ask him what he is doing he says that he is researching WWII. He usually stays until around five minutes to five, when we close.

For awhile Paul used the computer. He was especially interested in pictures of German planes and ships. He would copy hundreds of black and white photos and diagrams of these ships. He carefully wrote down the captains of these ships as well as the battles that these ships were used in. He would often get over 100 copies made a day--which he sometimes paid for with all dimes.

At first when Paul came he didn't say much. But now he always asks, "And how is your lovely day?" when he comes in. He also likes to join in conversations about history. This afternoon there was a discussion about a massacre that the Mormons perpetrated on a group of settlers heading west. Paul seemed to think this occurred during the Civil War (another of his interests). He also looked up when Grant was President in his reference book. The massacre actually occurred in 1857.

I guess everyone needs someplace to be--everyone needs human connections. Sometimes that place just happens to be the public library.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Irrepressible Dalen

Dalen is the type of teen that anyone would want around their library. He comes to use the computers, but he also reads. He also likes to chat--he got an ipod touch for Christmas. He volunteers for around a half an hour a week and he comes to teen programs.

The best part about Dalen is that he has great ideas. He can also strike up a conversation with anyone about anything and he is very tech savy.
One example is the coat rack. I asked Dalen, "What does our library need?" He looked around at the coat laying over a table and said, "a coat rack." He was so right. Though we found several in a library supply catalog, co-worker Carolyn decided we needed a nicer one. Her friend Kenny, who is a wood worker, is now working on a coat rack. Great idea Dalen!

Another example is when just talking to another patron he mentioned our large print books. She said, "What are large print books?" We showed her and she was immediately thrilled. She didn't even know such a thing existed. She checked one out and said she'd be back for more. All because of Dalen.

Dalen also has set up the Teen Advisory Group Facebook page and done other things to make the library a friendlier place.

Thanks Dalen