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.