Starting Monday, a $1 million overhaul to the system that links nearly 200 libraries in central Illinois will cause a disruption of services at virtually all of them. It will not be finished until mid-December. The change is needed to replace an old system that could not perform the duties a modern library user demands.
Eager to get your hands on a fresh and free copy of James Patterson’s new novel, "Double Cross," at your local library branch when it comes out in November?
You’ll either have to wait until December or shell out $28 at your local bookseller. And don’t bother putting it on hold either. Starting Monday, Public Library branches, and just about every other library in the area you can think of, will lose the electronic ability to reserve books for customers.
The back-peddling changes, however, are temporary.
"It’s like construction on the McClugage Bridge," said Trisha Noack, spokeswoman for the Peoria Library. "A little temporary inconvenience for long-term improvement."
Starting Monday, a massive and complex $1 million overhaul of the system that links 198 libraries in central Illinois will cause a disruption of service at virtually all of them. But when it’s finished, hopefully by mid-December, library customers from Jacksonville to Galva, Quincy to Streator will have access to a modern Internet-based system that will help get books into the hands of patrons faster and more easily, among a long list of other benefits.
"Another advantage is the new automated system frees librarians up from routine, time intensive duties and will allow them to spend more time helping library patrons," said Kendal Orrison, the director of the Resource Sharing Alliance, the group that is implementing the system. He’s also the Information Technology Director for RSA’s non-profit umbrella organization the Alliance Library System.
The upgrade is at least two years overdue, Orrison said. It is paid for with fees that individual libraries pay to the alliance and then earmarks for its capital improvement fund. Some smaller libraries may have additional costs like the purchase of new computers and bar code readers. The system is a package of software, hardware and company consultants purchased from a company called SirsiDynix that specializes in automated library technology.
With 600,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other "holdings" the Peoria Public Library is the largest one in the regional alliance. With 550, the library at the Illinois River Correctional Facility in Canton is one of the smallest. Other larger libraries include Galesburg, Pekin, Morton East Peoria, Washington, Eureka, Dunlap, Metamora and Bartonville. The Bloomington library was a member, but bowed out a year ago when it thought the RSA was moving too slowly with its technology upgrade, Orrison said.
Admittedly difficult to describe in non-techie terms what the system actually does, Noack called it the heartbeat of the library alliance.
"The system is everything," she said. "You couldn’t check out a book without it."
The change was needed because the old system could no longer perform the duties a modern user of libraries demands, Orrison said. It will allow users to perform many library functions on their home computers, like access the catalogue’s of specific branches, renew books and find books in any of the alliance libraries and have them delivered to their branch of choice.
The minor disruptions in service should be over by early to mid-December, Orrison said. In the change-over from old system to new, libraries will be unable to place newly released books on shelves beginning in November and lasting three to six weeks.
"There will be some people irate about that," Noack said. "So we’re starting a six-week program, ‘Six Weeks of Solid Gold,’ reacquainting people with older books that are really good that they might have missed."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at (309) 686-3244 or at firstname.lastname@example.org