Sno-Isle libraries launching new online catalog system that’s more interactive

  • By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
  • Monday, March 21, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

MARYSVILLE — Beginning in April, a new library catalog system will make it so those who visit Sno-Isle Libraries can do more to manage their account or search for items they want to borrow.

With the new system, Polaris, library users can find items they’re searching for more quickly, temporarily freeze holds without losing their place in line, add their own ratings and reviews, keep a history of the items they checked out and create reading lists.

Like the 20-year-old system it replaces, Polaris will help keep track of the library’s collection. The system is designed to be intuitive for people who use the Internet in general, said Jeanne Crisp, director of technical services and facilities development. It will also offer new features that library staff and patrons have wanted for years.

“A lot of these features are brand new to us but obviously they aren’t new to the public,” Crisp said. “The public has been asking us why aren’t we able to do what we can do on Amazon and Google and places like that, so in a way we’re catching up.”

Sno-Isle Libraries serves 671,000 residents in Snohomish and Island counties with branches in Arlington, Brier, Camano Island, Clinton, Coupeville, Darrington, Edmonds, Freeland, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Langley, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Oak Harbor, Snohomish, Stanwood, and Sultan.

A Sno-Isle Libraries task force began researching replacements for the old system, CARL, in October 2008. A contract with Polaris Library Systems was made in November. The new system and staff training costs about $700,000, library director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said.

“We had a lot of time to prepare for this switch,” she said. “We don’t need to borrow any funds. At the same time, we have been able to use some of the equipment that went with the old system.”

Sno-Isle Libraries started an extended loan period Feb. 28 to help manage the amount of materials that are returned during the transition to the new system. No library materials will be due Monday through April 9. Sno-Isle Libraries also expects all holds to be frozen until April 2. Patrons will not be able to place new holds and hold requests cannot be fulfilled during that time. Online library accounts are expected to be inactive and cannot be updated from March 28-30.

“We’re asking the community to come together and spend a little more quality time with their books,” said Jenny Piper, a Sno-Isle Libraries spokeswoman.

From the new catalog start screen, users will still be able to type in an author, title or subject, choose a keyword and search. They’ll also be able to search by series, publication date and type of material among other new options. Users can choose whether they want to view results in English or Spanish and in regular or large font size.

Library card holders can personalize their accounts by choosing user names and passwords. After logging in, the account holder can create reading lists, place and manage holds, record their reading history and rate and review different library materials.

Someone who wanted to place a hold on a book using the old system would not be able to see where they fall in the hold line, Crisp said. With Polaris, a user can see how many items are available to check out and where they stand on the wait list.

“That will give you a sense of if you want to put your name on the list or if you want to go to Costco and buy it,” Crisp said. “It’s a really nice feature because you don’t get to see now where you are in the hold queue until you’ve gone through the trouble of placing the hold on the book.”

Users can receive text messages about holds and overdue materials, Crisp added. The system also lets people suspend holds until they are ready to receive materials.

“If you know you’re going to go on vacation and you know a book is going to come when you’re gone you can freeze your hold and come back and unfreeze it when you’re ready,” she said. “You can manage your holds a little more actively than you ever were able to before.”

People can choose to opt-in to the feature that records items that have been checked out. In the past, records have not been kept once materials were returned, to protect users’ privacy, Crisp said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

Get a sneak peak at Polaris catalog

Online preview sessions of the new catalog system will be shown at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. today. To register for a webinar session, e-mail tkhau@sno-isle.org. Hands-on classes on how to use Polaris are scheduled in April and May. Go to www.sno-isle.org to see the schedule of classes.

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