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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.


By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 2, 2012

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”


That phrase is credited to Robert Burns in his 1785 poem, “To a Mouse, on Turning her up in her Nest with the Plough.”


I would like to add “Library Director” to that phrase.


A couple of weeks ago, I had written my Sunday article, and transmitted it to the Herald Star; proud to announce to everyone that the new eLibrary system of searching the library’s collection was operational and working for all to enjoy.


Within an hour of that writing, the Computer Center sent a message to us that “eLibrary is down, but expected to restart shortly.”


By the end of the day, eLibrary was still not operational, and I pondered the irony of my Sunday article and its bragging tone about this wonderful new computer product.


Thursday came and passed, and Friday continued without eLibrary being operational.


By the end of the week, the messages grew less optimistic about the return of eLibrary.  The new computer system was working for checkout and check in, and staff could search, but public access didn’t exist.


On Saturday, I wondered if people would think that the librarian wasn’t too smart to brag about this new eLibrary feature when it was actually dead-in-the-water.


I used my secret librarian-only phone number to call the Computer Center and see what the problem was, and if there was any change of a return of the search tool by Monday.


To my surprise, the computer folks were working on Saturday, and the company headquarters in Huntsville and Provo were working through the weekend examining 48,000 lines of computer code to see where the problem was in the system.


They had good intentions, they were trying to fix the part of eLibrary that forced the user to signon twice to access their library card account, to renew and check items checked out of the library.


In doing so, they broke something, really bad.


Everyone was doing their best, and knew that we librarians on the front line would be taking the calls from our library users wanted to know “where did my library go?”

Thank goodness those public libraries still have human beings working at the desk, able to substitute for the computer when glitches take place!


The system was slowly restored, but the decision was made to move forward and get “Enterprise” ready to go, the next advancement beyond “eLibrary.”


It is much more user-friendly and resolves most of the issues with eLibrary, so the decision made sense for everyone.


We have learned that our system of 80 library systems with 189 library locations within Ohio is a huge computer network, particularly when each library system is independent and wants to operate that way within the network.


In addition, we are in the process of adding 6 more library systems into the network.


The purpose is to enhance the public’s ability to borrow materials from a wide system, and share things to benefit everyone.


And share we do!  Every weekday, laundry carts of library materials arrive by a private contractor, moving thousands of requested items among those 189 library locations to people who have requested the items.


I guess there will be a glitch somewhere in the system, be it a physical error in delivery, or a battle of the bytes within a computer system.


Or maybe it relates to my original phrase, and it was a mice.  They have been known to chew through computer cables!