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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Alachua County Library updates catalog system

The Alachua County Library District will do something Wednesday it has not done in over 12 years – change its catalog system.

The days of being frustrated by slow-loading webpages and confusing catalog searches are over, according to Nickie Kortus, the marketing and public relations manager for the district.

Kortus said patrons will benefit from the system’s user-friendly programming for a number of reasons, including: more refined search results, personal reading lists and better record keeping of previously read books. Also, readers can have new titles, written by their favorite authors, emailed directly to them.

According to Kortus, staff and users have requested more search options, account management and easier access to information, which prompted the district to upgrade to a more efficient catalog system.

Kortus said users will feel familiar with its navigation right away because it is Windows based and operates with similar function keys and navigation tools.

The library district, which is independent and part of a special taxing district, operates with funds collected from property taxes, which is how the system change was paid for, Kortus said.

“We use tax payer dollars… just like the county, but we are a separate tax that is on your property taxes for the Alachua County Library District,” Kortus said.

Kortus said users have, in the past, approached staff and asked if they have read the books themselves.

With the new system, readers can create their own personal reading lists and keep better track of book they have read.

Before, users were often denied access to certain, sometimes personal, information. The districts wanted to make sure they protected their privacy, Kortus said.

Now, according to Kortus, users can manage their account information by entering or updating their email addresses, making the information available at the click of a mouse.

Another feature in the upgrade is Novelist, which will provide information about similar titles and authors in one location. It will let the user know if the book is available and put any books that are part of a series in chronological order.

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With this, users no longer have to search for books in a series one at a time, trying to find the proper order, it’s their in a click, Kortus said.

People can sign up to receive updates via email, which will let them know when their favorite author has a new title published. Moreover, users can place holds directly on the search results page, they no longer have to do this in a different location.

Also included with the new system is a new catalog for children’s books, according to Kortus. Much like the adult catalog, the children’s catalog will allow them to create and track their own book lists.

Emily Young, the library manager at the Millhopper branch, said a group of staff members worked for the last several months to implement the system and to train staff of its operation. Overall the project took more than 2 ½ years to complete.

During that time the selection committee, a team of staff members chosen to find a new system, gathered as much information as they could, according to Kortus.

The committee took surveys from staff in all departments and asked them what improvements they thought would be helpful, Kortus said. They also surveyed patrons about their needs.

After the committee gathered the information and went through an extensive review process, it detailed exactly what it was looking for in a 70-page request for proposal that was sent out for bids, Kortus said.

Companies who were selected were brought in to present all day and answer questions about their particular systems. The team wanted to know what each system did and didn’t offer. If there was something they didn’t offer, the team wanted to know why.

The selection committee made its recommendation based on evaluations of presentations and a ratings system to make its final recommendation. With the approval of the governing board the team chose the system Polaris.

Young said she feels the transition is going smoothly so far and hopes the success will continue.

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