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SIRSI Strikes Again

Rochester Hills library checks in new program
An upgrade made the current electronic card catalog less user-friendly, prompting complaints....

Joe Menard / The Detroit News

February 19, 2006

ROCHESTER -- The Rochester Hills Public Library's troublesome electronic card catalog is being replaced by a new program that library officials believe will solve the problems that plague the current system.

An upgrade to the SirsiDynix catalog system released in August stripped away many of the electronic catalog's features, including searching capabilities, online renewals, holds and other functions, prompting complaints from library patrons.

"We were inundated with hateful comments," said Library Director Christine Lind Hage. "I understand. I was having the same frustrations."

After months of working with the company to fix the problem, Hage gave up and last month and selected the Polaris Integrated Library System in use by more than 150 public libraries across the country.

Library staff is being trained in the new Polaris system during the next two months, and it is scheduled to debut to the public April 20.

Until then, library patrons will have to continue to struggle with a stripped-down version of the SirsiDynix catalog.

"We don't know what the problem is, and they don't know how to fix it," Hage said of the system.

"If the public can't use the catalog, that's 90,000 people we have to do it for."

An estimated 92,000 people use the library, which primarily serves residents of Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. Its collection houses more than 230,000 items, including books, music and movies.

With that many holdings, a working system is imperative, said Chad Harmon, a Web developer from Rochester.

Harmon said the system worked fine before the company upgraded it.

"I thought there was nothing wrong with the old system," added Rochester Hills resident Suba Subbarao. "I don't know why they upgraded it. It was a downgrade.

"I noticed it as soon as they switched to the upgrade," said Subbarao, who visits the library at least twice a week. This system is really awful."

Hage said library staff noticed the problem as soon as they installed the upgrade and immediately contacted the company. She initially was told someone must have done something wrong in the installation, so she had her staff uninstall the software and reinstall it piece by piece.

After it still didn't work, the company said there was a problem with the patch.

"We wasted a lot of man-hours," Hage said.

For several months, she was promised a fix to the system, but none ever came.

"The company just was not responding to us," she said. "It just came to the point that we said, 'Forget it.' "

The library had been on the SirsiDynix system since 1990. It was the second company hired by the library since it converted its card catalog to an electronic format in 1985.

You can reach Joe Menard at (248) 647-7429 or jmenard@detnews.com.
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