Since implementing the NOTIS circulation in 1985 we at Vanderbilt have perceived the need for some type of backup circulation system. In lieu of this function as part of NOTIS, we developed a microcomputer-based backup circulation system.
This backup program, which we have named MicroCIRC, emulates the circulation mode of NOTIS, allowing circulation departments to conduct their business more or less as normal when the system is down. It records all relevant information about each circulation transaction on a disk file stored by the microcomputer. In addition to the barcode information normally required, the backup system additionally requests patron names and call numbers of items charged. This provides supplemental information for cases where no patron or item records exist. The program supports both charge and discharge transactions. Item IDs are tested for valid check digits.
This information can be uploaded to the online system as soon as normal operation of NOTIS resumes. The uploading procedure essentially plays back the recorded information to the online system, using date/time override and the recorded patron and item barcode numbers. As each transaction is sent to the host, all messages from NOTIS are trapped and the program responds intelligently to most exception conditions, including non-existent patron and item records, holds, circ and catalog review, lost and missing, discharge during charge, patron blocks, non-circulating items, and fines. The program displays the patron name both as it was entered in the recording process and as it displays on the NOTIS charge screen. Although the status of each transaction is displayed as it is processed, this is an automated procedure that requires no intervention by the circulation staff. When the upload finishes, MicroCIRC displays a summary of activity, including the number of charges and discharges broken down by normal, exceptions and problems. It also displays the time the upload was completed, the range of times for which transactions were recorded, and the terminal address from which the upload was executed.
A list of both the initial information recorded and of the transactions as they are processed by the uploading module can be displayed or listed on the printer. Circulation staff can review the list of processed transactions and correct any problems that might have occurred. This list of processed transactions includes the summary information displayed on the screen upon completion of the upload.
Since the backup system has no access to the item and patron files, there is the possibility for various problems that will require intervention by the circulation staff. A patron, for example, might have been allowed to charge a non-circulating reference book which would have to be recalled.
MicroCIRC includes an easy-to-use system for entering and retrieving data files. The user creates a file name when beginning a recording session. The program lists all valid files when uploading or listing information, from which the user can select the desired file with the arrow keys. Data files disappear from the valid file list once they have been uploaded to avoid accidental duplicate uploads.
Hardware and Network requirements:
MicroCIRC runs under the MS-DOS operating system on an IBM-PC compatible microcomputer with a minimum of 512K memory, 2 floppy disks or a hard disk, a barcode reader, and a serial port and a printer.
The microcomputer must have an asynchronous connection to the NOTIS system through one of its serial ports. The program can be configured to work with either IBM 7171 or a Micom M7400 protocol converter.
The uploading module of MicroCIRC uses Softklone's Mirror (Version 3.6.10) to control communications with the host system. Mirror is a commercial software program, and may not be distributed without compensation to Softklone. (Mail-order cost of Mirror is about $49.00 per copy.) Both Mirror and the protocol converter must be configured to emulate a VT100 terminal.
MicroCIRC was designed, documented and programmed by Marshall Breeding of the Library Systems Office of the Heard Library at Vanderbilt University. It is written in Turbo Pascal (Version 5.0). The recording module for charge transactions was written in December 1986. Discharge recording was added in May 1987, and the uploading module was finished in April 1988. Various revisions and enhancements were implemented in December 1988. A new version of MicroCIRC was released to Vanderbilt libraries in May 1989 that included changes needed for NOTIS 4.5 and other enhancements.
This program currently supports NOTIS circulation as it is implemented at Vanderbilt (Acorn). We currently use NOTIS 4.5, with microcomputer terminals connected through Micom 7400 series protocol converters. Vanderbilt uses 6 digit patron barcodes. A user-friendly setup utility can be used to configure MicroCIRC to use either 6 or 14 digit patron barcodes and to use either a Micom or IBM 7171 protocol converter. The same utility sets the transaction code used by NOTIS for circulation functions for that processing unit.
Vanderbilt is willing to share the program with other NOTIS sites. Although Vanderbilt has been using this circulation backup system for some time, we have delayed publicizing it and making it available to other NOTIS users while waiting for NOTIS to decide if they wanted to assume responsibility for its distribution and further development. NOTIS has now indicated that they are not interested in such responsibility, so Vanderbilt will distribute MicroCIRC to any interested NOTIS sites for a nominal charge to cover duplication and related costs.
Since the MicroCIRC package includes Mirror, a commercial communications program, copyright law requires that one copy of Mirror be purchased for each microcomputer which uses it. Thus, in addition to duplicating costs, Vanderbilt will pass on the cost of a copy of Mirror. Sites implementing the backup system are responsible for purchasing an additional copy of Mirror for each microcomputer which uses the program. Vanderbilt has no financial relationship with Softklone, the developer of Mirror, but is concerned that all software be used in accordance with copyright law.
The MicroCIRC distribution package will include the following:
- MicroCIRC program (MCIRC.EXE)
- MicroCIRC setup utility (SETUP.EXE)
- MicroCIRC Instruction Manual for Acorn
- Mirror communications software and documentation
- MicroCIRC Pascal source code
The cost of the package will be $100.00.
Any NOTIS libraries interested in using MicroCIRC will be responsible for any customizing that is necessary to make it work at their site.For further information about MicroCIRC contact:
Library Systems Office