ATLANTA When Georgia's PINES libraries open their doors both physical and virtual on Sept. 5, users will experience a new view of the system's catalog and collections.
The Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) will debut its new Evergreen software that day, along with a new, Web-based PINES catalog featuring book covers, reviews, tables of contents and a variety of easy-to-use searches that will allow library users to locate materials quickly and efficiently throughout the system.
Evergreen will also include a wealth of security enhancements designed to protect the personal information of patrons who use the service from their homes or from public-access computers at their local libraries.
A statewide consortium of 252 public libraries in 123 counties, the Public Information Network for Electronic Services PINES, for short offers Georgia citizens a shared catalog of more than 8 million items, with a single library card that is welcomed in all member libraries. Now boasting more than 1.6 million registered cardholders, PINES is a national leader in library cooperation and resource-sharing, a position that Evergreen is certain to enhance.
According to PINES Program Director Julie Walker, the Evergreen software project was conceived to meet the unique functional needs of a large group of public libraries that are committed to sharing materials.
"After more than two years in development," Walker said, "the new software is generating considerable excitement among patrons and library staff across Georgia, across the country and even internationally. We've had inquiries from as far away as South Africa."
Evergreen is open-source software, which means it is royalty-free, and its license permits anyone to study, change and improve the software and to distribute the software either as is or after modifications have been made. Mozilla's Firefox Web browser is a popular example of open-source software.
Work on Evergreen began in June 2004. Developers relied on input from the end-user community staff members working daily in the PINES libraries to guide their design of the program. The design team included Brad LaJeunesse, Linux systems administrator; Jason Etheridge, system support specialist and user interface developer; Mike Rylander, database developer; and Bill Erickson, systems developer.
Designing the software in house provides PINES libraries with direct access to the software developers for questions, troubleshooting or suggestions. Patrons and librarians can expect fast responses and bug fixes, without having to deal with red tape or extended downtime.
The software will save Georgia taxpayers a considerable amount of money in licensing and support fees, as well. "Evergreen runs on the Linux operating system and inexpensive commodity hardware," Walker said. "This will save the State hundreds of thousands of dollars both in purchase price and in annual maintenance over the proprietary system currently in use."
Evergreen was also designed with data security among its foremost goals. "Users can be confident that their library records are and will remain secure and confidential," Walker said.
According to LaJeunesse, all communication between the staff client and server is encrypted via 128-bit secure sockets layer (SSL) connections. "Passwords on the server are stored encrypted as md5 hashes and no passwords are actually sent over the Internet," he said. "In essence, all passwords are encrypted twice, and all communication in patrons' My Account' areas on the Web catalog is also encrypted."
For additional security, he noted, the servers are physically located in a facility with around-the-clock onsite security and multiple physical barriers.
PINES libraries will close over the Labor Day weekend in order to migrate to the Evergreen platform. Current PINES library cards will not change, Walker said, and users will not have to register for new cards to continue using the system.
The new catalog will be available from workstations within all PINES libraries as well as for users logging in from home beginning Sept. 5, at www.gapines.org.