The Yellowhead Regional Library has introduced a new software package designed to improve services for library patrons.
The Polaris program is designed to make it easier for library patrons to use the library. They will be able to do author-title-subject searches more easily, by using a Windows-based system, rather than a text-based system, as was the case with the old library software program, Dynix.
They will be able to create an account, log on to their library, and do searches from their home computer.
The new program will also let them create a ‘reading history’ of the books they’ve taken out, and they will be able to have an ‘alert’ set up so they can grab their favourite author’s newest work when it comes in.
Polaris will also allow the library to automatically email library users when holds come in, send reminders about upcoming due dates, and send email notices about overdue books and the fines owed.
The new Polaris system was added to the Whitecourt and Mayerthorpe public libraries in January, as well as 46 other libraries in the YRL’s region.
“The new system affects the public cardholders and our own internal library system,” said Whitecourt head librarian Debra Earl.
“The Polaris system is Windows-based, while the old system that it replaced —Dynix — was text-based.
“Library patrons can use the computer’s mouse to click on different things on the screen,” she said.
Earl said that the YRL did all the back work and training, which was mostly done through the Internet, and via some sessions held in Spruce Grove during November 2008.
YRL worked out all the ‘bugs’ in the program, too, she said.
“As far as the public goes, the Polaris system is pretty easy to use. We haven’t had any problems or complaints. It’s easier to use than Dynix, and has more features,” said Earl.
“For example, you can now receive emails to let you know when books are available, on hold, or when they’re overdue. You now also receive reminder emails to let you know about upcoming due dates.”
The old Dynix system required library personnel to phone people at home to let them know about holds, overdue books, and fines.
Eleanor Mitchell, Mayerthorpe library manager, said, “Library patrons don’t seem to be having any problems using the new Polaris system.”
The Polaris system allows patrons to access the library’s online catalogue —TRACpac — from home, including books, CDs, and DVDs. (TRACpac is a partnership of four regional libraries: Yellowhead, Marigold (south-central Alberta), Northern Lights and Peace regions (northern half of the province), which gives users 24/7 access to nearly three million items by going to the TRACpac website: www.tracpac.ab.ca)
With a library card, customers have access to their individual account, where they can make requests, renew borrowed items, and place holds on material that has already been borrowed.
Because Polaris is web-based, library patrons will find it’s familiar and user-friendly, since it works like their computer at work or at home.
For those who don’t have Internet or a computer at home, staff at Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt public libraries invite patrons to come to the library in person, where they will receive help to locate what they need using the new Polaris system.
The Polaris system cost the four regional libraries more than $500,000 to implement, using capacity grants from the Alberta Public Library Electronic Network, and funding from a Public Library Development Initiative.