Syracuse, NY (July 2000). Gaylord Information Systems (GIS) announced today the release of Polaris 1.5. The software, released ahead of schedule as a result of a new rapid software development process deployed by GIS, provides major functionality enhancements across the system.
"With Polaris 1.5, GIS is again proving that by taking advantage of key aspects of the Windows NT platform and technologies and creating tighter integration within Polaris we can rapidly enhance all aspects of system functionality and performance," said Katherine Blauer, GIS President. "These improvements in performance and reduced time-to-market result in faster delivery and installation – allowing our customers and their patrons to immediately benefit from the new functionality."
Polaris 1.5 features a new database and a redesigned search engine, providing more precise and faster searching. The Polaris PAC and the Polaris Staff Client now use the same Z39.50-compatible search engine, allowing patrons and technical services staffs to pull-down records from any Z39.50 data source – anywhere.
A new search-scoping feature allows users to easily limit or qualify a search by branch, collection, material type, bibliographic record format, date or date range, language, targeted audience, and specific database (searching Z39.50 remote sites). Scoping is available in the Polaris PAC as well as in the Polaris Staff Client.
GIS had announced earlier this year that Polaris Version 1.6 would be released in Q4 2000. Version 1.6 was intended to migrate the Polaris database to Microsoft's new SQL Server 7.0 database structure. Blauer noted that Microsoft's successful release of SQL Server 7.0 made it imperative for GIS to integrate the new database quickly. "We are delighted to announce that we completed the SQL Server 7.0 integration project four months ahead of schedule." Blauer added, "The result, to the benefit of our customers, was combining Polaris versions 1.5 and 1.6 into a single, comprehensive release. By combining the releases we bring the power of SQL Server 7.0 to Polaris earlier than anticipated. SQL 7.0 delivers significant performance enhancements to Polaris."
This Polaris release embodies many of the successful changes taking place at GIS. From increasing staff and resources across the organization to creating more efficient process controls on its business functions, GIS has grown into a customer-centric organization dedicated to delivering advanced automated solutions - better and faster. Blauer concluded, "The success of Polaris 1.5/1.6 and our rapid development process is due in large part to increased customer involvement in our day-to-day development activities. By centering all of our activities on our customers and their patrons' needs, we've created the organization and automation solution that will keep libraries at the center of their communities and relevant in the 21st century."
The Polaris 1.5 user interface and functions for searching have been modified to take advantage of the complete integration of the Z39.50-compatible search engine. But Bill Schickling, Vice President of Research and Product Development at GIS, says the real story is in what's underneath Polaris' elegant interface. "Searching performance has been dramatically optimized with the implementation of SQL Server 7.0. The new search engine really exploits the database, decreasing the time needed to complete a search." Using the performance optimization features of SQL Server 7.0, Polaris 1.5 expands exact match searching to include implicitly truncated searches (result set includes all items that begin with the letters or numbers specified) and explicitly truncated searches (result set includes all items that exactly match the letters or numbers specified).
Schickling added, "The redesigned database allowed us to develop a ‘power searching' function that is guaranteed to increase productivity. Mnemonic codes are defined for each access point for each searchable object. This permits power searches for MARC and non-MARC data (such as patrons, invoices, and serial control records) in the Polaris Staff Client, and for bibliographic records in the Polaris PAC." Staff Client users can also place stop words in quotes to override default stop words during a power search.
Redesigned Polaris PAC
The Polaris PAC has been completely revised in release 1.5. The PAC has a new user interface, a new search engine, and new functionality. A scoping feature has been added, and the brief and full bibliographic displays have been modified. In addition, hyperlinks connect records to all other records in the catalog with the same heading. Other hyperlinks connect to author entries, subjects, and series found. Brief and full records both display hyperlinks of highlighted matching words (words which were searched) to other records with the same headings.
"During beta testing and previews at ALA Annual in Chicago, our customers and other librarians could not believe how flexible and powerful the new Polaris PAC is. We've developed the industry's first Web—based PAC that provides the security and features of a PC-based application," Schickling noted. That flexibility extends to on-the-fly user customizations. Searchers can select from the following bibliography styles at any time during a session: Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style, and American Psychological Association (APA). Records can be printed and saved from the PAC in brief and full bibliographic display.
Shickling described one of the more powerful features of the Polaris PAC. "Because we've integrated Windows technologies into a Web-based PAC, we're able to provide all of the features that Windows users have come to expect. In the Poalris PAC a user can select a word, phrase, or paragraph in a bibliographic record (using standard Windows mouse actions), right-click on the selection and immediately kick off another search on the selection – without having to back out. We've brought the true power of the Web directly to patrons and staff; the power to easily and dynamically move through information without constraints."
Tighter Acquisitions, Serials, and Cataloging Integration Like the Polaris PAC, the Polaris Staff Client exploits the advanced features of SQL Server 7.0. Major enhancements to acquisitions functionality include the ability to adjust prepaid invoices, searching purchase orders by Prepaid, Canceled, Currently Received, Open, and Closed statuses. The interface has also been enhanced so that fields on the Purchase Order, Purchase Order Line Item, Invoice, Invoice Line Item, Fiscal Years, and Fund windows display dynamically, depending on the status of the record. Displaying data in this way ensures strict alignment between the order, invoice, and linked fund/payment history transactions.
Bill Schickling said that acquisitions staffs will immediately benefit from another major acquisitions enhancement in Polaris 1.5. "Polaris has always been about tight integration – there have never been any modules to back in and out of. Version 1.5 is a further realization of that original design criterion. When purchase orders are released, the user can now automatically generate multiple on-order item records for display in the PAC. So if a purchase order line item contains seven copies ordered for a given library, Polaris generates seven linked on-order item records."
That tighter integration also applies to serials processing. With Polaris 1.5, staff can easily predict and receive standing orders. This functionality is based on Polaris' unique "linking" feature – the direct relationships the system creates among supplier, copy, purchase order, and invoice data. The benefit to customers is no data redundancy and seamless interaction between serials and acquisitions processes.
Polaris 1.5 delivers catalogers with the most extensive cataloging tool kit available with a 3rd generation automation system. The system's record editor offers complete cut, copy, and paste functionality. Coupled with the ability to search remote Z39.50 sites, catalogers can now pull a bibliographic record into the editor, make any necessary edits, and save it to the Polaris database. The record is then immediately available in the Polaris PAC.
Expanded Patron Services
In Polaris 1.5, patron services begins the migration to a new accounting system with greater functionality, more stability, and a stronger infrastructure to support future development. Advantages include the ability to credit accounts, manage refunds, and avoid errors, such as the multiple payment of a single charge. Bill Schickling points back to SQL Server 7.0. "The underlying code for the patron accounting system was re-written to support the advanced relational data functions available with SQL Server 7.0. Again, our customers will benefit immediately from the improvements because all data, including charges, payments, and waives, are automatically reformatted to accommodate the new code when they install Polaris 1.5."
Other new patron services features include the automatic calculation of replacement and processing costs to be included in the billing, and the ability to check out in-transit items. Polaris also now stops the renewal of an item if the item fills a pending hold request from another branch. Staff can continue the renewal and cancel or renew the hold, or cancel the renewal and place the item in-transit. Offline circulation has been expanded so that when an item circulates offline and that item has a status of Held or Transferred, Polaris checks the requester barcode when the file uploads. If the borrower and requester barcodes are the same, the hold request is deleted. If they are not the same, the request status reverts to Active, and the report file contains a message that the held item was circulated to a different borrower and the request was reactivated for the patron barcode.
Schickling concluded that the advances in Polaris 1.5 reflect the original vision of the system. "Polaris was created to be a true, 3rd generation automation system. From the start we have worked directly with our customers and other libraries to create a system flexible enough to be molded to each library's needs. We have achieved that flexibility with this release. We're proving to the entire library industry that Windows NT and SQL Server are powerful, scalable, proven solutions."
Polaris is a non-modular, native-Windows NT library automation solution. The system offers complete access to integrated cataloging, serials, acquisitions, circulation, patron/student services, and system administration functionality. Polaris provides a Web-based PAC and a Windows 9x, 2000, or NT Workstation-based staff services client. Polaris is currently installed in more than 160 libraries; easily supporting libraries with more than 350 concurrent users in high-transaction environments.
GIS is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider and the 25 year-old software development division of Gaylord Bros., a leading supplier to the library industry for over a century. In addition to its library automation systems, GIS offers workflow analysis, retrospective conversion, and database enhancement services to libraries of all types. For more information, visit or contact GIS headquarters at 800-272-3414.