Boston Public Library’s new Polaris system went fully live for staff on Thursday, December 13. As with any major upgrade, there were a few minor technical glitches that morning that were quickly addressed. Due to the size of our holdings, however, the online catalog took a full four days to get fully in synch with the new cleaned-up database, but was able to provide up to date availability information by December 17. Staff have spent the two weeks since correcting other minor issues with data and patron accounts, especially the holds fulfillment process. We are continuing to ask for patience and understanding from library users whose data wasn’t completely migrated and may experience a delay in fulfilling holds. All in all, the migration has been a technical success and staff are finding it easier and more efficient to use, once they become familiar with some new procedures involved. We are confident that all these kinks will be worked out in the January time-frame, which means we can move on to a larger set of enhancements to our systems, expected to deploy in the coming six months.
Category Archives: Technology
The main functions of the integrated library system (ILS) are:
- as a catalog
- as a database
- as library staff’s main tool for checking books and materials in and out
- for acquiring, processing and storing items.
The ILS is also the brains of our technology system that allow patrons access to many other online services, too. When you sign up for a public session at one of the BPL’s computers or utilize the public printing systems, the print system has to check with our ILS to make sure you are in our system and are approved to use that computer or printer at that location. For example, only a children’s card can be used to access resources in a children’s space. The same goes for access to the WIFI system. Both our web-based public catalog, with its special search algorithm and relevancy rankings as well as its access to social network systems and our Museum Pass Reservation System need to do the same, as does use of OverDrive for downloadable books, just to name a few.
In all, Boston Public Library integrated and tested twenty-five separate systems and applications during the migration, a mixture of local and hosted systems. And, of course, we had to plan the migration so that we could stay open and offer as many services as possible for as long as possible. Some libraries close down for a migration of this size. If you were unfortunate enough to be one of the people who experienced a problem with access to systems or your record, or had a problem with your hold requests, we apologize. If you have let us know, we have probably either fixed or will fix the problem. For the vast majority of systems and users, the migration was largely invisible and successful. We are planning to continue making system improvements and adding other enhancements through at least June of 2013 as part of this overall systems migration project.
Here’s what’s happening over the next week and beyond: On Sunday, December 9, the library will stop using the Horizon Integrated Library System (ILS) for most functions – indeed several functions have already been suspended. Staff begin using a limited version of the Polaris ILS on Monday, December 10, for 3 days while the final touches are made to the data mappings along with some record clean-up and de-duplication – after all, the database contains over 15 million records (when you count catalog entries, items, circulations statues, and patron records). This is not a quick process. Please see announcements on the BPL homepage or circulation FAQ page for service changes and impacts.
The new system will fully go live on the morning of Thursday, December 13. While staff have undergone training, we will be asking the public for patience as we become accustomed to the new system. Once we are used to new ways of doing things, we expect that our new ILS will be more stable, faster, and easier to use and thus help us do our jobs in servicing the public more efficiently. Polaris will also offer additional features and functions in the next release, planned for 6 months out, that will further enhance some BPL services. One new feature available on day one is the ability for library users to receive notification via phone, email, and text message, as well as faster circulation processing and more detailed data available in our catalog.
The current Horizon Integrated Library System (ILS) was selected more than 12 years ago. The BPL is in the process of moving to its new Polaris system. The library had begun the search for a replacement system in 2006, but had put off any decision due to a combination of staff capacity, funding, and competing organizational priorities. The project was picked up again in late 2009 as the older system inched closer to its hardware and software “end of life” dates, and its lack of flexibility became more and more unbearable for staff. The ILS upgrade was viewed as a major component of broader technology upgrade plans. Requirements were developed and research conducted. This work was ultimately formalized in a City of Boston RFP procurement process leading to a Board of Trustee vote in February of 2012 selecting Polaris as the company and product to replace Horizon. Please look out for a future post on some of the new features that will be available and how they will help staff serve patrons better and more directly.
The Boston Public Library is counting down the final days to a major computer systems upgrade. The new system from Polaris will replace the 12 year-old implementation of our Horizon Integrated Library System or ILS. The ILS is the system that staff use to run the library, from checking in and checking out books, doing catalog searches, maintaining inventories of items, catalog data, and patron data and helps provide secure access to patrons for other services from wifi to printing and remote access over the web. It is also used for purchasing, acquiring, and processing new books, for filling patron holds and routing books throughout the system. The BPL ILS also services 8 other libraries throughout the Greater Boston Area as part of the Metro Boston Library Network, which also includes several Boston Public School Libraries. For specific information about the migration and its impact, please check here or keep an eye on this blog for upcoming posts with more background information.