CHESTER – Starting next month, the Chester Public Library will begin implementation of a new cataloguing system that its leadership says will improve patrons’ experiences at the library, whether they’re visiting in person or checking things out on line.
For the past few months, library staff have been learning the ins and outs of the new Koha system and making the necessary changes and adjustments to their collection to prepare for its implementation. And starting in March, patrons will have the chance to access it.
The staff ask that patrons be patient as the system comes on line. Over the coming months all 3,700 Chester library cardholders will be issued a new card as they filter through the building on Chester Street.
Library director Tim Sheehan said he’d been looking to upgrade the library’s current system since he joined the staff five years ago, as the one currently in use was out of date. It was high technology only in the mid-‘90s, Sheehan said, adding that he’s excited to present the new system to patrons.
Sheehan is particularly pleased about the expanded opportunities for remote access of library materials. The new system will allow library users to renew items from the Chester Public Library website. They can use their home computer or their mobile device, explained the director.
Patrons’ accounts will give email notifications when items become due, provide a list of checked out items, allow for holds to be placed on items and alert users to when a book becomes available, all time savers for library employees, as they don’t need to call each individual with a book due or in, and will make taking books and other items out easier for patrons.
Plus there’s a host of smaller features that come along with those major changes.
To allow for access to the system, patrons will be issued new cards. Providing an email address will allow for full usage of the system but is not required. It may take a few extra minutes at check-out as the new cards are issued.
In preparation, staff have been creating new records of the library’s collection. While the records of newer materials will be integrated into the system easily, the older titles’ records need to be improved to fit into the new system. It may be that patrons will take out a book in coming months that hasn’t yet been re-catalogued, but Sheehan said staff will be able to make a quick record of that item to allow patrons to check out the book.
Sheehan said the system will prepare the library to seamlessly integrate other technologies or changes in coming years.
Once the catalogue records are updated, search capabilities will also be greatly improved, more like a search engine, explained Sheehan. The older records were created manually; the newer ones are downloaded from the state set to go.
Sheehan explained that the library’s records created before 2009 had to be raised to library cataloguing standards, and much of the recent work was to do just that. But the process has allowed the staff to go through the collection and weed out unused or outdated books.
Volunteers have also been helping to re-barcode the collection from a five digit code to the library standard 14 digit code. Sheehan said he hopes there comes a time when all libraries in New Hampshire will be integrated, allowing for cardholders to take out books at any of the state’s libraries, something other states have already had success with using. With the new 14 digit code, Chester will be prepared if that happens, as the new barcodes identify items as Chester Library items.
It’s a lot of work, but once complete, the change will make for a better library experience for all, said Sheehan.
The money for the upgrade did not come from the budget, but was paid for through earnings from the library‘s money market account.
The library also will hold workshops to help people with questions.
The system goes live on March 3. Chester Library patrons are encouraged to call or visit the library for more information at 887-3404 or www.chesterlibrary.com.
“Ask questions if you have them and be on the lookout for the workshops we’re going to offer,” concluded Sheehan.
The library is looking for more volunteers to help out with the re-barcoding. Anyone aged 14 and up is welcome. Talk to Sheehan if interested.