Library data bank upgrades to briefly limit access

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Library patrons across Allegheny County will notice service changes for a few days in February and March, as upgrades to the eiNetwork system that connects libraries are completed.

Electronic checkouts for books and other materials won't be available on Feb. 16 and 17, or on March 22, 23 and 24. Electronic searches of catalogues or of patrons' accounts also can't be done on those days.

But patrons still will be able to show their regular eiNetwork cards to borrow materials. And they'll be able to use the Internet and Wi-Fi at the 75 affected libraries.

“It's a significant upgrade of the system already in place,” Rebecca Serey, executive director of eiNetwork, said of the planned hardware and software changes. “It's routine maintenance, a version change to the software.” Serey declined to specify the cost of upgrades.

Paula Kelly, director of the Whitehall Public Library, said visitors will be able to use their library cards, and those new to the library on the upgrade days will be able to apply for cards on paper. Due dates for items will be extended around the affected times, and fines and fees won't be charged.

The upgrade won't be that much different from the current system, Kelly said. “Patrons will just have to find out where to point and click,” she said.

Baldwin Borough Public Library Director Jenny Worley called the upgrade a “necessary evil” and said what is coming is much better.

Sierra, the new software, will be similar to the previous Millennium, but it will provide a new catalogue experience, she said. Also, “It'll make searches much easier and be like Amazon, where you put things in the cart,” she said.

Dennis Luther, director of the Brentwood Library, said his staff will return to checking out books by hand, instead of swiping cards, during the upgrade days.

“If they want a book, they want a book,” he said of patrons, “but it's a good addiction.”

He also is excited about getting replacements for the library's computers, which will come later. This happens every three years for libraries in the county.

Members of the Allegheny County Library Association and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh systems pay annually into the eiNetwork. Computers are leased to keep technology current.

“We'll have to get the old-time librarian skills back,” Sharon Julian-Milas, director of Pleasant Hills Public Library, said of changes during the five days.

Updates will be made from a central location, and directors of each were allowed to adjust their schedules or close some days. At Pleasant Hills, some staff will be involved in the Friends of the Library Book Sale during the March dates. The sale will be in the Pleasant Hills Borough Building.

By March 25, the switchover should be complete.

Rebecca Long, director of Bridgeville Public Library and South Fayette Township Library, said she wants to keep the five days “as customer-service friendly as we can.”

During Bridgeville's closure on Feb. 17, those who scheduled appointments for the AARP tax assistance still will have access to the library. Her staffs have been training with the test module for the new system, but it isn't difficult, she said.

Jan Reschenthaler, director at Jefferson Hills Public Library, has watched her staff perform practice tests and will take training herself on Feb. 13.

“I think it will be a smooth transition,” she said. “This will serve patrons better and be faster and easier to use.”

Worley, at the Baldwin library, looks forward to the changes. “Even in the cold weather, we have people in here. They come to the library because they need us,” she said.

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