Area library patrons won't be able to place a hold on books or borrow through the interlibrary loan system until April 9 while a new, bigger online cataloging system is tweaked and the database is loaded with about 10 million titles from around 450 libraries in Illinois.
"What it's going to do is create a service that is more seamless," said Fairview Heights Public Library director Jill Pifer. "As far as we know, this will be the largest consortium of libraries in the country. The pool of books to choose from will be greater because we will bring in all these catalogs that you were never able to see before."
Two years ago there were 10 separate library systems in the state of Illinois. The state told the systems it could not continue to maintain so many systems. So, the systems merged, saving the state $4 million last year by eliminating redundancy. There are now two systems plus a Cook County library system.
That means if people are looking for a particular book, CD or DVD title, they can request it from just about anywhere, not just from within their particular regional library system.
Not only will more titles be available, libraries in the new system will go from having around 250,000 patrons in each system to nearly 1.6 million patrons.
The new system, S.H.A.R.E. (Sharing Heartland's Available Resources Equally), covers approximately 450 libraries from the southernmost tip of Illinois up to Iroquois County. The area, which was known as the Illinois Heartland Library System, was once four library systems: Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Trail, Rolling Prairie and Shawnee.
Once the new online cataloging system is up and running, patrons will have access to nearly 10 million books, DVDs, CDs and magazines 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The reason S.H.A.R.E. libraries needed a new online cataloging system is because the libraries all used different online cataloging system, and to give access to all libraries, the library consortium chose a new database vendor to develop and run the new system, called Polaris.
"Right now, all of the staff is in combat mode as far as learning the new system," Collinsville Memorial Public Library Director Barb Rhodes said. "On April 1, we get our first access to Polaris, but, it will totally be offline, a dead system, as they transfer the old information to the new system. From April 1 to April 9, all we can do is move data, and all we can do is move materials in and out of our own building. People won't be able to go online to see what we have."
People will still be able to check things out from their own library during this time, but not from other libraries.
Polaris is expected to go live April 9. Before the system goes live, patrons will not be able to request items via the interlibrary loan system and all holds on books will be lost.
Also, libraries will not be able to issue new library cards, look up library cards or sign up new library patrons and, no items will be due during the period when the system is being transferred so items don't get lost during the system downtime.
"We're encouraging people to keep whatever they check out during this time," Rhodes said. "We will waive any late fees."
In Fairview Heights, all holds will be canceled March 21. In Collinsville, all holds will be canceled March 22. Libraries are setting their own dates for canceling holds, Pifer said, so patrons should check with their library.
"Holds will not transfer to the new system, she added. "You can go to your account and print out your hold list, because as of March 21, they are gone and won't transfer over. Some people have a reading history on their account and that reading history is going to be lost, too, if you don't print that out."
Although libraries nationwide give library patrons reciprocal borrowing privileges, meaning a person with a library card from their local library can check out books from a library in Illinois or any other state, the new system will make that easier.
"You will be able to go down to the library in Carbondale, scan your card and your information will come up there, you can check out a book, come back up here, finish it, and return it here," Pifer said.
The courier system that delivers books for the interlibrary loan system will still be used once the Polaris system is up.
"Four library systems (in our area) so the four budgets of those systems all went in to one system," Rhodes said. "The courier system will still be there, but it will be a lot more complex. We're all supposed to get our deliveries, but, if something is in Mount Vernon, it may take a day or two longer to get here, than, say if the item was in Edwardsville."
Libraries are asking that patrons be patient as the staff learns the new system.
"Once this is up and going, it's going to be phenomenal," Rhodes said. "We're excited.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at email@example.com or 618-239-2667.