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UPDATED Tacoma: Problems with tech upgrade keeps Tacoma Public Libraries closed through Monday

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
October 25, 2012 7:35 pm

A technology upgrade was supposed to keep Tacoma Public Libraries closed for three days this week, but due to “unexpected and continuing problems,” all library branches will remain shuttered through Monday afternoon, library officials said Thursday.

“Everybody is a little bit shocked,” library director Susan Odencrantz said today. “We certainly didn’t expect anything like this to happen.”

Operating on an aging system, the city’s libraries are undergoing an update of the main software system that contains patron, catalog and purchasing records and operating systems.

“We’re migrating from an integrated library system that runs just about everything to another, more complex and powerful system,” Odencrantz said.

Transferring the data was expected to be complicated, but early test-rounds proved successful, she said. But Innovative Interfaces — the California-based vendor handling the project — so far hasn’t been able to successfully make the switch.

“The final upload of data experienced quite a few problems,” Odencrantz said. “ It has failed twice, and we’re now on our third try, which is almost unheard of.”

Without a system in place, library staff aren’t able to check out materials and patrons can’t use the libraries’ online catalog system.

The vendor is now trying yet another data upload, set to be completed early Friday.  Library staff then must test the system to make sure it is properly running — a process that takes about a day.

“Hopefully, it will work,” Odencrantz said. “But if it doesn’t, we do have a fallback plan and we won’t let this go on beyond Monday.”

The fallback involves simply reverting to the library’s old software system and reopening the branches to patrons, she said.

“We’re as frustrated as our patrons are with this delay,” Odencrantz said. “It is really in (the vendor’s) hands at this point. There is not much more we can do until they identify the problem and create a solution that allows them to successfully load our records.”

Innovative Interfaces have been working on aspects of the system transfer since last year under a five-year, $600,000 contract, library officials said. The vendor provides software systems to thousands of libraries of all types in over 50 countries.

While the technical problems are being worked out, some library staff remains working on projects related to the data transfers, while others are taking personal leave, Odencrantz said.

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