By ELIZABETH BEILMAN
Barbara Maxwell is on the board of Friends of the Library and belongs to four book clubs.
“I always have a book in my hand,” said Maxwell, a Jeffersonville retiree who visits the library about once a week.
Though she wouldn’t describe herself as computer-savvy, she said that when the Jeffersonville Township Public Library updates its computer system, she’ll be ready.
“The old system worked for me, and I expect the new system to work for me,” Maxwell said. “ ... I’m anxious to try it out.”
Ease of use — for Maxwell and many other patrons — is what both the main and Clarksville library branches are aiming for with the online system update, bringing new features that should make using the library smoother for everyone. The new system goes live Wednesday, April 23.
Pam Seabolt, the Clarksville branch manager who is overseeing the transition, said this new system called Polaris will be the first major update in eight years. Some of the big changes that come along with the update are text-message alerts, customized reading lists and the ability to register for a library card online.
“It’s going to help patrons,” Seabolt said. “It’s going to be much more user-friendly — easier for them to gain access, easier for them to do everything themselves.”
These changes will give more options, whether someone still wants help from a librarian or would prefer to have a more independent experience.
“I understand people that want more help, and we certainly offer the same type of help to those type of people, but this just kind of balances and gives the best of both worlds,” Seabolt said.
Maxwell said she thinks both options are important.
“Once in a while, I’ll look up a book and I can’t find it on the shelf, so I’ll ask someone for help,” she said.
Overdue and hold notifications will be sent out through text messaging and emails. Patrons will now be able to register for a library card online and have a period of 30 days to verify their identity in person, but also will be able to start using the library’s services immediately.
“If it’s the middle of the night and they say, ‘Oh, I really need these items, but I don’t have a card,’ they can register for the card and then be able to place some items on hold with that temporary account until they come in and make it active and then pick the items up,” Seabolt said.
Reading lists, much like Amazon’s wish list function, will allow patrons to keep track of what they’ve read and what they hope to read in the future.
Seabolt said more advanced searching capabilities can help people narrow down parameters — by author, subject, popularity — and save those searches. If a patron wants to always be on the lookout for the new Nora Roberts book, for example, they can set the search to run weekly or monthly and be notified when a new book has arrived.
“So that way, they never miss the new title that has just come out,” she said.
Another new feature will be the “My Community” feature, which is a searchable database that small nonprofits or businesses can post bulletins to.
“We heard over and over again, ‘We wish that there was one place that we could find this information about where to send somebody if they need a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen or help with a job search’ ... having something like that was a big factor in what we were looking at [when comparing] systems,” she said.
MORE TO COME
New features that will eventually be added are the ability to pay fees online and check out e-books directly from the catalog.
Libby Pollard, director of the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, said it was time for the switch.
“Our old system wasn’t as user-friendly, and it also didn’t have some of the features that this new system has,” Pollard.
Polaris also gives library employees more behind-the-scene functions, she said.
“So moving for a new system is not only better for the public, but it’ll help the staff as well,” she said.
Pollard said she was particularly excited about the reading list tool.
“I personally lose track of what I read, so being able to create a reading list and not have to check out books that I’ve already read will be really useful,” she said.
As libraries are steadily moving into a more digital world, Seabolt said she has seen people react positively and negatively to changes.
“I see it kind of split down the middle, honestly, I do,” she said. “I see people that, they’re surprised when you don’t have certain features and functions and they really expect it nowadays. And then there are people that have been coming here for years and are used to the way things have been done.”
Seabolt said she thinks Polaris will be something everyone can benefit from.
“What we can do to make it easier is just kind of making [the system] more available and friendly to patrons so that they can control their own life here at the library,” she said.