Trouble with the OPAC


Have you ever seen an entire story devoted to an OPAC? Well Here\'s one from on the troubles with a new OPAC in Bucks County, PA. It seems the new system has more than a few bugs, enough to render it almost useless. $695,000 down the drain?

\"Taos went online in late December. It hardly has performed as expected -- instead of speeding up the search process, Taos has caused logjams at each of the system\'s seven branches. It has not been unusual for Taos to crash, Moody said, freezing the searches of everyone using a computer terminal to track down a book.\"\"This Ulysses is spelled ULISYS, which stands for Universal Library Information Systems. Anybody who has visited a Bucks County Free Library branch since the early 1980s should be familiar with ULISYS -- the tedious computerized card catalog that forced users to scroll through several screens to tell whether the books they wanted were on the shelves.

Still, said Marilyn Dallas Moody, Bucks library executive director, \'\'It was a lot better than flipping through dozens of cards.\'\'

\'\'When we have a peak load, something is bound to go wrong,\'\' said Moody.

In addition, lines formed at the checkout desks because the librarians would have to go through Taos to process checkouts and returns. Edana Hoy, head librarian at the Michener branch in Quakertown, said there could often be a 10-minute wait for people to check out books.

This week, library officials will decide whether to dump Taos temporarily at the Doylestown and Levittown libraries, the system\'s two largest facilities. It is hoped that by taking Doylestown and Levittown off-line, the Taos response time at the other libraries, including the Quakertown and Perkasie branches, will improve.

But first, the library staff has to make sure it can reinstall ULISYS, which hasn\'t been rebooted in nearly two decades. If they can bring ULISYS back online, Moody said, library users should look for improvements in the Taos system starting Thursday.

ULISYS was one of the original electronic catalogs; the first versions of the software started showing up in libraries in the late 1970s.

The old card catalogs only listed books in the system. It could not, however, tell the readers whether a particular book was on the shelf.

Moody pointed out that library workers often had to type eight or 10 cards per book so that books could be cross-indexed under a number of categories.\"

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