LEWISTOWN - Ongoing storms delivering piles of snow to the Juniata Valley weren't enough to freeze the Mifflin County Library.
During the course of just five days, the library upgraded its online network and card catalog, resulting in a more user-friendly system for searching books and managing loans. Though technology upgrades are often slow and happen in parts, Executive Director Molly Kinney said the library entered the 21st century in one sweep.
"We were living in the 80s," she explained, citing old lines, old computers and an old card catalog that could do nothing more than look up a book.
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
Marsha Shilling, technology services coordinator, left, shows Cathy Keiser, circulation clerk, how to use the new card catalog at the Mifflin County Library in Lewistown.
The card catalog is now something to be proud of, with features that are "pretty darn amazing," said Marsha Shilling, technology services coordinator and manager of the project.
Kinney said patrons will first notice the speed of the network. Though the system previously was sluggish at every branch, she said processing loans used to take nearly one full minute per book at the Kish and Rothrock branches of the library. Patrons will now experience lightning speed on public access computers at every location, and library employees can more quickly process inventory, she said.
A new card catalog shares the network and offers more independence for library patrons. Users can place holds and renew books with the click of a button, and they can save searches or lists of books to return to later. Patrons don't even need to be at the library to search inventory or make changes to an account.
The catalog, which has traditionally only been available on library computers, is now accessible from home. Or the store. Or the park. LS2PAC, an electronic application, is available for download to any mobile device and offers library services to patrons wherever they are.
Children's librarian Susan Miriello said downloading the app is as simple as visiting www.mifflincountylibrary.org in the device's web browser and clicking the LS2PAC or LS2Kids icon on the home page. When it opens, she said the link prompts users to download the app. It's as easy as clicking "yes," she said.
From there, patrons can browse new releases, search past titles and manage their account right from their phone, e-reader or personal computer. Users also may opt to receive due date slips via email.
Patrons using their personal computers from home or the office do not need to download the app - they are able to access the new catalog directly just by logging on to the library's website.
Kinney said the aesthetic value of the updated card catalog is more appealing to users. Patrons can now view the jacket covers of each book, and a scrolling list of new releases are featured on the home page. An RSS feed features local and national web-based news publications, including The Sentinel.
In the children's library, a more animated card catalog is available for kids. The home screen features a brown spotted dog named Scout surrounded by a rotating circle of subject matter. Kids can choose from a list of topics including airplanes, monkeys, holidays, sports and more. From there, patrons browse jacket covers for the book of their choice. Each jacket has a badge that states the book is "in" or "out" to make the system easy to use and understand for young readers.
The updated card catalogs and online network have been in operation since early February. Despite a few bugs, Kinney said lots of preparation made for a relatively smooth transition between systems.
"We had worked literally months to get ready for this day," she said.
The upgrades are a "really big, big cultural shift" for the Mifflin County Library, Kinney said, adding that the goal is to stay relevant to all patrons. However, the upgrades won't change the library experience for those who wish to use it more traditionally. Circulation clerks will still be available to process loans, and books still can be checked out or renewed at the library.
For those who wish to use the new system, Shilling said a username and password is needed to log in. Interested patrons should call the library at 248-2391 to receive a pin number needed to gain first-time access to the new system.