Kingsport library leaping into 21st century with new software


***Article courtesy of Kingsport Times-News

KINGSPORT – Wouldn’t it be nice to receive text alerts when a book you’ve been wanting to check out has been returned? How about getting a notice when your books are overdue? Keeping track of your reading history would be good too.

In a few weeks, thanks to new software being installed at the Kingsport Public Library, these online features will be available to library patrons.

According to library director Helen Whitaker, the library will be closed May 11 through May 13 and reopen at 1 p.m. on May 14.

What we’re doing is getting a whole new system. Every book has a record with the author, title, and subject. That data has to be moved. Then we’ve got our patron data – your name, number of overdue books, contact information – and that has to be moved too, Whitaker said.

While this data transfer is taking place, the library will not be able to find you in the system, nor could the library check in or out any material. The online catalog and online downloads will also be unavailable during this three-day period.

That’s why we’re closed. You can’t even use the computers (in the library) because they require a library card, Whitaker said.

But after all of this data is migrated to the new system, patrons are going to find themselves with a more user-friendly system when searching for books and after June 1 will be able to pay fines with credit and debit cards.

Whitaker describes the new system’s search as Amazon-style with better looks and icons more recognizable where patrons will easily know if the item is a book or a DVD or other item. People will be able to better target what they’re looking for.

New to library fans will be the option to receive text alerts of when a book you’ve had on hold has been brought back to the library. You’ll also be able to receive text alerts about overdue books and the system will keep track of your reading history so you don’t accidentally check out a book you’ve already read.

The texting will help us because we have more phone numbers than email addresses, Whitaker said. Hopefully this will reach more people with less staff time involved.

Under the new system, the library’s Boopsie app is being replaced by a new library app which should be available in June. Patrons will be able to use the app to check events at the library, search for books, place them on hold and even download audiobooks to the device.

For years, the Kingsport Public Library has been in a consortium with nine regional library systems, East Tennessee State University and Northeast State, to where patrons were able to search all of the libraries’ catalogs from any computer.

Recently, the two colleges went through a system upgrade and chose one more academically geared. The local libraries wanted a system more public-library oriented and thus went with a different system.

As a result, the public libraries have formed a new consortium called the Organization of Watauga Libraries or O.W.L. for short.

We’ll still be able to share our online catalogs. We didn’t want the public to lose that capability, Whitaker said.

Kingsports catalog will still be shared with the public library catalogs of Bristol, Elizabethton-Carter County, Greeneville/Greene County, Johnson City, Johnson County, Mosheim, Sullivan County, Unicoi County and Washington County.

A courier will still deliver books between these libraries to fill hold requests. Items belonging to ETSU and Northeast State will not be in the OWL consortium catalog, but reference staff can search these holdings and request items with our Interlibrary Loan Request services.

Every public library in the OWL consortium will be closed May 11-13, except for Sullivan County.