The crash of Millennium Charter Academy’s library software mirrored Egypt’s historic library of Alexandria’s loss centuries ago. Millennium’s solution turned out to be software aptly named Alexandria.
According to MCA Librarian Jennifer Lovill, the computer crash occurred just as the school year was wrapping up last year.
“The Follett software we were using apparently had gotten knocked off line,” explained Lovill. “Everything was working fine. It was the Friday before spring break and I had a class. One child tried to scan a book.”
The computer prompt only said “error.”
Lovill said she calmly shut down the system and then fired it up again to allow it to reboot.
The computer prompt said “error.” Lovill called MCA’s Director of Development and Information Technology Lu Ann Browne. Further attempts at fixing the problem failed. Worse, MCA staff discovered that a faxed payment to the software company for the insurance premium had not gone through. The software consultant quoted them a price of $700 to answer one question.
Lovill quickly found herself in a situation that would trouble any librarian as much as it did students. She was only able to accept returned books and not check any more out.
“For the rest of the school year kids would ask me if the computer was fixed,” said Lovill. “In summer, children wouldn’t tell me they had missed me. They would ask if the computer was fixed yet, which was good because it means they were excited about reading.”
The droll humor of the end of the resulting search for new software was not lost on the staffers who had to scan in the library after the new software was installed. Browne, her two daughters Mary Beth and Laura and MCA Educational Technologist Mandy Dean were to spend a lot of “quality” time during this summer as they really got to know the books.
Dean, using the school’s one scanner, spent seven- and eight-hour days on the project. Brown logged 40 hours, often manually entering in the information for books if they would not scan into the system. Her daughters each logged six hours scanning in books as well.
“This software is awesome,” said Dean. “We can tap into other libraries to see if they have particular books. This will be neat for teachers and students but I admit I am glad it (the scanning) is done.”
“It’s given us a great chance to have a clean record of our inventory,” added Lovill. “The other records we had were more than 10 years old.”
“I ran across several sets of books I wasn’t aware we had,” added Dean. “I can now recommend them to several teachers which is cool. I have a new appreciation for what librarians do.”
“I entered in 2,000 books the first year I was here,” said Lovill. “Many of the books have been donated and there were so many that were awesome books. That gets me excited because it’s sometimes difficult to get children interested in another type of book than the ones they usually read.”
All of the staff interviewed agreed that Alexandria will allow easier library book circulation and includes features such as specialized searches by groups, teachers or individual students, remote clients in the building as well as enhanced security features. This should free up some time for the librarian so she can introduce students to new titles.
“I like to show them new books,” said Lovill. “That introduction could be what sparks them into more reading.”
Browne is philosophical about the struggle to resurrect the old software.
“It turned out to be a blessing,”concluded Browne. “The new software is cheaper, the annual maintenance fee is cheaper than before and we have no issues with backup and recovery. Later on there is even the possibility of this information being kept on the ‘cloud’ which would be a natural progression for us.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.