Technology improvements and building plans are picking up speed at the Aurora Public Library, as a new card catalog system purchased with funding approved last year went live Thursday.
The system, called Polaris, integrates the card catalog, patron records and interlibrary loan systems and also offers the ability to search library materials, periodicals and databases all at once, Library Director Eva Luckinbill said.
"It was part of having a more state-of-the art, modern, integrated system," Luckinbill said about the switch to the new $180,000 software. "It should streamline our efficiency and make things faster and easier for the patrons."
Library staff members were trained on the system last week and rolled it out to patrons Thursday, Luckinbill said. While additional features will be added, she said library users already can access the card catalog from any Internet connection 24 hours a day to search for materials such as books, CDs and DVDs, or to view a list of items they have checked out or placed on hold.
"It is a more robust and user-friendly system," she said, that functions with the search features and drop-down menus Internet users have come to recognize.
The library bought Polaris using funding approved by the city council last year as part of a $30 million improvement plan. The plan calls for construction of a $27 million main library and $3 million in technology upgrades for the main library, Eola Road Branch, West Branch and Express Center.
A $10.8 million state grant is helping fund the new building, which is set for a groundbreaking May 1.
Next steps in the technology component of the plan include tagging all items for easier tracking through Polaris and developing a community profile that allows civic clubs to enter information about their organizations so it can show up in database search results.
Luckinbill said librarians later this month will begin what's expected to be a six-month process of tagging every item with a tracking chip. Once all items are tagged, the chips will connect with the Polaris system to check in and sort items so staff can transfer them from one location to another more quickly.
Library board member John Savage said during last year's funding discussions the library aims to complete transfer requests within four business hours 95 percent of the time.
Another new feature of the Polaris software, a community profile, is what Luckinbill called the "selling point." She said the feature will allow groups like the Rotary Club to enter information about their history and purpose. That way, people searching for polio, for example, would find not only books and medical journals on the disease, but also information about the Rotary Club's involvement in fighting it.
More of a community presence is something Luckinbill said residents and the city council asked for as the library developed its building plans and request for funding. She said the community profile will launch in about a month and a half.