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Newbury, Vt., Library Installs Digital System

Newbury, Vt. — With the help of several dedicated volunteers, Tenney Memorial Library recently converted to a digital catalog.

It wasn’t a moment too soon.

For most of the library’s 118-year history, each book was represented in the card catalog, the library said in a recent news release. Over time, the system was abandoned, but nothing replaced it.

By last spring, “chaos was at hand,” the library said.

“There was no way to locate a book except to find it on the shelf. Books were wandering, patrons were perplexed, and Luisa Lindsley, the library director, was frustrated.”

Then Paul Sachs, treasurer of the library’s board of trustees, stepped in.

Sachs led efforts to upgrade the library’s computers and choose a software system.

He selected Koha, one of several systems used by Vermont libraries, and enrolled Tenney in the Vermont Organization of Koha Automated Libraries. He, Lindsley, and longtime volunteer Peg Hastings received training through the organization.

The next task involved “weeding” the stacks, removing materials no longer considered appealing or interesting.

The Vermont Department of Libraries helped get the collection into “fighting form,” the library said, “lean and clean.”

Cataloging the materials, which number in the thousands, could have taken years, but with Sachs’ guidance and some training, “Newbury volunteers rushed to the rescue,” the library said.

Some titles were already in the shared network and just needed local information added; others required a complete catalog entry. But every item needed a barcode and new spine label.

Creating a bibliographic record can take 20-30 minutes, said Sachs, who never studied library science. “I haven’t done it enough,” he said, laughing. For an experienced person, “I think it would take a lot less time.”

But after just eight months, Sachs and the crew had reached the critical mass needed to “go live” with the new system, the library said.

The project team included volunteers Joshua Lemay, Caroline Nininger and Sachs, who each completed hundreds of items. Hastings, whom Sachs called “the queen of cataloging,” has logged more than 6,800.

Somewhere between 8,500 and 9, 000 items have been cataloged, and about 1,000 books in special collections, reference and audio still need to be done, Sachs said last week. Recently, the trustees honored the project volunteers with a candlelight dinner at the library.

The new setup allows patrons to renew books, suggest new titles and place holds on materials they want to borrow, all online.

They can search the Tenney collection, along with those of the Vermont Organization of Koha Automated Libraries’ 50 or so other member libraries.

The system has also sped up the process of checking out and returning books, and provides digital information that can be used for reports on various topics, including patron preferences.

Sachs recently created a report to help secure a grant for $700 worth of children’s books. — Aimee Caruso