Library Software Upgrade: What You Need to Know

past and future sign postAs I mentioned in my previous post, the Upper Hudson Library System is upgrading its catalog and patron management database.  The new software, named Sierra for staff and Encore for patrons, has some great features that we are very excited to offer.  As with any software migration (I’m not being overly dramatic – it’s an industry term), there will be some major differences between how the system runs currently and how it will run after we go live on the new system.

In my last post, I focused on some of the new features Encore will have for patrons.  This post is dedicated to the issues you need to know about, actions you may need to take to preserve your account information, and the timing of planned interruptions in service.

New Rules and Actions You May Need to Take

  • With our current system, patrons can suspend a request for an item if they want to place a request but make sure the item doesn’t show up when they cannot pick it up.  In Encore, patrons can only suspend (now called freeze) a request if there are no checked in items at any location to fill the hold.  In order to time future requests, we suggest patrons use the new “Reading List” feature when logged into their account in Encore.
  • If you currently have suspended requests in your account, they will be activated automatically when we move to the new software on 3/31.  You will need to either re-freeze the items or move them to your reading list.
  • Currently, if your account is not in good standing for any reason (too many fines, too many overdue items, expired card, etc.), you are blocked from checking out physical items and using our computers.  In the future, you will be blocked from ALL functions, including downloading digital items, placing requests, registering for events using your library card, and using online resources that require you to enter your library card number.  We would have preferred to keep the old policy, but this is one way in which the new software is inflexible.
  • If you have an email address configured in your account, you can have your checkout receipt emailed to you rather than printed.
  • Items currently saved in patron accounts under “My Lists” will NOT be moved to the new system.  If you save items there, print or email yourself the list prior to 3/27 in order to preserve it.
  • There is a chance that you may need to reset your PIN on the new system.  In the future, library staff will not be able to see patron PIN information in plain text in a patron account.  Staff will be able to reset a PIN, but not determine a current PIN.

Important Dates

  • 3/16/15 – We will pause taking requests for materials until we go live on the new system (3/31).  This will help us minimize errors with items in transit and on hold for patrons during the move.  Traditionally, this is where most of the errors in transition would be.
  • 3/27/15 – We will pause taking new patron registrations and item renewals.  We will resume registering patrons and renewing items on 3/31.
  • 3/30/15 – All UHLS libraries will be offline.  Patrons will be able to check out physical materials (with library cards only – no Driver’s Licenses will be accepted on this day), but digital downloads will not be available.  Also, other online resources that require a library card number will not be available.  Item check-in, fine/fee payment, card signup/replacement, and any other in-person or online account management services will need to wait until we go live with the new system on 3/31.  There will be a procedure in place so that public computers can still be used, and our “old” catalog will still be available for reference at, though item status will be out of date.


If all goes smoothly, the libraries will be live on the new system when we open for business on 3/31.  It is unlikely that online services will be restored before that.  Of course, with a project this size we expect some glitches, but we will do our best to keep our users informed of any changes in the plan along the way.  If you have questions, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to find answers for you.


street sign labeled change aheadThough this blog has been quiet for a while, big changes are happening behind the scenes in the Upper Hudson Library System.  UHLS includes all of the public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties, and we are all working together toward a giant change in how our system is managed.

Currently, the libraries use a software named Horizon to manage all of our patron and item data.  This software is at the core of all of our online functions and sharing capabilities.  We are excited to announce that last year, the system voted to move to a new library management software – Sierra and its public-facing catalog Encore. Sierra/Encore is a newer system with a much more robust set of features for both staff and patrons.  The change is currently set to happen at the end of March, though that may change as the deadline gets closer.

While migration from one software to another happens fairly regularly in libraries, it is still an enormous undertaking.  Because terminology and functionality differ between the two programs, you would not believe how many things need to be considered, planned for, tested, and checked over and over!  We are doing our best to think of everything, but there are bound to be some glitches along the way.  Even if the transition is completely smooth, the new software will probably need to be tweaked for a few weeks while we get it customized just right.  Whenever possible, we will alert patrons of outages and issues as soon as possible on our website, Facebook and Twitter locations.  Your patience is very much appreciated.  As always, we welcome your feedback on the new system once we get it in place.

Here are some new features that will come with Sierra:

  • OverDrive integration – checkout and download our online materials right from the catalog
  • Option to email receipts/date due slips instead of printing
  • Option for SMS (text) notifications [edit 3/5: This feature will not be available when we go live on 3/31, but will be implemented soon thereafter.]
  • More reliable electronic notifications
  • Option to save your checkout history
  • Option to tag catalog items and search by tag
  • Better mobile interface
  • Enhanced account security – this will likely require a new PIN, but we are not 100% sure.

Please note: patrons who use the My List feature in our current catalog will need to print their list(s) or email to themselves before the software change happens.  My List items will not be transferred to Sierra.

If you have questions about the new system, please post them in the comments below.