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District completes move to online library system

June 30, 2009
Ruth Adkins
Ruth Adkins, a member of the Portland School Board, processed one of the final books in a celebration June 29.
E-mail reminders about overdue books and an easy-to-use online catalog are among the features of the new system, which PPS finished implementing in June.
After three years of effort by library staff and volunteers, the last of Portland Public Schools’ library books were processed for the new VIA book management system June 29 at Creative Science School.
    
The library system will already be familiar to many students and families: Multnomah County Library uses the same system, and some schools began using VIA as early as August 2007.
    
In addition to e-mail reminders and online catalog, VIA provides librarians feedback on what is popular, information they can use to guide book purchases. VIA also makes it easier for schools to share books amongst themselves.
    
Ruth Adkins, a member of the Portland School Board who attended an event celebrating the project's conclusion, says the transition helps level the playing field among schools. “I’m thrilled for the completion of this project, which is an important step in bringing equity to our schools. We need to keep the momentum going to realize the vision of a strong library system in every school.”

With the processing of the final books at CSS, all PPS library books are part of a central online catalog accessible through any computer with internet access.

Grant money, volunteers make migration possible

The migration project was massive. More than 250,000 books were processed, requiring bar codes that would span seven miles if placed end-to-end. It was also badly needed, with some schools still using a card catalog system, while other schools – although using computerized systems – relying on outdated and incompatible software.

Volunteers and financial support made it possible for PPS to make the big switch.

Kathy Rouzie, who helped lead the transition, says more than 200 volunteers, including parents, grandparents and students, helped library staff to process books during the course of the three year project.

“At Wilson High School, we had a grandmother volunteer who had never touched a computer in her life. She came in once a week for weeks and weeks, and she wasn’t fast, but did a fabulous job,” says Rouzie. “And she was just an adorable gal.”

Financial support came from the Mt. Hood Regulatory Commission, which manages cable service agreements in the greater Portland area. PPS received matching funds – for computers, software and barcodes – through the commission’s Community Access Capital Grant Program. (Julie Omelchuck, the grant program director, has personal experience with VIA: she already received an overdue book notice on behalf of her son, a student at Metropolitan Learning Center.)
Deb Carroll, a project manager for Portland Public Schools who led the book migration, chats with Creative Science School third-grader Arabella Klippert at the library celebration.

At the celebration event, about 40 library staff and others enjoyed donuts and a cake decorated to mimic bar codes. Attendees were happy but acknowledged the catalog migration was a long time coming; librarians began requesting a computerized system in 1988.

Deb Carroll, a PPS project manager who led the effort, says tight school funding kept the project on the backburner for almost a decade. “Librarians asked for it every year, but district leaders asked them, ‘Can it wait another year?’ And librarians reluctantly said, ‘Well, yes.’”

But at the ceremony, people were mostly looking to the future. Rouzie speculated about the possibility of using the new system to track items other than books, such as costumes, tools and musical instruments.

To learn more about the new online library system, go to www.library.pps.k12.or.us.

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