"a hold was not placed"

I live in a small town, with a small public library. They’re great — they do what they can to meet the needs of their varied user population (working class upstate New York town whose main industry is colleges), and they recently won a vote to increase their service area and funding. (Can I say how much I appreciate their new longer hours? Because I do!)

They use a local consortial (and probably aging) Sirsi implementation for their catalog, and I’m very fond of my ability to go in, search ALL, and put a hold on books I want to read that are in libraries 50 miles away. It leverages the small collections of our local libraries in important ways, and it makes my fiction-filled life a nicer place. (Agnes and the Hitman is on its way to me now, and I’m thrilled.)

However. Today I got a message that said that my request for Cursor’s Fury could not be filled, and to contact my library. I tried again, confirming that my login was correct, and that I’d pushed the right buttons. No luck. So I tried contacting my library.

First, it didn’t offer me the phone number of my library, and nowhere in the catalog could I find a link to my library. Consortial catalogs strike again, with limited customization and space for local information, particularly when the libraries in question are as small and understaffed as they are. Google got me to the library homepage, though, with the phone number and hours clearly listed.

Second, when I called, I was told by the very helpful woman at the library that it could mean the book is on a new book shelf and therefore not holdable, or could mean that the holding library isn’t in the resource-sharing network. That was news to me — I mean, sure, I understand that if a books on the “new” shelf, it gets a privileged “our library patrons only” status. It’s common practice. But the “not in the network” startled me. I had assumed that all libraries sharing the catalog implementation were also sharing across it. But they’re not. And, again, nowhere could I find information telling me who those libraries were that did share.

I can only imagine the pressures facing our public libraries in this economically struggling rural county, and I mean no criticism of the hard and good work they’re doing. But as a librarian, I have to ask: If an outside librarian, savvier than the average patron, is flummoxed by the out-of-the-box messages and design of the online systems we put in place, doesn’t that mean the systems aren’t good enough out of the box? Shouldn’t they be explicative and helpful all on their own? Why is that so much to ask, and why do we constantly, as a profession, settle for less?
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2 thoughts on “"a hold was not placed"

  1. Cat.

    We Publics do like our secret society layout, don’t we? See comments to previous post…and also from personal experience I will say that Communication is not a strong point inside (and outside) public libraries, maybe all libraries, but I can’t speak to that.

    I hope you pointed out to someone when you called how hard it was to find the phone number in the catalog/interface.

    Or, you could just do what some of your friends do, and blame Sirsi. 😛

  2. Heather

    I don’t know – it drives me bonkers. But I have only so much money and so much time, and our Sirsi consortium gives me an option I can afford. And my patrons do like it, for the most part.

    The state is pushing right now to cut cooperative catalog ventures from the “essential services” list. This means the state won’t fund them anymore. Which means my costs go even higher. It’s kind of hard to agitate for better software when you’re fighting to afford what you’ve already got.

    I keep looking at the Koha site and daydreaming about a catalog that makes SENSE.

    Sigh.

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