Brooks library gets ready for new online consortium

Monday April 29, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Every year budgetary conditions for the Brooks Memorial Library get tighter and tighter.

Back in 2011 library Director Jerry Carbone was looking for a way to save some money so he decided to move the library away from its online, proprietary service and toward an open source system, which could save the library thousands of dollars every year.

After making that decision he had a conversation with State Librarian Martha Reid, who asked Carbone if Brooks was ready to join with other libraries around the state which were also moving toward an open source system.

The collaboration, Reid told him, would give Brooks Memorial Library members access to the collections from the other libraries.

Carbone was up for the challenge and after a few years of negotiations and planning, the Brattleboro library is getting ready to move one step further into the digital 21st century.

Brooks Memorial Library will be closed Thursday to allow staff to train on the new integrated library system, which is being called The Catamount Library Network.

The new system is expected to be available on Monday June 3.

Brooks Memorial, along with libraries in Springfield, Waterbury, Ludlow and Rutland are the first five to commit to band together to lay the groundwork for a statewide resource sharing system.

"We want Catamount to be a way to make it easier to share resources," said Carbone. "The system is only going to grow and some day all of the libraries in Vermont might be on the system."

Brooks currently uses a system which requires an annual user's fee for maintenance and support.

Advancements in open source systems have allowed Brooks to move over to the new technology, which is also going to save the library money.

Brooks will be the first to go live with the new system, and all five libraries are expected to be online by the end of September 2013.

Once the project is up and running, any Brooks patron will be able to see what each of the other libraries has available.

Patrons will be able to request an item from any of the libraries on the system, and then pick it up at the Brattleboro Main Street library.

The materials available to a Brooks member will grow from about 75,000 to approximately 250,000.

There will be some changes within the Brooks system due to the new collaboration.

The standard loan period will be three weeks and fines for overdue adult material will go up, though the fines for overdue children's materials will remain the same.

Brooks had to agree to the new time periods and overdue fines as the five libraries negotiated the agreement.

Carbone says the change could one day lead to more digital downloads between libraries, where a member could find digital material at another library and then check it out and download it directly to his or her device.

That is still a few years off, he says, though The Catamount Library Network does position Brooks to be ready when more resources become available.

"This is a way for us to get more material but also it is a way to give Vermonters access to the information we hold," Carbone said. "This is just phase one. We are just getting this going."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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