April 1, 2011

Library network braces for 'slight inconvenience'

When the GMILCS library network goes down next week for two days, databases, like these at Derry Public Library that provide access to newspapers and magazines, will not be accessible.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- For two days next week your local library may be going “old school.”That means no online database for students looking down the barrel of a research paper on non-Western cultures. That means if you’re trying to get your hands on the latest novel by Jodi Piccoult, you won’t be able to see which library has it available for lending.
If you want to find out if a book is on the shelf, you will have to go look for it. If you
 want to renew a book online, you’re out of luck. 
It’s a small inconvenience in a library network that last year moved 800,000 inter-library books, primarily through online requests. But it’s an inconvenience, nonetheless, prompted by a shift in the GMILCS server, which administrates close to a dozen regional libraries, including Amherst, Bedford, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Manchester, Merrimack, Milford, Salem, Southern New Hampshire University, New England College and the New Hampshire Institute of Art. 
The nonprofit GMILCS consortium, which used to stand for the Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System, will be swapping out its server, which used to be hosted by a Manchester company, MV Communications. 
For reasons not completely clear, the system will be administrated by G4 Communications, starting Wednesday, when all the online data bases will be shifted to a new host. Calls placed to MV Communications for comment were not returned. 
“I’m not sure what the story is with MV. All I know is MV can’t handle the traffic any longer from the GMILC System, so we’re all being migrated over to another server,” said Merle Zusman, communications coordinator for the Derry Public Library. 
Michael York, state librarian with the New Hampshire State Library, said if anything, next week’s downtime will be a “slight inconvenience” and nothing more. “To some extent we’ve become slaves to the technology, and there’s no two ways about it. It’s like when the power goes off, we all sort of panic. But people will still be able to check out books because the library is making adjustments,” York said. 
He stressed that in these difficult economic times, the library has become an important tool for many people who come regularly to borrow books, movies or music. Even more essential, however, are the resources made available to those looking for work, or who need to utilize the libraries’ many online databases, which are generally accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 
“Libraries are used much more in bad times,” York said. “ People turn to libraries for assistance, time and again, in recessions. People are trying to network. We describe libraries as anchor institutions — they exist in every single community in New Hampshire. You can’t say that about McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts.” 
GMILCS libraries are trying to get the word out on their websites that on April 6 and 7 next week just about any online resource or database needed through the library will be unavailable. 
“You can come in for a book, a video or a video game. And you can still search the Internet — that’s powered by Comcast and won’t be affected. But all our databases will be unavailable, so anyone who’s working on a research paper or need to look for resources should plan accordingly,” Zusman said. 

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