Danville schools' library automation effort needs volunteers

Danville schools' library automation effort needs volunteers

DANVILLE – The card catalogs at Danville schools soon will be a thing of the past.

In March, the school district launched a project to automate its library collections, allowing students and teachers to search materials via computer.

Now they're asking for volunteers to help get tens of thousands of books online.

"It's not difficult," said Danville High School librarian Andrea Banicki, who automated most of her school's 28,000-volume collection a few years ago.

"But it's a huge task," she said, adding the middle schools have 10,000 to 12,000 books, while the elementaries have 9,000 to 10,000. "Every book has to be handled."

The project, which was presented to school board members on Wednesday, is being done thanks to $52,000 in Title I and II grants and about $13,000 in district funds, which paid for collections-management software and training. The software was recently installed in the district's schools.

The goal is to get the rest of the collections automated some time next year.

"It's really going to depend on how much time the librarians have and how much help they have," Banicki said.

"Once it's done, I think everyone will appreciate it," she said. "It will make it so much easier for students and teachers to search for materials. An even more exciting feature is that it's a Web-based program, so you'll be able to search all of our collections through any Internet connection. Students, parents, teachers will be able to log on from home and look for materials just like the public library."

When Banicki came to the high school five years ago, only the circulation system was computerized.

"We could check things in and out, but we couldn't search the collection online," she said, adding that had to be done using the card catalog.

However, the card catalog was outdated and unorganized. Students sometimes had trouble finding books, or didn't even know books were in the stacks because the cards were missing.

Banicki spent about a year building a computerized catelog by putting the circulation information on a server. When she was done, she began looking into automating other schools' collections, but the cost was prohibitive.

Two years ago, Edison Elementary School was able to launch an automation project, after the school's parent-teacher organization donated several thousand dollars for software. Librarian Cindy Jett spent about 1 1/2 years putting the 9,000 or so books online.

"Some people think it's as simple as slapping a bar code on a book," she said. But Jett and a handful of volunteers, including Banicki, a few parents and a Schlarman High School student, had to search online databases for every book record – title, author, publisher, copyright date, subject headings and summaries – and enter it in to the computer. They also entered information such as price, bar code and call numbers for library purposes.

"We started this school year with the system up and running," Jett said.

The computerized catalogs have had numerous benefits, the librarians said.

"When students do research, they type in a search word and have access to a lot more titles than we would have been aware of before," Banicki said. "It's so much easier. It's really going to increase the use of our materials."

When Edison began an all-school rain forest unit, Jett did an online search and pulled up all of the school's resources in one afternoon.

"It was so much easier to find," she said. "Before, we couldn't utilize all of our resources because the card catalog was outdated. If it wasn't there or up in my brain, we couldn't find the book."

The computerized catalogs provide book summaries.

They indicate whether elementary books are Accelerated-Reader books, and, if so, which level.

The system also allows students and teachers to search the stacks from any computer in the school.

"Teachers could check out books from their classrooms," Banicki said. "If they got online and saw a book was out, they could call or e-mail us and say, 'Will you place it on hold for me?'"

Librarians can track material more easily and send out overdue notices.

"We know who has what, and we can keep on top of it," Jett said, adding lost books are down this year.

In addition, they can generate reports for collection development.

"We can track usage, so we know what books aren't being used ... check copyright dates and see where we need to add,"she said. "Before automation, you'd have to track it with pencil and paper."

Jett said the biggest advantage is she's not bogged down with clerical duties, such as carding books.

"I have a lot more time to actually help my students and teachers," she said.

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