Finkelstein Memorial Library
24 Chestnut Street, Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (845) 352-5700

Even with new system, Finkelstein Library wants to share

Reprinted from "Community Views" published in The Journal News, Jan. 27, 2011

Richard F. Rothbard and Robert S. Devino. (2011, January 27). Even with new system, Finkelstein Library wants to share. The Journal News, p.A.11.

The decision by the Board of Trustees of Finkelstein Memorial Library to support the migration to the new Millennium integrated library system has generated some controversy. Finkelstein has discontinued use of the outdated ANSER computer system used for interlibrary loans and reserves by the other 46 libraries in the Ramapo Catskill Library System. Finkelstein is still an RCLS member library, and our cardholders continue to have borrowing rights at other system libraries, despite our move to Millennium.

We upgraded operating software to improve the library's ability to serve East Ramapo school district taxpayers and to make the collections more accessible to our patrons. The Millennium system can provide far more functionality at less annual cost than the existing system. Getting more for less — who can argue with that? Apparently some have found a way.

Libraries in Rockland are not branches of a single system, as is the case in New York City. They are independent entities with their own funding streams and governance. The Ramapo Catskill Library System is a loose federation for the mutual benefit of its patrons. The catalog system used by RCLS long ago ceased to be cost-beneficial for Finkelstein and its cost escalates annually despite multiple problems. RCLS has consistently refused to address those problems even though Finkelstein has borne the largest share of these costs.

Still can share

We do not understand why, as a result of our decision, other libraries voted not to allow holds to be placed in the old RCLS system by Finkelstein cardholders. There is no technological barrier to doing so; the two systems share a patron database. Finkelstein helped ensure that, and worked with a committee of our sister libraries for months to develop procedures for smooth interchange between the two systems. Finkelstein will continue to allow other libraries' members to place holds for pick-up materials. We do not wish to punish longtime friends from outside our district for the actions of their home libraries.

Finkelstein is by far the largest library in the RCLS network. Our patrons use neighboring libraries heavily for a variety of reasons. Some Finkelstein cardholders have already experienced restrictions on borrowing at other libraries. RCLS allows a library to impose sanctions on any other library whose patrons account for more than 5 percent of its circulation. Finkelstein patrons account for up to 15 percent of the circulation of at least four of its neighbors. Suffern and Haverstraw libraries have already imposed sanctions by limiting the ability of Finkelstein patrons to place holds and limiting the number of items they check out. Two others, New City and Nanuet, are in a position to apply the same restrictions. But this has absolutely nothing to do with the decision to implement our new computer system and we continue to work with the other libraries on this matter.

Pluses to new system

Finkelstein is doing its utmost to respond to its patrons' needs at home and use tax dollars for taxpayers' benefit.

New features of the Millennium system are being implemented in stages so that any kinks can be addressed promptly. The library catalog now has interfaces in French, Spanish and Russian, with more languages to come. Families may link their cards to make it easier to keep track of their collective borrowing. The catalog has links that make interlibrary searches, and loan requests, easier. Patrons will soon be able to make payments online with a credit card. Searching will be enhanced with descriptive content and links to such resources as the New York Public Library, Amazon and many others.

When the computer system still used by the other libraries was first introduced, there were complaints and general outrage. Those of us who remember that far back now have a feeling of déjá vu with the reaction to this latest change. We are confident, however, that once patrons move past the misinformation coming from all directions and begin to utilize Millennium with all of its capabilities, they will realize what an improvement it truly is.

The writers are, respectively, board president and director of the Finkelstein Memorial Library.


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