Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 8 September 2001
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GIS Launches Polaris PowerPAC, Signs Agreement with MSNBC, Announces Polaris Implementations

Gaylord Information Systems (GIS) has announced the development of the Polaris PowerPAC, a brand-new HTML public access catalog that combines Z39.50 and XML to provide patrons and staff with access to information. GIS has also announced an agreement with MSNBC Interactive News to deliver news headlines and article abstracts to libraries implementing Polaris PowerPAC. In other company news, both the Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) consortium in Oregon and the St. Tammany Parish Library in Louisiana have purchased the Polaris integrated library system.

Polaris PowerPAC
The Polaris PowerPAC was developed with emerging tools and Internet standards such as Internet Information Server. This technology allows the library to integrate new tools and techniques to remain current with changing popular Web sites. According to the announcement, the new PAC also offers customized content that anticipates a user's needs. After choosing an initial item, a patron might receive suggestions for other books or items, community events, or Web sites that might be of interest. The appearance and content of the Polaris PowerPAC home page and its content will also vary according to the type of patron.

The Polaris PowerPAC also provides several other tools to assist users in finding materials that accurately reflect their needs. These include book reviews, tables of contents, relevancy-ranked results, and more. The new PAC also saves staff time by automatically cataloging Web results in MARC record format.

Because the Polaris PowerPAC was built on the strength of XML, it allows libraries and remote users with limited bandwidth to have a positive searching experience, according to the announcement. The Polaris PowerPAC is able to retrieve data whenever possible so that it's instantly available for display by the user. This reduces the load on internal servers, allowing other Polaris subsystems and library servers to run more efficiently. The Polaris PowerPAC is also easy to use, so patrons and staff can be up and running immediately. It will be an integral part of Polaris 2.0, which will be released this fall.

According to the announcement, MSNBC news headlines will be updated several times per day using scripts incorporated in the Polaris PowerPAC. The use of the MSNBC content is part of a GIS initiative to enhance its traditional Web-based public access catalog with quality information from a variety of sources. GIS also has an agreement with Baker & Taylor as part of this initiative.

"We are very pleased with this agreement," said GIS president Katherine Blauer."Now our Polaris libraries will be able to provide their patrons with the latest news, business, and sports information right from their home page. MSNBC is a leader in this area...."

WCCLS Consortium
WCCLS implemented Polaris at 15 sites with a combined annual circulation of more than 5 million items. In preparing to accept Polaris, WCCLS staff put the system through rigorous testing. In every area, Polaris outperformed the desired benchmark and in 10 out of 15 areas that were tested Polaris reported times of less than half the required response time, according to the announcement.

"With Polaris 1.5, GIS has delivered a system that is highly reliable with excellent response time and the functionality we required," said Eva Calcagno, manager of Washington County Cooperative Library Services. "We are delighted to have successfully completed our acceptance testing and look forward to continuing to work closely with GIS staff on future product enhancements."

WCCLS serves a population of 445,000 people. The members of the cooperative that use Polaris include eight cities, two community libraries run by nonprofit associations, one library administered by the county, one hospital library, and one small arts college library. The cooperative has 1.2 million holdings.

St. Tammany Parish Library
The St. Tammany Parish Library is made up of 13 branches, and it serves 80,000 people with a collection of 450,000 items (books, magazines, and audio/video).

The library began looking for a new automation system 18 months ago. According to library director Janice Butler, one of the many reasons that Polaris was chosen was because the staff at GIS listened to its ideas. "Gaylord's Polaris distinguished itself by offering a true third-generation product. In replacing a system it is really important to avoid vendors who will sell new software on yesterday's platform in order to be more competitive on price. From Gaylord's response, it was obvious that they were considering our network and hardware environment."

Source: Gaylord Information Systems, Syracuse, NY, 800/272-3414;

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