Progress on Evergreen Release 1.4

(Oh, and yes, this is the new site:!)

The Evergreen developers are reporting good progress on Release 1.4, which means that we’re on track with the Evergreen roadmap. For even more details, you can follow the developers’ Roadmap.

If all that seems a tad cryptic, this is what it means.

Tippecanoe, and 1.4 too!

Based on this progress, expect a 1.4 release candidate by the end of September. In software, a release candidate is similar to a political candidate: it should have a strong platform, it should be more “walk” than “talk,” and it’s out there for all of you to evaluate.

We all have busy lives, so when we announce this release, we’ll provide ways you can offer input that are sensitive to real-world schedules.

Going forward, by popular request (well, actually one library director, but it was a great suggestion), we’ll spell out release features in small sips and nibbles — snackable bites that go into a little depth, but not too much.

In this post I’m focusing on two features that will be particularly visible to library users, but upcoming posts will address speed improvements and other bug fixes/staff-oriented fixes.

Reminder notices and web self-check

Two of the features in 1.4 —  due-date reminder notices and web self-check — are being tested right now at the Hussey-Mayfield Library, the first live library in Indiana’s open source initiative, which funded this development.

Due-date reminder notices (also known as pre-overdues):  Hussey-Mayfield didn’t want to lose that popular, user-oriented feature. Evergreen has always had hold and overdue notices (I’ve experienced both!), but the addition of courtesy reminders are an example of the healthy diversity in open source development.

Reminder notices perform two functions. First, they help get books back on time — which can have ancillary benefits with popular items, so patrons don’t have to wait so long.

But perhaps even more significantly, whether or not patrons act on reminder notices (which can be emailed, or a list can be printed so library staff can place calls), these notices build good will — the kind of hard-to-measure success that translates to local support. In a recent query to the PUBLIB mailing list, librarians unanimously reported that “patrons love them” — and particularly in grim budget eras, love is a many-splendored thing.

(As a patron of my local library in Florida, I merrily observe reminder notices fly by me… they don’t impact my actual behavior that much, which is why I think of them as “pre-overdues.” But I do feel like I’m getting terrific service.)

Web self-check is another new feature developed for (and funded by) the Indiana project. Evergreen has supported SIP2 functionality since day 1. Web self-check is a slightly different animal — think of it as affordable self-check.

Evergreen web self-check is not SIP-based, and you can use standard computer equipment. So if your library system were running Evergreen 1.4, you could have Evergreen web self-check up and running with a desktop computer, barcode scanner (stand-style is probably best), monitor, and a receipt printer.  The PC needs to run Firefox.

I don’t know about your library, but I’ve worked in a number of libraries where we usually had some  almost-new desktop equipment, plus a few spares. If that describes your library, you could have self-check up and running very inexpensively; even if you had a buy a scanner or a receipt printer. (The receipt printer and the scanner are the two pieces of equipment users will be interacting with, so don’t pull that wheezy old Star SP200 out of the back shed or try to make do with that CueCat wand some vendor threw in on some purchase.)

Even if you bought all new equipment, an Evergreen self-check station could easily beat the price of many proprietary self-check stations — and if parts broke, you’d be replacing them with commodity equipment, not waiting for the self-check vendor. These self-check stations could also work in tandem with your library’s existing barcode-based self-check solution.

One last comment about self-check. I know a lot of community libraries bank on the idea that patrons like to schmooze at the front desk, so they think self-check isn’t for them. But a self-check option can be a nice addition for patrons who may want to schmooze some days… yet on other days would, if they had a choice, prefer to wave at their library buddies while they zip their books through the self-check station and dash to their next appointment.

I can remember when libraries thought closing book-drops during the day would lead to better service… or that requiring patrons to go through a librarian to place a hold was a good idea. But as long as patrons aren’t left to flounder (like me at the grocery store, holding up a frozen dinner that won’t scan and begging, “Will someone PLEASE help me?”), self-check is one more service option that may prove more popular than you think.