No new books at Edinburgh libraries due to IT problems

Library books. Picture: contributed
Library books. Picture: contributed
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THE city’s libraries have had no new books for the past six months after they were hit by computer problems.

Readers eager to borrow newly-published novels by their favourite authors have had to leave empty-handed because staff have not been able to order, catalogue or reserve books on the IT system since February.

Alexander McCall Smith at the book festival

Alexander McCall Smith at the book festival

In a separate problem, several self-service kiosks at libraries have broken down and are not to be repaired.

It means thousands of books have not made it to the shelves – last year a total of 78,898 items were added to the library stock.

Ann Spears, 72, a regular at Moredun Library, said: “They got this new computer system in February and there were teething problems, most of which were sorted out, but they still cannot enter new books on the new system and put them into the catalogue.

“There have been eight books published in that time by authors I like. Usually I reserve them online and come into the library to pick them up. So I’m just waiting to order them as soon as I can.”

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

Tory councillor Jason Rust, who raised the IT issues at a full council meeting, said the failure of the new system meant a waste of library staff’s time and borrowers’ time.

He said: “It seems quite incredible when libraries are an important council service and a real community facility that there has been such a basic problem in cataloguing and reserving books.

“You could understand it if the system was coming to the end of its life, but this is the introduction of new IT.”

A member of library staff, who asked not to be named, said there was supposed to be an eight-week transition period when problems were ironed out, but months later the system was still not 
functioning properly.

“I don’t know how well tested it was but I think it was a bit oversold to us. We realise when you get a new system you’re going to have teething issues and we have to explain this to the public. But now we’re getting quite sick of having to make apologies to people. Staff are very frustrated with it.”

The council said there would be new stock in libraries by mid-September.

A spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with ICT service suppliers to minimise the impact on the public. Suppliers are also assisting the council to accelerate the delivery of stock and initial batches of new stock will begin to arrive in libraries in the coming weeks.”

She said four out of the city’s 34 self-service kiosks were not working, but the council was investigating new forms of technology as part of its plans to modernise the libraries estate.

“In the interim, kiosks which are no longer working will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and repaired where possible.

“Where self-service is not available, staff can assist customers in borrowing and returning loan items.”