The Durango Public Library’s digital-information backbone is weak, almost to the point of breaking, but city staff said it didn’t have money to replace it, until now.
City staff said this week it found about $50,000 – money left over from a study about how to renovate the Smith Council Chambers at City Hall. Library Director Sandy Irwin said Tuesday at a City Council meeting that the leftover funds should be enough to replace the Integrated Library System, or ILS.
The ILS stores most information for the library, including thousands of patron records, the entire catalog of borrowable resources and dozens of databases. Library staff knew the ILS was becoming obsolete – they’ve had it since 2012 – and planned to ask for money to replace it in 2020, said Assistant City Manager Amber Blake.
But a consulting firm hired earlier this year to perform the Smith Council Chambers renovation study did not need the entire $100,000 provided by the city to complete the study and came back to staff with $51,051 in unused municipal funds, Blake said.
Furthermore, the study came back with an unexpected price tag for renovations: $1 million. That’s when, “we became aware that it was not a project that we had the ability to implement,” Blake said. The city has since moved the money into a new project to purchase an ILS for the library.
An ILS could cost $25,000 to $59,000 depending on the vendor and features available, staff said. It will likely be “a few months before the new system is up and running,” said Finance Director Julie Brown, in an email.
The current ILS servers started making “weird noises” earlier this year. When a crucial part broke, Irwin said she learned the manufacturer stopped making replacements years ago.
Library staff and members of the Library Advisory Board told City Council in June that an ILS implosion was inevitable and impending – a virtual ticking time bomb that threatened the core of library operations. The amount of work required if the ILS failed is “so overwhelming, it’s unfathomable,” Irwin told City Council earlier this year.
If the server fails, the best-case scenario would leave the library out of operation for at least a week as backup tapes are used to rebuild the system, a complex and expensive process, she said. Worst-case scenario, the library loses everything. Every book would have to be recataloged. Every patron would have to re-register.
But the 2019 budget is tight. When library staff in June asked for resources to replace the ILS, City Council said, with the help of staff, that there wasn’t enough unappropriated money in the 2019 budget for additional expenditures.
Catastrophic insurance claims in 2018 caused the city’s self-insurance rates to increase, leaving staff with less money than anticipated for the 2019 budget.
The current ILS uses physical tapes to store information, and the physical tapes are obsolete. Staff plan to seek a vendor that can provide a cloud-based ILS, where all information would be stored on an online database, Irwin said.