Birds of Feather: Reference Database / Local Database Users

The Reference Databases BoF group met on May 6, 2019. In attendance were:

Karen Perone, Rodman Public Library
Della Darby, Samford University Library
Shawn Farrell, Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
Beth Juhl, University of Arkansas
Betsy O’Connell, Gail Borden Public Library District
Alissa Medows,Gail Borden Public Library District
Riin Olonen, Estonian Libraries Network Consortium
Kathy Setter, IFLS

Discussions in 2018-19
Karen described a series of conference calls with Mark Eskandar at Innovative after the last IUG. Mark suggested a path with the next gen product (now called Inspire). But, because Inspire is at this point solely a discovery layer and the staff inputting and editing functions have not yet been created, Karen and Beth were not sure this would be a viable solution. Each release of Sierra seems to come close to breaking Millennium functionality. Truthfully, the low response rate to our survey (19 responses to date) also did not encourage Innovative to treat reference databases as a priority issue. Mark changed positions at Innovative late in 2018 and the discussions with Innovative ceased at that point.

The group moved on to discuss alternatives to a solution from Innovative.

MySQL solution
Karen opened by describing Rodman’s project to transition their reference database to a MySQL database with a web front end for editing. The scripts and instructions are on GitHub at GitHub - rodman-public-library/reference-database: Convert an existing Millennium local/reference database to a MySQL database with PHP editing capabilities and searches.
The resulting Alliance Index can be found at There are about 250,000 records of deaths, births marriages, periodical and newspaper indexes, and similar community materials.

Karen described how records were exported from Millennium in a delimited format into Excel and then MYSQL. The young man hired for the project worked quickly and also built a web based front end to adding and editing records. Karen feels they have a sustainable, flexible solution. She did have to ask Innovative to install an “Output MARC records” function on their Millennium instance.

Second Sierra Solution
Riin described how negotiations over a price reduction on maintenance on their reference database led to an agreement to install a second instance of Sierra. ELNET is also moving their primary Sierra service to a new hardware environment and so next week (Tuesday May 14) is the first part of this migration.
Riin discussed negotiations with Innovative regarding staff user licenses, and what functionality might be needed in a “stripped down” Sierra. With approximately 1 million records in a heavily scoped reference database from multiple libraries, adding their Index Scriptorum Estoniae (ISE),, to the main Sierra catalog was not feasible.

Scoped Sierra Solution
Beth reported that Arkansas is still considering dumping their 100,000 records into a new scope in their main database but, due to authority control projects and user permissions, they are reluctant to do so at this time. We would expect Innovative to give us a free scope if we go this route.

Samford also is reluctant to add these records to their main database because of authority control issues.

Other solutions
Betsy reported that Gail Borden is working on an agreement to add their records to Family Search, the free genealogical service from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The only issue with this is that once their records are imported that ginormous database, there would be no way for Gail Borden to add new records except by bulk export / import. They still need a local edited solution.

Renee Brumett was not able to attend but Beth reported the Springfield-Greene County Library is also considering a different database platform for their local index.

The group discussed these options. For the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Shawn felt that a second Sierra instance would be the best fit. Cincinnati had a long period when records could not be updated on their system and the fix brought down their entire Sierra system.

Kathy wondered about the overall sustainability of their local database; part of this is a directory of local organizations and meeting times, which is difficult to keep updated and perhaps partially superseded by web search.

Respectfully submitted,

Beth Juhl