What was the very first ILS system you remember working with?

Let’s get to know each other by sharing the very first ILS system you remember working with?

  • What system was it?
  • What year was it?
  • What did you like/hate about it?
  • What was your role in working with the system (circulation clerk, cataloger, system administration)?

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I started working with library ILS systems in 1997. My library was running a Dynix character system on IBM hardware. Anyone else remember those . dot commands?

As a patron I really loved the fact that through one of the menu items you could access a text-based version of the INTERNET through the Lynx web browser!

Because all the menus were text based, you could add to them via special commands. It was super awesome to present a custom routine or program right next to the main interface the staff was already used to using.

However, the database backend was based on Pick, which was not widely used at the time. I eventually worked for a consortium with a system administrator who was a wizard :mage: with it and I learned a lot. But given that more than 50% of the databases use SQL that knowledge was NOT really transferrable.

In the end, I think I’m happy that the flexibility of the system encouraged us that if there was a will, there would be a way we could deliver lots of features for our staff and patrons.


Whooo boy. So back in 1996, I started out with something called Nonesuch ILS. I’m positive no one else used it other than Yakima Valley Regional Library. If anyone else did, I never heard of it. We are talking green screens, light pens you swiped across barcodes, and a barely functional search system. Are you looking for a book? On the paranormal? Want to know if it’s in? Well… so did we! I could look this up for you, but the database was a tire fire so anything the system told you was suspect at best and blatant lies at worst.

At the time I was a Page and then an LA working the front desk. I learned to never look stuff up in the ILS, I’d just take them to the shelves. We still had a card catalogue at the time too, because it was a fallback good enough to provide some support for the ILS. As to what I liked about it? It was pretty awesome when it went away, replaced by something sleek. Something modern! Something that ran in a GUI and didn’t require F keys to operate.

1999 - YVRL became a beta tester for this new fangled ILS called Polaris.


That is how I got my start in the library :earth_americas: as well!

Also, a sign of starting as a book shelver. Our minds WERE the ILS :laughing:

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I started with Millennium in '03/04. I did part time copy cataloging as a volunteer and eventual extremely part time employee for a very small library while working towards my MLS. I got to be in the prototypical windowless basement room, though in this case it also doubled as the library’s non-fiction stacks.

For the parts of the system I was involved with for that job not a ton has actually changed between then and current Sierra. Copy cataloging with bib/item templates just worked for a newcomer to the profession. Where we ran into problems was spine labels, since at the time that was a library where no one was skilled in print templates and that wasn’t a skill I would learn myself until a few years later so we were resorting to a typewriter.


Printers a from the :imp: ! There is a reason that even big corporate IT shops still typically outsource printer maintenance :laughing: . The process of moving from the digital world to the print one can be painful! Glad you were able to figure out the secret sauce. You could probably bottle it up and sell it for a profit!

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It’s been a long time, but when we switched to Polaris I recall that we had to re-inventory and mostly re-catalogue the entirety of the library’s collection. Every location, every branch. Because we could not count on the previous ILS to be right about anything when it came to what was in the collection and on our shelves.

We were missing so much stuff.

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I got to go through that later for a periodical collection during my brief detour into using Evergreen. The library I was at had spent ages adding MFHD info to serial records in the run up to the migration only to learn later that those fields wouldn’t migrate.


I think I would’ve had a breakdown at that point. I was serials dude for a little and it was there I truly started to appreciate good cataloguing and where the foundation of my distaste for Polaris’ Serials module really took shape. :laughing:

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Oh I would have for sure if I didn’t already have one foot out the door at that point.

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My first job was at the Eskind Biomedical Library at Vanderbilt and they were on Sirsi Unicorn. The first ILS I ever administered was a Dynix character system on IBM hardware just like @wesochuck.

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When I arrived at Pittstate in 1987 (Groan!) they had a little circ system that was made by a company called “The System Works” – haha, of course, it didn’t. University of Illinois, prior to 1987, LCS (Library Computer System, out of Ohio State), and FBR (Full bibliographic record) out of Washington State. Eventually, all of these made Dynix (circa 1991) look REALLY GOOD. Oh, wait. Pittstate also had cards with metal colored markers on them so you could pull the overdues ON the CARDS by color. It was really automated when you dropped the box and all the cards and the clips flew all over the floor :wink:

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We had a member library do something similar with colored receipt paper for pulling expired holds!

  • Polaris
  • 2014
  • Features (:+1:) / Client UI (:-1:)
  • SA Backup/Support
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Heh. My first system…

  • Home-grown system written in dBase III by my then boss and some other area library directors. I was hired because of my experience with various database platforms.
  • 1997
  • Flexibility, handled diacritics well (:+1: ) / No subject searching, no public OPAC (:-1: )
  • Sys Admin and Head of Public Services

It was… exciting migrating from that to a more typical ILS that expected MARC records.


:exploding_head: Nicely done for 1997! :clap:

I know! I was quite surprised. Marcive was both astounded and a little disturbed by our records when we sent them out to be processed for importing into our first vendor ILS.

  • Geac PLUS (via telnet terminals!)
  • 2002
  • My memories of Geac are a little fuzzy, as we migrated to Sirsi Symphony less than a year after I was hired, but I do recall that Geac had some nice bulk hold management features that were sorely missed when we switched to Symphony
  • Youth Services page at Manhattan-Elwood Public Library District
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DRA, 1994, small private university in Texas. I was a student employee hired to enter and proofread 505 fields as part of the retroconversion project. I really don’t remember much about the system.


First ILS I used as a patron was Dynix, about 1986, Billings MT. There was a time before that launched where much of their catalog was on microfiche, which was quite an adventure to use. Dynix was much quicker to use than the fiche!
First ILS I worked with as an employee - INLEX, 1997, Seattle Central Community College, circ. clerk. It was substantially inferior to Innovative’s catalog, which I worked with at the UW around the same time (Information Desk).