Frequently Asked Questions

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ME Libraries does not impose any restrictions or new rules on your current circulation policies. Each library is free to manage its membership as they see fit. However, existing members have encountered sometimes surprising side-effects of being a ME Libraries member that you should be aware of. The questions below need to be answered by your library system before rolling out the ME Libraries initiative.

I'm having issues with Bimport after upgrading Horizon

It turns out the date format can be changed on the server and that was causing bimport to crash. Bimport is now working after changing it to dd/mm/yyyy.

Customer wants to register as a ME customer at a library that used to be their home library.

The scenario is a customer belongs to Calgary Public, but then moves to Penoka (Parkland Regional Library). The customer has a CPL account with holds and bills, perhaps, and wants to rejoin CPL, but as a ME user.

I would suggest that staff be informed that if a customer still has outstanding things on their CPL card they should advise the customer to NOT register on the Me Libraries website but should instead come in to CPL so they can use the Lost Card Wizard to change over to their out of town library card number. This would be done the same way we register the out of town juvenile library cards because Me Libraries will not accept juvenile cards.

ME customer can't renew online

If library 'A' has an expiry policy of NEVER (like EPL and CPL), and customers join another library, they will automatically have a expiry set to 365 days. When they expire at the ME library, any attempt to update expiry will fail because the request to EPL or CPL will show no change to the account, expiry is still NEVER, and the ME library will not show up in the list of libraries that can be updated.

To fix this situation talk to the customer and manually change their expiry to a date in the future that matches your institution's policies.

Do you have a roll-out plan for ME Libraries?

ME Libraries is not meant to be complicated, but it is unique in Canadian libraries. Staff will need to be educated on what ME Libraries is, and how to deal with common issues. Some awareness training will create a smooth and consistent patron experience. The Me Card Procedure and Training Templates contain several examples of materials other libraries have developed for staff training. Feel free to use them as a template for your organization’s staff training.

What are your terms and conditions for new ME Libraries patrons?

ME Libraries patrons are given an opportunity to review your library’s terms and conditions on the web site. You will need to have a finalized version of your institution’s terms and conditions ready shortly after installation. These should be listed on a webpage that the ME Libraries site can point to. Examples can be found on the website.

How will your organization handle existing reciprocal borrows?

ME Libraries is a reciprocal borrowing system. You may want to retire your current reciprocal borrower accounts as they expire and suggest that patrons with existing reciprocal cards renew through ME Libraries. The Me Card Procedure and Training Templates contains an example of how EPL handles reciprocal borrows using the Symphony ILS.

Common misconception about ME Libraries reciprocal borrowers

There is no link between a user’s account in one library’s ILS system and any other libraries that user has joined. Patron history and account status at each library is private to that library except on account update. At that time the patron's home library will re-share account information and status.

Student cards, and other reciprocal agreements

Do you have any patrons that use a post-secondary or other institution’s card as a library card in your system (eg. the U of A’s L-Pass agreement with EPL)? Since all patrons register with their user ids, and recognizes the patron's home library from their user id prefix (eg EPL’s prefix is 21221), your institution must consider if those ids will be allowed to participate. If you wish to allow them consider these next two items:

  • needs to identify all the id prefixes belonging to your institution.
  • Another library may already identify themselves as the home library institution of these patrons.

How will you manage ME Libraries account creation manually?

If the ME Libraries system is unavailable during maintenance or because your node looses connection, it may become necessary to register patrons manually until service can be restored. Me Card Procedure and Training Templates contains a sample of procedures that EPL uses in such a contingency. The procedures are highly institutionally dependent but feel free to modify the information there to suit your procedures.

How do you register juvenile ME Libraries members?

ME Libraries is not restricted by age, only the use of the web site is. This is done to ensure that guardians of under age patrons are aware that they are responsible for costs incurred by the card they have guaranteed. Me Card Procedure and Training Templates contains procedures that EPL uses to register juvenile patrons as a suggested framework that could be applied to your organization.

Shared ILSs and regional libraries

Do you share an ILS instance with another library? If so how will you assign the new patron to a library?

Do your patron accounts have enough information?

Patrons are required to have a minimum set of account information to be able to become a ME Libraries member.

  • ID - The patron's library card number
  • PIN - Does your ILS have PIN length and type restrictions?
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Street
  • City - Horizon users should refer to CITY_ST table requirements section.
  • Province
  • Postal code - Does the account contain all mandatory fields, and is the data in those fields well formed? Think ‘0’ (zero) instead of ‘O’ (capital letter ‘O’) in a postal code, the server will refuse this patron, even though the postal code ‘looks’ fine to staff.
  • Email - Used to relieve the cost burden of mailing notices to ME Libraries members.
  • Privilege expiry date - the remaining privilege the patron has at their home library, automatically limited to a maximum of 1 year.

Does your account data require cleaning?

Your patron information is going to be shared and loaded into other ILSs across the province. Errors in patron information will also be shared. If you have routinely had problems collecting clean patron data, the server can be configured to check and clean some forms of errors, but with added costs and delays to installation.

Do you want additional processing performed on Me Libraries accounts?

Some additional data can be computed from the patron's information and recorded at the time of importation. Fort Saskatchewan Public Library and Strathcona County Library have their metro server compute analytic information which is imported as a bstat along with the rest of the patron’s information.

Optional patron information

The following patron information is considered optional:

  • Phone - Optional but highly desired.
  • Date of birth - If the patron does not have a DOB and your organization doesn’t have a profile or btype that corresponds to a minimum age category, is there another way to identify, compute or infer that the patron is of minimum age?
  • Sex - Commonly used for analytics, but frequently missing.

Local Policies

When an account arrives at your metro server, the server checks that the account meets your organization’s ‘local policies’ before it attempts to load it. An example of a local policy is if your organization’s mandate states that you serve only Alberta residents, you could refuse a ME Libraries membership based on a patron's home library (if it is out of province). More typically local policies are used to customize the patron's data into a format that is optimal for your ILS.

Does your ILS use codabar validation?

Some systems have codabar bar code checking enabled. When active, a check sum of the barcode is computed and compared against the least significant digit on the patron's id. This validation will need to be turned off because there will be patrons trying to register using student ID card numbers (from U of A, Concordia etc.) and their IDs are only 13 digits long.

Do you want to update notices you currently send out?

Once a patron joins your library, they will receive notices from your library as part of a regular notice report protocol. Do you need to modify notices for existing patrons? Do you need to create new notifications for ME Libraries patrons? For your non-ME Libraries patrons, you may wish to update renewal notices to include information about updating their other ME accounts at sister libraries.

Testing - Do you have test accounts of the following types?

During the setup of the metro server testing will be required. You will need to have test accounts for bogus patrons, each with the same PIN or password to speed things along. The accounts should be typical examples of:

  • Suspended patron
  • Juvenile patron
  • Non-resident patron
  • Reciprocal patron including TAL, local library only if applicable
  • Expired patron
  • Not in good standing patron
  • Legitimate patron in good-standing

It would be helpful if the names are familiar human named accounts. A good example is 'Jane Doe'. Bad examples are 'TEST1' or 'Michael Steven'.

The server says there is a problem with the patron's postal code but it looks Ok to me?

Look at the patron’s code and see if there are any mistaken or transposed characters. The character 0 (zero) looks like an uppercase ‘O’ to a human, but to the metro server they are vastly different.

What to do with members who are unsuccessful at using the web service?

Verify that the patron is not barred or blocked. If they are, work to resolve the situation appropriately (ie. by taking payment to bring any fees owing below limit, or unbar the card after verifying ID if the card was mailed home). Ensure that the patron has an email address on file. If not, add an email address to their account and try registering through again. If the registration is still unsuccessful, let the patron know that they can still register manually in person at any of the other member libraries. Each other library would need to call your institution to verify the status of the patron, as per the normal reciprocal borrower procedures. If symptoms persist contact product support (See getting help).

We have had several ME online registrations fail due to unknown city codes. What's going on?

The ‘city code’ is an oddity of Horizon ILSs. The way it works is the metro server looks for a suitable place-name-code in your CITY_ST table and, if one exists, loads the user’s account with that code. Your CITY_ST table might not have an entry for city in question, so the metro server will have looked up the code in the Alberta place name code codex, and added it to the account. It knows that the account will not load, but it does provide a way to determine that the patron's city. Once a code is entered into your CITY_ST table, the patron can then be reloaded. If you decide you don’t want to use ‘0305’, you can create any code you want in the CITY_ST table, but then you also have to make an entry for it in your file.