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Dear Nancy Lyle and LM_NETTERS,

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply.  Someone needs to find a way to
incorporate two additional weeks into the month of May so that librarians
will be able to catch their breaths and sleep more than four hours a night!

You asked for information about the Educational Solutions program
Surpass/2.  I feel qualified to offer my opinion on this subject as I
have just finished automating my seventh library.

My first experience with library automation in 1987 involved parting with
$850 of precious copy machine earnings to purchase a hard drive for "THE
LIBRARY COMPUTER" (an original, mustard-colored Apple IIe) on which my
students played "Carmen San Diego".  The principal paid for the Follett
circulation program, a student showed me how to turn on the CPU, I typed
in the fundamental data for 10,000 books and in three short years, I was
an automation expert!

Next, I helped the middle school librarian automate by serving as
hardware purchasing counsel, software support tech and retrospective
conversion authority.  We had fanciful, in-depth discussions of one day
adding additional computers that students might learn to access
information on their own.  As an assignment for a grant writing class
that I once took, I wrote an idyllic paper about someday "tying together"
(pre-network jargon) all of the public and school libraries in our
tri-district area. At the time, there were five schools in each district
and three public making a grand total of eighteen libraries.  Oh, what a

When a position became available in this district, I sadly left my
students, friends and state-of-the-art library to begin yet another
automation adventure on computers that spoke MS-DOS.  I called Follett
and purchased Circulation Plus and Alliance Plus.  I had matured.  No
longer would I be content with an inadequate conversion.  I wanted all of
those MARC records on CD-ROM with subject headings and see alsos.  It
didn't matter that it took that 64K computer as much as twenty seconds to
search each title because I had technology!  Unfortunately, the
collection was so old that many of the records are original cataloging
because the books were published before the Alliance Plus programmers
were born.

The next step was to add a Public Access Catalog.  Follett's marketing
department was very helpful and provided a printed list of all hardware,
software, network and cabling requirements.  I felt that I was capable of
installing the software but didn't have a clue how to pull together the rest.

Then we heard about Educational Solutions.  About four minutes into a
demonstration of the Surpass/2 program being given "in my library", I
locked eyes with our district's high school librarian, and we knew.  We
flipped open the Steno tablets on which we had jotted ideas, notes,
suggestions and needs and began firing off questions.  Surpass/2 met or
exceeded every criteria for which we asked.

Educational Solutions, Inc. is based in Rockford, Illinois.  They sell
the Surpass/2 program written by Daniel Humphress as well as the most up
to date hardware available.  They are also licensed Novell resellers and
installers.  But the most impressive aspect of this company is their
dedication to their customers.  They traveled to my tiny library and
hauled in a carload of equipment just to show two librarians, one aide
and one technology facilitator this program.

Surpass is a fully integrated program that is configured specifically for
each library.  It is menu driven and supports circulation, catalog and
CD-ROM programs in single drives or multi-drive towers.  Version updates
and technical support are handled via a modem and telephone line.
Librarians are able to set as many as eight different access levels for
security control so that library technicians, parent volunteers and
student aides are able to help with check in and out and inventory.

Internal tape drives are used for backups.  Each Thursday afternoon when
school is out, the technicians pop a tape in the drive, choose backup from
the menu, turn out the lights and go home.

In lieu of oral or handwritten book reports, teachers ask their students
to use the review portion of the program to tell about the books they've
read.  These entries are stored until the librarian approves them for
publication and then other students may read their friends reviews.  Many
forgotten and long neglected books are circulating again on the basis of
these peer recommendations.

Educational Solutions provides services that include simply the sale and
installation of the Surpass/2 program on your existing hardware to a
completely turn-key system.  All of their product prices include
installation, configuration and setup and I have never felt pressured to
make unnecessary purchases.  Since our switch to Surpass/2 from Follett,
we have experienced only the most minor type of problems which have all
been swiftly rectified.  And real live people answer the telephone to
speak with you immediately, not an hour or a day later as per their voice
mail messages.  Imagine!

Last summer I automated three elementary libraries.  One school did not
have any computers so I purchased a file server, two workstations, a
printer, a modem, a barcode scanner, Novell software and the Surpass/2
program for that campus.  In the two other libraries, we used existing
computers with internal CD-ROM drives as workstations and purchased only
file servers, etc. Our Surpass/2 installers configured the program in
these two schools to toggle back and forth, allowing our students online
public access catalog and CD-ROM program use on the same computers.
Because the simultaneous automation of three libraries was such a large
undertaking, our district also asked Educational Solutions to do the
retrospective conversion of all three collections.  I have found these
MARC records to be meticulous in detail as well as strictly conforming to
AACR2 standards.  And by purchasing the bulk of our hardware and software
from the same company, we have not encountered the old telephone
technical support run around whereby the root of the difficulty is blamed
on the other supplier and the librarian is left holding the bag.

In our middle school, we have two CD-ROM towers with six CD-ROM drives in
each.  One tower is piggy-backed into the other, which is also the file
server.  This is linked to our school's network providing students and
teachers unlimited use of a tremendous amount of reference material from
their classrooms.

Our latest technological achievement took place just last month.  Mr. Jay
Nelson, Educational Solutions' Marketing Director, configured the
Surpass/2 program on the file server in our high school library to
receive incoming calls to allow any person from home or office access to
our CD-ROM collection of reference material and our card catalog.  This
service is offered to the community by our school district at no charge.
Through the same process, citizens and students may call up the Surpass/2
data files on the computer in my office to see all of the holdings in our
district libraries including campus locations, the number of copies
available and an exact replica of the item's catalog card.

Follett is a company with an admirable reputation and a good product.
However, for exceptional, personalized customer service, the finest
quality hardware and the most efficient automation program, I most
wholeheartedly endorse Surpass/2 and Educational Solutions.

I found that old grant writing assignment several weeks ago.  I grinned
when I realized that well over half of those eighteen libraries are
already using Surpass/2 with plans to include the others.  Someday soon,
we'll all be "tied together."  I love it when stuff like this happens!

Please feel free to call me at 512-790-2214 or send a message here.  I'd
be happy to answer any other questions.

Sue Casterline
Library Services Coordinator
Aransas County ISD
P.O. Box 907
Rockport, Texas 78381

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