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My thanks to all of you who responded to my request for info about Alexandria
5. If I receive more responses, I'll post them as well.

Esther K Eash
Assoc. Dir. Library Media Services
Edison Schools Inc.
weash@kscable.com   or


Have any of you upgraded to COMPanion's newest release, Alexandria 5  for
either Mac or Windows?  It looks to be fairly revolutionary with no need for
a specific platform or for a server, and it uses TCP/IP protocols.

I'm examining several library systems to determine whether we stay with our
current system or change, so I would appreciate any input on the following,
as relates to Alexandria 5:
How did the upgrade or conversion go?
Has it met your expectations?
Does it live up to the company's advertising which claims it's the best on
the market?
Is anyone using the district librarian module which allows remote control of
a library?

 We just upgraded to Version v5.  We had some problem with the Data Station
slowing down, we are using a G3 with OS 9 with 64mb RAM.  The update, v5.01,
seemed to fix our problem pretty well.  Our Research stations are 5400's with
20mb of RAM and OS 7.6.  We are experiencing problems with our Research
Stations and I am currently working on this problem.  I will probably have to
upgrade to OS 8.6 to stay compatible with the new version of Alexandria.  If
what you have is working good for you, don't fix what is not broken.  I would
wait for others, like us, to complain to Alex a little more so they can rid
the bugs out of their new system.

We converted from Library Works.  Many of the schools here had serious
problems, BECAUSE, primarily, our Library Works programs were used by
Volunteers in many instances.  However, I had problems at both my schools
with some 'odd' MARC coding that the previous teacher-librarians had
purchased.  My database was sent to Alexandria - and never came back.  In the
meantime, I struggled with LibraryWorks and Excell, and with the help of an
IT specialist the two of us converted one school, and then I did the second
alone.  (We have since together, done two other schools.)

However, Alexandria 5 is very good at repairing problems that other programs
caused too.  For instance, the MARC codes for location and collection were
reversed in Library Works.  Alex fixed that up within 45 minutes.  My records
were not very consistent, and now they are.

Has it met your expectations?
We purchased a Pre-release version of Alex 5 rather than start off with Alex
4 and then have to retrain.  There were the usual, and expected problems -
which CompanionCorp was quick to get on top of.  We have a version now called
5.01, which I have just thrown into the trash and have reinstated version
5.00, as the newest version has something wrong with it (5.00 has something
intermittent wrong with it, that 5.01 was supposed to correct.... it likely
did, but it started giving out negative numbers for loans, and when the
details button was hit, there were no details for circulation.  Since the
intermittent problem hadn't bothered me, AND the lack of details in the
circulation window was a serious problem in a school library, I decided to
take a step backwards.)  This problem will be corrected in 5.02 - due out in
a couple of weeks.

Does it live up to the company's advertising which claims it's the best on
the market?
I realize that I sound like I am complaining about it with nothing good to
say - and that is NOT  the impression that I wish to pass on.  I quite like
the software.  It is pretty, easy to run circulation, add, modify or delete
patrons, and catalogue on.  I find it very intuitive and was using it BEFORE
the training session.  The Manual is well laid out and easy to understand
(and likely a little out of date too.)  The company has listened to out
complaints AND requests and have modified the program to let us print cards
and pocket stickers as well as spine labels, has put in a button so that you
may remove the barcode from the spine label if you wish.  The trainings have
been given directly by the company and were well run AND run by a librarian -
someone who understands what we need.  I don't know that it is the BEST
program, but it certainly isn't the worst.

We converted from Circulation Plus to AFW last summer.  The recon was quick
and without incident. We have had some data issues but they are being
addressed.  As with the implementation of any new program, we have had our
quirky problems.  We are now running Alexandria with 4 imacs in a pc school.
This is a stopgap method until we can figure out where our idiosyncrasies are

We went through a committee review of systems and found Alexandria to be the
best.  Despite the problems, we know it is still the best.  They have been
wonderful to deal with and unfailingly responsive to our needs.  The "bugs",
as you put it,  are on their way out and we know we have a program that will
fit into our electronic environment very well.

We have been using Alex since 1994 and have really liked it.  Recently, our
technician tried to upgrade us to 5.0 from 3.87 - there seem to be some
problems with data missing.  I don't know if it is at our end or not. From
what we've gathered from the customer support #, the upgrade went according
to  the letter.   I can tell you I do like the displays better on 5.0  I'm
sure we'll get the bugs worked out, but I'd be interested in knowing from
your feedback if anyone else has been experiencing problems.

>Does it live up to the company's advertising which claims it's the best on
the market?
  Historically, I would say Alex is terrific

>Is anyone using the district librarian module which allows remote control of
a library?
 not to my knowledge.

I have been using Alexandria since version 1 back in the early 90's, and I
love their products!  A few months ago I converted to V5 from V4, and once I
got the proper equipment, the conversion went fine.  (Which means that it
DIDN'T go fine when I tried it with insufficient equipment...but that was MY

I switched school districts last year, so for several months I used
Follett.   Our conversion to Alexandria went smoothly...COMPanion took our
data and  converted it for under $250 (I think...)  It came back to us on
floppy disks,  ready to import into Alexandria...and it downloaded without a

Their version 5 is fairly new, and had a few minor bugs..but they post
updated software regularly on their website, which is very easy to
download.   Not only did it upgrade my server, it went out and installed the
upgrade on  all the circulation stations and patron stations automatically!

Frankly, I think Alexandria IS the best on the market. Their tech support is
fantastic...while you are running Alex, you can click on the apple to bring
up the "tech support" screen....type in your question to tech support.  They
answer within hours. They also will answer the tech support lines 24 hours/7
days a week....and it is infrequent that you don't get through to a real
person on your first phone call attempt....they are great!!

As for the program itself...it is incredibly easy to customize to your
library, and the options allowed are unbelievable.  It's also incredibly
easy  to use...I have found that their onscreen help is usually enough to get
me through any routine....but they also have a fairly inclusive manual as

Let me start with the fact that I have 20+ years of experience with computers
and more than that as an avid library patron.  During the last year, I
volunteered for my local public library, and wrote grants for and obtained a
Windows NT server, 4 Windows NT workstations, various peripherals, and a
library automation system.

Because I was not a "librarian" type, I had a lot of research to do.  I had
to learn what retrospective conversion meant and find out what automation
systems existed and what their pros and cons were.  I spent about 6 months of
research, visiting other libraries, reading magazines and books on the
subject, talking to "experts", etc.  I did a cursory review of over 10
systems.  I was fortunate to be able to look at it from a user perspective, a
technical support perspective, and lastly as a librarian type.

After many field trips, we selected our top 3 choices for demos.  Alexandria
from Companion Corporation, Athena from Nichols/Sagebrush and Winnebago's
Spectrum were selected. These 3 vendors had to fill out a detailed
requirements matrix and then come and do vendor presentations.  All 11
spectators, representing 4 public libraries, 1 church library, and 1 regional
library system voted unanimously at the end of the demos for the Alexandria
system.  We went on to implement that system and it is wonderful.  Since that
time, Winnebago and Sagebrush have merged, and I am so grateful that we did
not choose either system.

As someone who has implemented many automation projects, this one was as
smooth as any.  After our selection, Companion Corporation came out with a
new version of software which was even more user-friendly than the one we
selected.  We had the option to go with either one.  We choose the new one,
Version 5.0.  Then there was a delay in the software release for Windows.
Companion Corporation loaned us an IMAC so we could get up and running.  We
are still running on the IMAC and our technophobic staff loves it.

The Windows version is due out sometime in the next few months.  At that
time, we will transition to it on our NT server and our catalog will then be
accessible over the Internet from any computer.  Their website is
www.companioncorp.com.  Their mission is to be the "best" library automation
system on the market, not the biggest (ala Winnebago/Sagebrush merger).

 We have just gotten Ver.5 this week and are still trying to get the bugs
out. We had to redo the entire installation after the first day because we
couldn't get a book checked in and have it actually removed from the patron's
record. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. Now that is fixed. HOWEVER, we
still can't get the alert sounds changed to any other option (We like a
noise  of some kind when a book is checked in so we know it was successful.)
is now R/return, an extra step.  Another oddity is the search mode. I tried
searching for things  using  first author, then title, then subject.......and
got identical results each
    On the plus side....we had been waiting for this version to index the
contents notes so you could search for a short story, or find a chapter on a
person if the analytics were listed there. That's good and the item display
is nicer with live links to other helpful subject headings, etc.


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