Current Patrons Caught in Purge Of Library Files
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009
The accounts of hundreds of D.C. public library card holders were accidentally deleted during a purge of inactive and duplicate accounts, library officials said Thursday. Those affected cannot check out books or use most of the library's online services without visiting a branch to reactivate their accounts.
The records of about 147,000 patrons who had not used their cards to check out books or DVDs since March 1, 2007, were deleted June 18, IT Director Chris Tonjes said. But along with the targeted accounts, the records of at least several hundred active patrons who don't check out books but do use the library's online resources were eliminated.
The purge was meant to eliminate inactive and duplicate accounts as well as inaccurate information, Tonjes said, in part because the cost of the library's electronic resources is based on the number of active patrons.
"We learned a lot," Tonjes said. "We didn't really think we would have a segregated population of people who only use the library for one set of activities rather than a whole set of activities. That was a surprise that came out of this."
Also deleted were the records of a small group of library users whose cards were incorrectly registered, he said.
The District has been a leader among library systems in providing online resources, including downloadable videos and audio books and searchable databases. But data on their use are kept separately from the databases that track physical use of the library's materials. Now, Tonjes said, those data sets will be merged.
In the first three days after the purge, about 270 people complained that they had lost access to their accounts. The library is not keeping track of the total number of patrons affected, Tonjes said, but he guessed that it was fewer than 1,000.
Library users can reactivate their cards by bringing identification to any of the city's 25 library branches.
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