First of all, I’m shocked to see that very few on the internet are telling it like it is in terms of NYPL and their recent screw-ups. Google returns ten results for “NYPL sucks,” and at least one of these is saying that the NYPL doesn’t suck. The other complaints range from lack of cookbook availability to increases on fines.
But no one is complaining about the NYPL catalog. That means there is a void of valid complaints about an issue potentially only pressing to me, and that void must be filled. This is why this blog exists! This is L’histoire de sa vie’s raison d'être! Well, that and French, evidently.
But I digress
NYPL recently released a new online catalog. They call it “The New Catalog.” I’d like to tell you much more about it from their perspective, but the link on their homepage for information about The New Catalog is mysteriously broken. Suck #1.
What’s wrong with the catalog? Well in the first place, the upgrade process itself didn’t work, and many patrons lost records of books on hold in their accounts. Many patrons includes me. Also, many had trouble accessing their account for the first few weeks of the “upgrade.” But NYPL was aware of these problems. They used the old “you try to move millions of pieces of data without having problems” defense, otherwise known as “we don’t understand data management,” or in legal terms, the insanity plea. Suck #2.
And then there’s the part of their defense that states “the systemic problems that occurred last week are resolved.” False. Weeks later, the NYPL still never recovered the holds in my account that mysteriously went missing. Some are still there, others, no. Suck #3.
I know what you’re thinking: Well okay it was a little bumpy, but now you have a better system, right? Wrong. Perhaps the greatest thing about the NYPL Catalog before now (the LEO it was called, for reasons unknown to this writer) was the ability to place holds on hiatus. If you were going out of town (say for the whole summer), you could have your holds suspended, allowing you to still move up in the hold queue, but keeping you at #1 when you got there, until you unsuspended the hold.
This feature was awesome! HCPL, my other library of choice (when I’m at home), recently enabled this feature, and even took it one step further – you can choose when holds automatically unfreeze! That’s awesome, and HCPL easily gets an award for being the greatest library system ever.
But what about The New Catalog? This feature is gone? Well not exactly. Instead of completely removing it, the NYPL has just crippled its functionality: if you are deep in the hold queue, you can freeze the hold just fine. But if you’re shallow in the hold queue – if the item will immediately ship to your library because there are more copies available than your position in the queue – you cannot freeze the hold. Also, inexplicably, you cannot freeze the occasional other hold, even if you are deep in the hold queue. As a result, I will have to re-request many holds that were automatically unfrozen and delivered during the transition period, when I was in Conover, far from the Morningside Heights branch. Suck #4.
NYPL does have this to say about the new features of The New Catalog: “The new catalog offers cover art, full-text reviews, book excerpts, author bios, tables of contents, summaries, and other information for many titles.” Also, it’s supposed to have new search functions, but the ones described were all present in LEO too, so I cannot discern what’s new in that avenue. Basically, NYPL wants us to go gaga over cover art and summaries. Really? All this inconvenience is acceptable because the NYPL thinks we can’t use Google? Suck #5.
LEO had a feature called “My Lists” which allowed one to keep track of items after the hold limits were reached. Shocker: The New Catalog didn’t keep these lists, and the old lists are irretrievable, except through some long chain of uncertain communication. (I’m currently working on retrieving my old list. It doesn’t look promising.) Suck #6.
For many of these problems, I thought I could work around the issue. But when trying to re-hold items that were lost, or other issues, I often get this message, in italics and bright red: “There is a problem with your library record. Please see a librarian.” Suck #7.
In short, this new catalog is crap. And NYPL sucks because of it. If they switched back to LEO, I imagine my mind would be changed. But for now, the frustrations are too many and too often. NYPL is the suck.