Upcoming changes to HPL’s catalog system



Last updated on 7/12/2013. Updated information appears in italics.

The Houston Public Library will be unveiling a completely new library catalog and customer accounts system for our customers in July 2013. These changes will result in improved service delivery and more efficient processes.

Our new catalog and customer account interface is scheduled to roll out on July 11. To prepare for the transition, library accounts and transactions in the existing online catalog will be unavailable beginning July 3, but the catalog will still be searchable; most library transactions will be done offline during this transition period. Library account numbers will remain the same but with the transition you will be required to have Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) to access your accounts online. The addition of a PIN provides an additional level of security for our customers. Your default PIN is the last four digits of your primary phone number. If you are unable to log in, please come in to one of our locations and a staff person will assist you. You will need to bring a photo ID and your library card.

We also have some exciting news about check-outs: starting July 3, most items will check-out for 3 weeks with one 3-week renewal. DVDs will check-out for 3 weeks but cannot be renewed.

• July 3, 2013 – existing customer accounts and circulation system goes offline
• July 11, 2013 – new catalog and customer accounts system goes live

During this time frame (July 3 – 11, 2013) you must have your library card with you in order to check out materials. During our transition to the new system, we will not have live access to our database and won’t be able to search for your account.


Why are you changing the library catalog and customer accounts interface?
Web technologies have changed quite a bit since we implemented the current catalog and customer accounts system. To provide an optimum online experience for our customers, we chose a new platform that provides improved usability, a more stable infrastructure, and the platform to add features and additional options in the future. Our new interface will have easier navigation and easy-to-understand instructions.

Why does it take a full week to do this migration?
The Library’s database holds over 4 million records for items in our collection, over 800,000 customer records, over 500,000 active circulation transactions and much additional data that needs to be migrated from one database to another. Moving this information accurately is not a simple task. We want to make sure that none of the connections are lost. It is essential that the new system understand that a specific customer has a particular item checked out and when it is due. We realize that being offline for a week is inconvenient and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we make this transition.

Why do I have such strange due dates for my books?
The offline circulation system is set to our new 3-week check-out period. However, because we knew we would be offline for a full week, we extended due dates on items checked out on our old system. We had two related goals in doing this: reducing the number of items that would be due back during this offline period and preventing a flood of returns the next week after we are back online. For this reason, you may end up with a variety of “illogical” date dues.

Why are items being held on the hold shelf for so long?
We extended the period that books would remain on the hold shelf to be certain that our being offline would not prevent someone from getting an item they had been waiting for.

Will the URLs change?
URLs will change only for the catalog; the new catalog URL will become available on July 11, at http://halan.sdp.sirsi.net/client/hou; however, the current URL at http://catalog.houstonlibrary.org will remain functional indefinitely.

Will the mobile app continue to work?
Yes. We are working to ensure that the mobile app is integrated into the new online system.

How will the new online catalog system be different?
It will look different but similar to Encore. It searches better and provides suggestions when a keyword is misspelled. You can still limit by material type such as e-books or DVDs. In addition, you will be able to exclude by material type so if you wanted only books and audiobooks, you can exclude e-books, and music CDs from your search results. You can also choose to have the item information sent as a text message.

How will the new online customer accounts system be different?
To access you customer account, you will need your library card number and your PIN. We have added PINs to increase your privacy. Should you lose your card, no one will be able to access your personal information without also knowing your PIN.

Once in your account, the information you are used to seeing will still be there: items checked out, fines owed, holds placed, etc.

Will my library account number change?
No. Your current library account will remain the same.

Will I lose my Reading History?
No. If you had previously opted in to the Reading History, that information will transfer to the new customer accounts system. However, some other information will not carry-over.  We recommend that you print out or email to yourself anything you have saved in “My Lists” as well as any “Preferred Searches.” You can then re-create them in Enterprise, our new catalog.  Also, our new catalog does not feature Customer Reviews, Ratings, or Tags.  You may wish to save your reviews and add them to a social reading network such as Goodreads or LibraryThing.  The current catalog will be available through July 2.

Where do I obtain my Personal Identification Number (PIN)?
Current customers will be assigned a four-digit PIN based on the last four numbers of the phone number associated with their accounts. Before July 3 you can access and update this information online, to verify that the phone number is correct. Please contact us at 832-393-2222 or circinfo@hpl.lib.tx.us if you encounter problems accessing your account online.

Will I be able to change my PIN?
Yes, after July 11. If you need to change your PIN, you can log in to your account online to change your PIN or you can come into one of our locations and request a staff person to make the change for you. If you choose to change your PIN, your new PIN must be a minimum of 4 characters in length, and it can include letters, numbers, or a combination of both.

What if I can’t log in or have lost my PIN?

If you are unable to log in, please come in to one of our locations and a staff person will assist you. You will need to bring a photo ID and your library card.

I received an email from the library about my PIN. Was this a legitimate email or was my account hacked?

Thank you for contacting us about your concerns regarding possible hacking of our system.  This is not what has happened.  One of the new benefits of our migration to new software is that we are able to send customers emails for purposes beyond notifying them of holds and overdues.  Due to the issues many people have had with getting their PIN numbers, Sirsi (our new software vendor) assisted us in sending out a special notice last night that notifies everyone of their library card number and PIN.  In the future, all of our email notifications will be coming from this address: Sirsi@HALAN.sirsi.net.  Please add this to your “safe senders” list so that our messages do not end up in your spam or junk mail folders.

How has renewing my items changed?
Our current system renews your materials based on the due date. The new system will renew your materials based on the date you request the renewal. For example, if you have a book that is due July 30 and you renew it on July 15, your new due date will be 3 weeks from July 15, not 3 weeks from July 30. Use the Library’s email reminding you that your items are due soon as your alert to go online and renew for another 3 weeks.

What happens to my holds?

You can continue to place holds through July 1 and the library will notify you of any holds ready to pick up.  From July 2 – July 10, you may pick up any holds for which you have already received notice, however, you will be unable to place new holds.  During this same period, the library will not be able to fill existing holds.  As of July 11, all of your existing holds will be in our new system, your place in the queue will be retained, and we will once again be pulling items to fill those holds and start notifying you that they are ready to pick up. Please note that items will now be held for 7 days.

What happened to holds that I had put on freeze?

If you had suspended a hold, unfortunately this information did not carry over. Your hold is still in place; it lost it’s frozen status. You can now “suspend” your holds in the new system and select your beginning and end dates. 

I can’t access the catalog or my account. I get a website not found message.

Please clear your browser’s cache. If you had bookmarked the old catalog page, please update it with the new URL (https://halan.sdp.sirsi.net/client/hou).

Have a comment or a suggestion?
Please keep in mind that some things have moved around. If you don’t see what you are looking for, feel free to contact us.

We appreciate your comments and feedback. We have been able to resolve many glitches and made some changes based on your feedback. The time has come to close the comments feature; however, we encourage you to continue to submit your questions using our reference form  or send us your comments. After consulting with the staff best able to answer your question, an answer will be emailed in about 48-72 hours. 



    Is there an ETA when our Hold queues will be updated with the placement from the prior system? I have saved print screens of my queue before the conversion. One item had a status of ‘In Transit’ before the conversion & now it is appearing as #4. Other items have rapidly moved to #1, but others show a # much higher than before the conversion.

    Also, with respect to the prior version of the Hold queue, there was a feature that was most useful to me: the display (account user hold #) / (Total # holds). If I needed to shuffle some things because I had reached the limit of 15 items, it was much easier to manage. Can we expect to have that functionality in the new view?

    Thank you

  • Hello MarcyC,

    The holds queues are back in the correct order based on the date and time they were placed. Please check your account to see if it shows the correct queue order.

    When you are logged in, check the holds tab – it says “Items on hold: #”. It will take some time for all of us to get used to the new system – where everything is located, new features etc.

    Let me know if this answered your question.

  • Hi Dudleys,

    No problem. I’m glad you found the answer – Harris County locations moved to the bottom of the list.

  • You’re welcome Dudleys.

  • Hi Betty,

    Sorry about this inconvenience. Can you tell me if you are using the mobile app? I encountered the same thing when I tried to place a hold using our app. We are still trying to resolve some issues with the integration of the new system and app. Try to use the desktop version via the web and see if you can place a hold. The app should be working by tomorrow. Thanks.

  • Hello Salma

    I checked my Hold Queue this afternoon and the one item that was ‘In Transit’ prior to conversion is now showing #2 in the queue. There are still other items that are now appearing in a higher hold# positions.

    How can this be resolved? I have screen grabs of my account view – will that be of assistance in getting this resolved? Will the staff at the local branches be able to help with this, or do I have to go to the Main Branch DT?

    Thank you for working all these hours to get to our questions in a timely manner!

  • Hello MaryC,

    There was a problem with holds queue when we switched however it was changed back to the correct order yesterday morning. Please check your account and let me know if you see the correct order. If it’s still not correct, then I would suggest that you check at your local library. A supervisor or branch manager should be able to correct the queue order for you. Do keep in mind that we are still working towards resolving these glitches and what is not working today, may get straightened out by tomorrow.

    You’re welcome. I am happy to help.

  • I have an interlibrary loan that I returned last week still showing as out in my account. What should I do?

  • Hello again

    After performing a search function, I’m looking at the detail of a certain item – a DVD.

    Q #1: In the Current Location column at the far right, I see the term ‘Media’. Is this the same as the prior status of ‘Check Shelf’? (I’m assuming Yes)

    Q #2: Also, I noticed in the Home Location column, the branches are not listed, only the term ‘Media’. Is that a bug?

    For reference, I performed a search for the DVD ‘Anna Karenina’, the 2013 film directed by Joe Wright.

    Sorry to be a pain. I am making the effort to answer questions on my own via the linked Instructional PDFs, but having no luck.

    Thanks again.