Server crash at Penrose: Out with old, in with new

Lea Negrin

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Early Saturday, Oct. 31, the server for the Penrose Library crashed, disabling the library’s catalog as well as other vital tools that the library uses. By Wednesday morning the server had been repaired and was back on-line. As Dalia Corkrum, director of Penrose Library, told the Whitman community via e-mail, it wasn’t a Halloween prank. While new hardware repaired the server for now, the library will permanently switch to a new server during Thanksgiving break.

“We [had] just decided it was time to get a new server when the Reid controller apparently decided it was its time,” said Laura Krier, the metadata librarian for Penrose Library.

The crash forced a brief return to manual paper systems of old.

“We were doing everything by hand: writing down people’s name, the book’s bar code number, the bar codes on the back of students’ ID cards,” said junior Chris d’Autremont, who works at the library’s circulation desk.

By Monday morning, though, Krier had set up a data program to store the recorded information until the server could be repaired, which allowed the circulation desk to use the scanners once again.

“People have been coping fairly well, although it is much easier [for me] to check books out by hand than [for someone] to tell people exactly where a book can be found,” said d’Autremont.

For seniors writing theses and other students who have become adjusted to typing in a key word and finding a plethora of information accessible, the catalog crash made finding resources “cumbersome,” in Corkrum’s words, but nonetheless doable.

“[The reference librarians have been] helping students use other resources to identify items in our collection,” said Corkrum. “We appreciate everyone’s patience.” The server crash did not impair the databases, e-reserves or the digital collection. Summit also remained accessible.

The library had planned to migrate to a new server over winter break, but the crash has moved up the switch to Thanksgiving break. The exact age of the server that crashed is unknown.

“I’m not sure if this is the original server or not; we’ll just say it was time for it to be replaced,” said Corkrum.