When Paola Free Library joined NExpress, there was a problem importing their Accelerated Reader data from their old ILS into Koha. All of their Accelerated Reader data was, therefore rendered in notes fields and I’ve been moving it to the 526 fields in the Marc records where that data truly belongs.
What I found as I moved the data for Paola into those fields is that there is a huge inconsistency with the way that this data is stored throughout NExpress. But don’t be concerned. It’s almost certainly not our fault. It’s because of poorly formatted data in the records we’re downloading from other locations. I’ve started cleaning up the problems I’ve found so far and I’m going to try to work out a process I can use regularly to clean up messy AR data in records we import from the outside world.
Another issue that I’ve discovered with this data is that AR information is very difficult to search in Koha. Since the 526 fields are not indexed, the only way to really do a search is by keyword or by doing an advanced search on the “Notes” fields in Koha because most of the AR data that we’ve been adding to Koha looks like it’s being added in the item public notes fields. And since the reading levels and points values contain decimals, keyword searches are problematic, to say the least. My personal experience with people wanting AR books is that they usually come to the desk and, instead of asking “Do you have any books about ___?” or “Do you have a copy of ___?” they come in and ask “Do you have any AR books?” or say “I need an AR book worth 2.5 points.” And they usually follow this up by saying “I need to read it by tomorrow so I can take a test or I’m going to fail my reading class.” Since Koha has a hard time doing searches for “Accelerated Reader” as a keyword, this means that finding a good AR book for a patron can be difficult.
Because this data is difficult to search for in the catalog, I created a report that should help generate lists of AR information based on either the “Interest level” (LG, MG, UG) of an item, the “Grade level” (.3, 1.2, 5.6, etc.), and the point value.
Currently the report might get you some slightly unexpected results because the data imported in the 526 fields is a little bit off. As I work to clean up that data, the report should yield more consistent results.
This new report is #2804 and the attached document has instructions for running this report.
Finally, from a reference standpoint, I hate it when kids come to the desk and ask “Do you have any AR books?” because, as soon as they ask that, I know that they’re viewing this excercise not as a fun trip to the library but as a school assignment. It’s something they have to do but they probably don’t want to do and just finding them the first book off of the shelf that meets the grade level and point level they need to pass their test probably isn’t going to help them learn to love reading.
So, what I always try to say to these patrons is, “Almost every book in the children’s section of the library is an Accelerated Reader book. So, let’s go find 10 books off of the shelf that you think you might have fun reading that you’re interested in that seem to be about the same level as the books you’re reading in school, and then we’ll bring those books back to the desk and look at their AR information and see if any of them meet your grade level/points requirements.” I find that it’s better to help the patron find some books they might actually be interested in first, and then I worry about making sure at least one of those books meets the requirement of their assignment second. When I do this, instead of checking out one book that they don’t want to read, they often go home with two or three books that they do want to read and at least one of them will help them get their AR test done.
Click here accelerated-reader-2016-10-12 for more instructions on how to use report #2804.