Sign at Bethesda Library explains server outage in library system Credit: Miranda S. Spivack

Montgomery County’s library system has a holiday gift to borrowers: no fines for overdue materials.

But it’s not a gift that the system planned on giving. Since Tuesday, Dec. 23, the library system’s main server has been out of commission. That means patrons haven’t been able to go online to reserve or renew books, pay fines or find out if a library branch has a particular item.

Bonnie Ayers, a spokeswoman for the county, said officials have been scrambling to figure out the cause of the outage and spent the past few days doing diagnostic testing. Officials discovered the problem last week when the online feature “My Account” stopped functioning.

“Indications are that it was the failure of a part inside the server,” said Eric Carzon, the Montgomery County Public Libraries business manager, in an email. “It was not a hack.” The server was manufactured by IBM, and is usually maintained by contractors who service IBM equipment, Carzon wrote. But the problem proved to be one that the contractors said needed to be resolved by IBM directly. “The part that is failing is part of a disk array that supports our main server,” Carzon added.

The library system on Tuesday received an overnight package from Dallas with a replacement for the broken part.

In the meantime, Carol Legarreta, administrator for human resources and community engagement, said patrons who come to a library can still check out materials, open an account, obtain eBooks and magazines, and use the system’s public computers.

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Officials said they were not certain when the problem with the server will be fixed. Updates are available at www.montgomerycountymd/library