As a public librarian who has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Computer Age, I will have to say that automated library systems really are better than the old manual methods in many ways. Our (Montgomery County MD) library department has 23 branches, most of which are very busy all the time (the branch where I work routinely gets 1500 - 2000 people through the door every day -- I'll probably be interrupted several times while trying to type this...).
The computer enables us to keep track of materials and borrowers and make changes pretty easily. It also allows our customers to search the catalog, check their records, and place items on hold from home. It can also be of tremendous help in searching for needed materials -- many's the time it's helped me identify (not to mention locate) an item someone is looking for, when none of the humans around had any idea what it was. And the on-line databases, particularly the ones for magazine and newspaper articles, make available vastly more resources than any public library could hope to buy (or store) in hard copy.
There are downsides, of course. Some reference sources are MUCH easier to use in print format than on the computer, but now that they're on line, we no longer have the print copies. Searching on-line requires a certain amount of experience and knowledge of conventional forms, whereas the old card catalogs were somewhat more intuitive. And naturally, when the computers go down, there's no backup. Yes, we can still check out books (by writing barcodes by hand and entering them later), and experienced librarians can often find items for patrons, but the level of service is nowhere near what it is when everything is working properly.
As for the merger, I can only hope it will result in some improvements to SIRSI. My confidence level is not very high, however. Montgomery County has had SIRSI for several years now, and let's just say there are issues. My main quarrel is that it is not intuitive for patrons to use -- almost everyone needs some help before they can use it at all effectively (I suppose I should be grateful for that -- there are still jobs for librarians...). And of course there are multitudinous quirks that drive us crazy in the back room.
We shall see....