The third in a series of short blog interviews with project leads at WHELF institutions which have already gone live with the shared LMS and Discovery-Alma and Primo:
Bernadette Ryan at the University of South Wales
The University of South Wales (USW) is Wales’ largest university, and one of the largest in the UK with approaching 30,000 students supported by 1,900 Academic staff and 1,500 Support staff.
USW is a new institution formed in 2013 from the merger of the University of Glamorgan and University of Wales, Newport. The university is still establishing itself after the merger, realigning its teaching, research and estate. USWs’ emphasis is vocationally focused teaching and applied research.
USW is currently spread over 5 sites. Treforest & Glyntaff at Pontypridd, a site in Cardiff, and the City and Caerleon campuses at Newport. Library Services supports 5 campus Libraries across the sites.
£170 million has been invested in campuses over the past 7 years. Investment continues to support the ongoing campus realignment. In particular at the Cardiff and Newport Campuses.
Following the merger, Library Services converged with Student Services. Following a more recent restructure Library Services is now part of Learning Services, which includes Careers & Employability and Student Support & Study Skills. Learning Services is headed up by our new Director Emma Adamson.
What was your legacy system and what do you have now?
As a result of the merger, Library Services inherited 2 library management systems.
The sites at Treforest, Glyntaff, Cardiff and The College Merthyr Tydfil (who share our LMS) used Capita Alto with Capita Prism 3 for discovery and Talis Aspire for reading list management for USW students. We managed our own hardware on site for Alto, but the Prism and Aspire services were hosted remotely by Capita.
At Newport we had Sirsi Dynix, Symphony for LMS functionality and for discovery. All services were hosted by Sirsi Dynix.
Until we were able to move to a single system we were unable to offer a unified service to students across the 5 campuses. Irrespective of WHELFs intentions an LMS change was urgently required for USW. In the interim we implemented Primo as our discovery front end to allow us to merge our e-resources, and to offer students and staff a single interface for e –resource discovery.
Fortunately for us the WHELF LMS Consortium timing was perfect. But being part of Cohort 1 was essential. Any further delay implementing a single system to offer parity of service and experience to all students would have been difficult for us to justify within USW.
We now have Ex Libris Alma for Acquisitions, Resource Management, Fulfillment (circulation). Primo continues as our discovery layer. Both are hosted, so we don’t have to worry about maintaining any hardware. Talis Aspire has been integrated with Primo and can finally be rolled out across the whole institution for USW students. As we were already using Primo prior to the WHELF Consortium, we carried over our Primo Total Care contract.
Describe your implementation
Our implementations started in early January 2015 and we went live on the 28th July 2015.
As might be expected managing the merging of 2 data sets was a major concern. In terms of what the data looks like in Alma and Primo, through duplicate records, differences in cataloguing standards, along with the perennial legacy data issues. While we have started to address this, it is an ongoing challenge.
Authentication was another area of concern for us. The College Merthyr Tydfil continues to share our LMS. Our requirement for separate Shibboleth authentication for USW and the College Merthyr Tydfil, to allow access to different collections was a major complication in both Alma and Primo. This was resolved, but it took some time to arrive at an acceptable solution.
In terms of managing implementation, being part of Cohort 1 had its challenges. We had a small project team, which included our 2 Assistant Heads, 2 Assistant Librarians who have the most knowledge of Alto or Symphony, the Database Manager (E-Resource Management, Cataloguing and Acquisitions) and myself as Project Manager and as the Systems and Public Services Manager. We met regularly to report progress and to flag up issues.
Communication to Library staff was through a newsletter and email. At times due to workloads this was difficult to maintain and could have been more regular. Ideally this should have been supplemented by face to face meetings with the wider staff.
On a day to day basis the project was progressed by myself and two colleagues Wayne Morris, our Database Manager and Nick Roberts, Assistant Librarian to my Team. Between us we ensured the project plan deadlines were met. We also organised and managed all the process review groups, which were tasked with reviewing business processes and establishing new ones utilising the functionality of Alma.
Merging systems and processes was very difficult not only because of the 2 library management systems but also due to geography and the number of sites. Simple things like organising meetings of process review groups, which everyone could attend was a hard task to achieve across five sites up to 30 miles apart. Process review and training is ongoing, maintaining this commitment is not easy.
What have you learned from the process?
If we did it again we would ensure we built in more time to look at our data and how it will look to end users. Other institutions have commented on this, and for those in Cohort 1 the lack of time between the signing of the contract and the start of implementation was something we had to accept to be part of Cohort 1.
Maintaining time for training post go live is essential. Once you go live just getting on with it is no substitute for giving colleagues space and time to reinforce and extend their knowledge of a new system. This needs to be supported for some considerable time after going live.
What benefits have been achieved?
For USW having a single system for library staff and students and academics to access has been a massive benefit. At last we are all on the same system and have a common interface for customers!! Alma has not only allowed to us revisit processes and procedures, but crucially unify them.
In Resource management/Acquisitions there have been a number of immediate advantages. Having all formats in one interface has lead to better catalogue record management and receiving is quicker. In the near future we hope to be able to send invoices directly to the Finance system and be able to place requests on supplier sites and have invoices uploaded into Alma.
What are the main challenges ahead?
We still have data issues especially around duplicate records. We know it will take some time to conclude, but it is progressing and Alma provides very good functionality to support this work.
The big challenges are going to be at a consortium level. While it is very exciting to be close to the point where consortium potential can begin to take shape, there are going to be difficult hurdles to overcome . Agreeing standards and general principles to allow activities such as inter-lending and shared cataloguing are achievable but complex.
Anything else to add?
It has been a very challenging 12 months. But, we have our new system and have made real progress in the 6 months since going live. The future holds some exciting prospects to work in collaborative environments.