With thanks to John Dalling (Senior Learning Resources Adviser, UWTSD) for the first of our blog posts from cohort 2.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) was formed in 2010 following the merger of University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College Carmarthen. Swansea Metropolitan University became part of UWTSD in 2013. The University’s Royal Charter of 1828 is the oldest in Wales.
UWTSD has around 10,000 FTE students. The University has lending libraries at six separate campuses: Carmarthen, Lampeter, and in Swansea at Mount Pleasant Campus, Townhill Campus, Swansea Business School Campus and the Dynevor Centre for Art, Design and Media. In addition, the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives at Lampeter campus houses the University’s special collections, and there is a reference library at the University’s international campus in London. All of these libraries have now moved to the WHELF Shared LMS.
What was your legacy system and what do you have now?
UWTSD Library and Learning Resources have been using a number of legacy systems dating from before the recent mergers. Carmarthen and Lampeter campuses were previously using the SirsiDynix Horizon LMS along with OCLC’s WorldCat Local discovery platform. Swansea libraries used the Capita Alto LMS and Serials Solutions Summon discovery service.
As at USW, running separate legacy systems led to problems providing a unified library service, and before our WHELF LMS implementation we had a number of workaround solutions to provide access to different libraries, including forms on our library website to enable students to join the libraries outside of their own campuses.
Through the WHELF LMS Project all our libraries moved to the Ex Libris Alma LMS and Primo discovery platform on 1st March 2016. We have also merged our authentication systems, and moved to a single new EZProxy server on our launch date after previously running separate versions of EZProxy at different campuses.
Describe your implementation
In early 2015 we formed an LMS Project Group to plan ahead for our implementation. Following the merger we felt that it was important to have equitable representation from our different campuses, and our two Heads of Library and Learning Resources, representing all of our campus libraries, were part of our Project Group which also included senior library staff and an IT representative.
Outside of our formal implementation we carried out preparatory work on our bibliographic data with an emphasis on correcting our serials holdings, removing records for items no longer held in stock, etc. We have also looked at minimising the differences in our data from our legacy systems.
Our implementation with Ex Libris began in August 2015 with introductory training and discussing our desired configuration. We then carried out two test data extracts in the autumn, and staff attended an on-site training workshop just before Christmas. Following administrator training and our final data extract early in 2016, we launched Alma and Primo to schedule on 1st March 2016.
What have you learned from the process?
The collaboration within WHELF has been particularly valuable, both in evaluating and selecting a suitable system and preparing for implementation. At UWTSD we have had the advantage of learning from colleagues in the earlier cohort – Swansea, Aberystwyth, USW and the National Library of Wales – both in person through WHELF LMS Mini Meets and also online through email and Basecamp. As a result of WHELF feedback, we decided to extend our loans for a longer period over the launch week and made some minor configuration changes to our automated email notices to allow for a smoother transition period.
The implementation has been particularly intense having migrated from multiple legacy systems and on reflection I think we could have benefitted from additional time towards the end of the project; we found ourselves evaluating our second test dataset and preparing for our final data extract at the same time as taking the Alma certification training course. We were grateful to Ex Libris for including a second test extract which helped to identify a number of issues.
What benefits have been achieved?
An immediate benefit has been having a unified LMS and discovery service across all of our campuses from the launch date. Previously, any students wanting to use Swansea and Carmarthen or Lampeter libraries would have had to search two separate catalogues and fill in a form to register at one of the libraries. Our students can now search the complete catalogue in one place and borrow from any campus.
We have taken advantage of the automatic renewal functionality within Alma to launch an improved service to students and staff. Any loans which have not been recalled due to another request will automatically renew for a set period, reducing unnecessary fines and hopefully improving the student experience.
Moving to a web-based, cloud-hosted system allows us to access the Alma LMS from any Internet facility with a web browser without any further software installation. This has been particularly beneficial with staff working across different campuses and on different devices. In the future this will provide us with the opportunity to develop innovative services outside of the library, perhaps allowing us to enhance our information literacy training workshops, for example.
What are the main challenges ahead?
We still have some legacy issues to resolve from running different systems, and would also like to take advantage of some of the functionality in Alma that we have yet to implement, for example Resource Sharing. Our LMS Project Group will continue to meet to take forward these plans.
In addition, we are looking forward to further collaboration with WHELF with some interesting proposals under development surrounding the Alma Network Zone and shared services.
Anything else to add?
It has been a rewarding experience working with new colleagues both internally and externally as part of the project. Library staff across different UWTSD campuses have been able to work together on the project, and through WHELF we have had an opportunity to share our experiences and learn from others.