The second 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:
Tell us about Aberystwyth University and the Library Service
Aberystwyth University started off in 1872 with 26 students and 3 teaching staff at the Old College by the seafront (see http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/university/history/) . In 2014 there were some 9835 students and 940 academic staff (see https://m.hesa.ac.uk/uk-he-stats/?p=institution&y=14/15&l=A&n=2) and the university is now spread over locations in and out of town.
Library services are mainly centralised in the Hugh Owen Library on Penglais campus; currently there are 3 branch libraries and an off-site store.
What was your legacy system and what do you have now?
We came into this project with a suite of ExLibris products: Voyager (since 1999), SFX (2007, hosted), Metalib (2008, hosted), Analyzer (2009), Primo (2012).
One of the main drivers for us was the prospect of getting a library management system that could cope with work processes for both print and electronic materials, as well as reducing the number of systems we needed to maintain and integrate. We already used Primo as the only interface for our users, bringing together the different sources of records in one place.
Aberystwyth was part of the first cohort to implement Alma, and as such we had a tight schedule with no real time for advance preparation. The implementation project was kicked off in January 2015, we received our first (strictly internal) version of Alma in March 2015, and after a busy period of training, testing, configuration, and many many meetings we went live in July 2015.
Our decision to subscribe to the premium sandbox for Alma has already paid off as any testing in the sandbox much more realistically reflects the situation in the production system – something we have always missed in Voyager which did not offer this option. On the other hand for Primo we have the ‘normal’ sandbox with only part of the Alma data loaded.
What have you learned from the process?
While the schedule was so tight that we literally did not have time to stop and think, this was in many aspects a blessing in disguise. As it turns out, a lot of the data correction and cleaning up of obsolete data is much easier and quicker in Alma than it would have been in the old systems. It also makes sense to concentrate on correcting data that is showing up ‘weird’ in Alma and the new Primo – something you cannot do before seeing your data in the new system.
What benefits have been achieved?
The main benefit so far is the much closer collaboration with other institutions within Wales. With the help of collaboration tools like Basecamp and Yammer, staff have been able to get in touch with colleagues at other institutions and have been able to share their expertise as well as learn from and compare notes with others.
From the system administration point of view, any downtime will affect everyone in the consortium, and therefore ExLibris support and other Whelf institutions can be alerted as quickly as possible.
What are the main challenges ahead?
We will have to streamline our work processes and look into workflows again. During and after implementation we set things up so that they could work, but now that we are getting familiar with the system we would like to make sure we are making the best use of Alma functionality.
Within the consortium we will need to develop a strategy for different areas where we can improve sharing and collaboration to make the most of the shared system.
Anything else to add?
While certainly painful at times, implementation was a strangely enjoyable experience: it got people within our library to work together on a new and different project towards a tight deadline, and it opened up the opportunity to liaise and collaborate with staff from other institutions within Wales.