The first 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:

Andrew BrownAndrew Brown, Collection Services and Systems Librarian at Swansea University

Tell us about Swansea University and the Library Service

Swansea University is a research-led university originally formed back in 1920. The University has enjoyed a period of tremendous growth, and we have recently realised our strategic ambition to be a top thirty research University, soaring up the 2014 Research Excellence Framework league table to 26th in the UK from 52nd in 2008. We also recently opened our Bay Campus, a brand new £450 million development on the eastern approach to the city, which complements our existing Singleton Park Campus, which is also the subject of an ambitious transformation project.

Library and IT at Swansea University have been operating as a converged service since 1997 and are now part of a wider group of professional services called Information Services and Systems.

Some university statistics:

FTE Academic Staff: 1,199
FTE All Staff: 2,627
FTE Students: 13,661 (c18,000 people)
Total University Income: £205 million
Total Research Income: £43 million
Ranked 26th in UK under REF 2014 for Research Excellence with over 1/3 classed as world leading, and 90% as ‘internationally excellent’ across all disciplines.

What was your legacy system and what do you have now?

Our legacy systems on the library management system side were locally hosted and supplied by ExLibris. We used both the ExLibris Voyager system (Acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation) and the ExLibris SFX OpenUrl link resolver which provided linking services to access online scholarly resources in full text. We also signed up to the Clio Inter-Library loan system which was loosely integrated with Voyager. On the discovery side we ran a locally hosted instance of VUFind, the open source resource discovery system. A local developer also made a significant contribution to the development of the VUFind system.

As a member of the WHELF Shared LMS consortium we replaced the resource management systems by signing up to the ExLibris Alma system which supports a range of library operations including acquisitions, selection, management of metadata and fulfillment (ExLibris new generation term for circulation and Inter-Library Loans or Document Delivery). Alma replaces Voyager, Clio and SFX and provides much needed integration between different functional areas. We also signed up to the Alma Premium sandbox which means we have our own data in the sandbox system and have this refreshed a number of times each year. This has been invaluable in testing new configurations and functionality.

On the resource discovery side, we replaced our VUFind discovery system with the ExLibris Primo system.

Describe your implementation

We had what might be described as a ‘challenging’ time frame for implementation which I should point out was completely our own choice given local circumstances around the opening of a new campus at Swansea University.

We had our local systems analysis meeting in mid January 2015 and went live with the new systems on 23rd June 2015.

Key challenges for us were having the new systems ready for the new campus (which was to open in August 2015), migration of our legacy purchase order data and of course more generally the compressed timescale we were working too.

We managed the process by setting up a small project group which met regularly throughout the duration of the project. This project team, along with the corresponding team at ExLibris were the key to a successful implementation. In our project team we had the perfect skillset – it included: a data migration specialist who had previously worked for a library system supplier, members of the library senior management to enable the group to effectively engage senior management, a marketing expert who ran our marketing campaigns and communications with stakeholders and between us all many years of managing and using library systems.

What have you learned from the process?data

Data, data, data. We’d have liked more time and more test loads, but that wasn’t possible in the timescale. On a positive note Alma is well equipped to manipulate our data post implementation so we are able to work through the inevitable migration issues.

What benefits have been achieved?

A great early benefit of being part of the first cohort has been an increase in collaboration with ‘Cohort One’ partners (Aberystwyth University, the University of South Wales and the National Library of Wales). We’ve built on past relationships with institutions forged in implementation and it’s been great to collaborate more closely together. A recent example was an issue that arose with Primo across the consortium and despite it occurring over the weekend the issue was resolved quickly when partners noticed the issue and reported it.

What are the main challenges ahead?

At the consortium level our main challenge will be to make the best of Alma’s consortial functionality. This will involve working even closer together on policies and configuration and also practicalities if we are to achieve our goals for collaboration.

We also face the ongoing challenge of optimising our new workflows with Alma. In some cases we are still using Voyager workflows and so we need to ask the question can we do something more efficiently in Alma? Additionally, we’ll be looking to enhance our data in all areas of Alma e.g. on the Acquisitions side we’d like to use Alma to manage licences and also improve our Vendor records.

Anything else to add?

After six months with the new system I believe we’ve made the right decision and I’m looking forward to seeing the introduction of consortial services and also making the best of Alma and Primo locally.