With thanks to Sian Thomas (Systems Manager, NLW) and Glen Robson (Head of Systems, NLW) for this article:

Tell us about the National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales (NLW) was established in 1907 to “collect, preserve and give access to all kinds of forms of recorded knowledge, especially relating to Wales and the Welsh and other Celtic peoples, for the benefit of the public”. We have a large and varied collection including 6.5 million books and periodicals and a large collection of archives, and we are also home to the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. The NLW is one of six copyright libraries in the UK which entitles it to receive a copy of every book published in the UK, and through recent legislation, copies of electronic material including websites, e-books and journal articles.  It also has a large digital collection containing digitised Newspapers, Journals, Photographs, Maps and Archival Collections.

The NLW is open to the general public, with reading room access available to registered users over the age of 16. You can register to access our online resources here (https://psr.llgc.org.uk/psr/psr/register/en/personal) and the amount of registered users currently stand at around 19,000.

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

Our LMS was supplied by VTLS, Virtua for the main LMS functions and iPortal for discovery, although this was augmented from 2010 with the use of Aquabrowser as the main discovery tool, and Summon for access to electronic resources.  Virtua was implemented in 2006/7 and at the time there was a lot of effort put into merging various different databases and datasets into a single MARC-based catalogue. This greatly benefitted our migration process for the WHELF system as it meant we only needed to migrate one system which contained records for all of our print and unique collections. All VTLS systems were internally hosted. We also had a number of semi-bespoke developments as part of the Virtua product, particularly for cataloguing of archival and film materials, and for closed-stack circulation.

We now have Alma as our main LMS, AtoM(Access to Memory) as a system for cataloguing and providing access to archival material and Primo as the primary discovery and access portal to all NLW material, physical, electronic and digital.

Describe your implementation

Originally NLW had been part of Cohort 3, however VTLS was acquired by Innovative mid 2014, and having considered the implications of this change in terms of maintaining our already aging system, we decided to swap to Cohort 1(thanks very much due to Bangor for enabling this!). This probably did impact on our preparations a little. Work began straight away in January 2015, but we had a longer implementation timetable than the other partners and were scheduled go live in November 2015. The longer implementation gave us time to translate Alma and Primo into Welsh (30,000+ terms) and work through some of our more complex requirements relating to digital integration and legal deposit, as well as installing, configuring and implementing our new archives system in time for the main switch-over

The project team was a cross-department group, with people assigned to lead on migration, fulfillment and Primo, archives, acquisitions, cataloguing and IT-related tasks like authentication and integration. Staff from departments across the library assisted with data testing, and many also provided invaluable assistance with training and documentation. Fulfillment configuration was a particular challenge to ensure we could meet our user requirements in our closed-stacks environment, so many meetings and training sessions were held with our Reader Services department throughout the implementation.

We went through a number of migration test loads before doing the final ‘cutover migration’ in late October before going live to staff on the 5th of November. The switch to Primo took a little longer due to problems with deduplication between our data sources, and this went live to the public on the 6th of December 2015.

Our colleagues in cohort 1 were immensely helpful during our implementation. As they had already gone through the process we could turn to them if we had specific questions on functionality or how they had set up their workflows. Aberystwyth also kindly invited us to some of their implementation meetings with Ex Libris and this prepared us well for when we had our own meetings with Ex Libris months later.

What have you learned from the process?

We definitely learned to relax a little more and share more of the process with colleagues. Our previous system implementation was over a long period due to the complexity of the data migration, so we’d had a lot of time to get truly familiar with the system and provide authoritative advice and training to staff. Initially we tried to do the same here, but the implementation timescale forced our hand and we came to depend on various colleagues taking responsibility for testing out workflows and conducting training. Despite feeling underprepared, the implementation and go-live were relatively painless (yes we did have some issues but nothing we and Ex Libris couldn’t handle), and we’ve benefitted from having people in units and departments across the library taking ownership of their functional areas. It’s a more sustainable solution for the future as well, as the Systems unit always has more than enough to do to make up for the reduction in basic troubleshooting and training tasks!

What benefits have been achieved?

Having been involved in the previous procurement in 2005 for a new library management system being part of the WHELF consortium purchase was a much easier experience. It was great to see during the requirements-gathering phase how much we all had in common.

We have now been live for around 5 months and one of the benefits that has already been realised is automatic upgrades. On previous systems this used to be a staff intensive activity that we would try and complete once a year, but so far we have already had 5 upgrades since we went live, with few or no issues. We’ve also just completed the financial year rollover as our financial year runs from April to April and this was also a lot easier than in previous years.

Moving from on-site installation to a hosted system is another key benefit, both in terms of staff time and maintenance costs, and so far we have found Support to be quick and useful in diagnosing and solving any issues arising.

What are the main challenges ahead?

As a systems unit we will be exploring the record uploading and batch updating functionality that Alma provides, trying to look at automated methods of upgrading records from external sources. We will also be looking at renewing our record publishing arrangements with various union catalogues. We will also be conducting a review of workflows and services over the next few months – having followed Ex Libris’ advice to keep things simple during the implementation, we will be looking for opportunities to make improvements now we have a better understanding of the system and how we work with it.

With the other members of the consortium we look forward to exploring the benefits a shared catalogue can achieve. It’s an exciting challenge which will certainly involve a lot of work over the coming months and years, but which hopefully will bring benefits to all institutions and their users

Anything else to add?

Just to echo what our cohort 1 colleagues have mentioned in their blogs. It has been a stressful and busy period implementing a new system but the results have achieved a benefit for the public and staff that use the new system to discover and use our resources, with early feedback proving positive.