Monday, 15 April 2013

Breakout A: ALMA@UEL and Intota@Huddersfield: implementing a next-generation library management system

Adjoa's presentation:

Adjoa Boateng talked about the University of East London’s experiences as an early adopter of ALMA (ExLibris’ new cloud-based library services platform), while Dave Pattern of the University of Huddersfield discussed his institution’s project to look at Intota as the basis for a library management system for them.

UEL, with over 28,000 students across 3 campuses, has been running ALMA live since August 2012 – Adjoa shared their implementation timetable with us from March 2012 onwards, including sandbox access, migration of data and various training periods.  Much of the work was done with ExLibris, though their own in-house systems team also provided and continues to provide local expertise.  They had a fairly strict deadline as they were unable to work on-campus from late July to mid-August due to the London Olympics (Adjoa did say this was a great way to text ALMA’s flexible working!).

UEL made the switch to ALMA to improve their technology, innovation and global links while reducing their costs.  Adjoa emphasised that it was important to bring the whole team on board with the full process, while still identifying their individual responsibilities and workflows and planning training accordingly for project groups.

As for their thoughts post-integration, it may still be too early to give a definitive response.  Adjoa stressed the importance of communication and flexibility in dealing with changing functionality and revised workflows – they have had to be adept at ‘thinking outside the box’.  She talked about what had gone well (mentioning data migration, SFX migration, ALMA configuration, integration with Primo and core functionality for most products) but she also went into detail about what hadn’t gone well and how they and ExLibris were dealing with these issues.  For example, self-service was blocked by IT due to patron loader issues and security concerns – as 90% of UEL checkouts had been self-service before the switch, this caused major knock-on effects and need to re-educate their users; this is still not totally sorted.  She also talked about issues with British Library interloans, hold requests, renewals, fines and email notifications, as well as back-end problems with e-resource workflow and serials check-in, but said some of these problems were not just ALMA issues but also issues with decisions they made during information migration. 

The ExLibris project team and developers have been very helpful, with weekly post-implementation project calls, as well as fortnightly calls with project managers and developers; they even staged a 13-day meeting on the UEL campus with local staff to look at resolution of the problems listed above.  Fixes have been included in monthly releases, with hot fixes issued as necessary.  Any outstanding problems are being looked at in priority order (with ILL issues being a top priority), and they are also looking toward the future for further development.

Dave Pattern then started his presentation on the JISC HIKE project… or, as his first slide put it, "40 slides and a kitten!".  ‘HIKE’ is an acronym for ‘Huddersfield Intota KB+ Evaluation’ – Huddersfield’s need for a new library management system has led to this project considering whether Intota might suit their needs, while also allowing them to implement cultural change and move the library forward.  Dave also made reference to JISC Knowledge Base+ (or KB+) - a shared community service which will help UK libraries manage their e-resources more efficiently - and pointed us to Liam Earney's plenary on Wednesday for more information.  The HIKE project blog linked above has further information, including workflows, with the final report to be added soon.

Huddersfield still uses the SirsiDynix Horizon as implemented in 1995 – they went through a full tender process in 2005 but didn't buy anything.  In addition there has been limited development on their version of Horizon since 2007.  Horizon has a new version now but as Huddersfield want to change anyway they are resisting movement; this is causing problems with the legacy system including security concerns.  In addition to Horizon, they have used Intellident RFID for self-service since 2006, and they also use Serials Solutions Summon as implemented in 2009 (previously Ex Libris MetaLib & SFX).  Dave talked about problems with traditional monolithic library systems: limited interoperability, no APIs, fixed workflows, duplicated effort designed for print etc.  He quoted his Hudderfield colleague Graham Stone, who pointed out that they needed to understand current workflows, as well as the problems and frustration their staff and users feel, before they can identify what to choose in a library management system and what to expect from this new system. 

Intota is still in development (no demos or screenshots included) and should be fully implemented in 2014.  However, Huddersfield is an existing Serials Solutions customer (360 Knowledge Base etc) and thus already work with them, plus Serials Solutions were interested in working with KB+ so they welcomed the opportunity to study the integration of KB+ with their commercial system.  Huddersfield also wanted to have a look at a new system as it developed to see what might be possible!  The HIKE project aims to evaluate the projected available functionality of Intota and its APIs, as well as putting together case studies and evaluating the suitability of Intota for UK HE as a whole.  It is also a useful opportunity for them to make a thorough analysis of acquisition workflows for both print and e-resources - no one knew everything about all workflows, so it is useful to document them, with a view to change/improvement, and to build a wish list for a new system (including multi-tenancy secure SaaS, a linked data model, a central knowledge base, streamlined workflows for print and E, open APIs etc.).  Dave also mentioned Jill Emery and Graham Stone's TERMS (Techniques for Electronic Resource Management) project and how it influenced HIKE - this was being discussed at another breakout session at UKSG.

Huddersfield wants to move from batch to real-time processes, getting away from duplicating data and effort.  Dave went through the old workflows for ordering e-books and how they could be improved and sped up to the benefit of the enquirer.  Whatever system they go with, it has been useful putting their 'electronic house' in order and realising they can throw away their 'legacy baggage.  Further automation and interoperability should free up staff time for more interesting jobs and collaboration - staff would be less tied to certain roles. Intota offers a total approach from discovery to the back room which could work well with this new model - the final project report with more information is imminent, watch this space...

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