Adventures in Alma – Issue #11

I’m continuing with our salute to the Alma committees and working groups that have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today. I’ve asked the groups to provide a summary of what they have done and who participated. This issue will have summaries from the three core functional areas in Alma: Access/Fulfillment, Acquisitions and Cataloguing/Metadata/Resources. But first a visit to the timeline to see where we are.


April 27: Alma configuration freeze and data loading
Work in Acquisitions and Cataloguing in Aleph was stopped on April 15 so that Ex Libris could prepare for the extract of our Aleph and SFX data. Circulation functions in Aleph will continue till May 9, when we stop holds, until the full Circ freeze on the 11th after which that data will be extracted for migration to Alma. On the 27th we stopped all configuration changes in Alma and any other work. This is in preparation for loading the data into Alma. Ex Libris is beginning that process now and hope to have the loads done in the next week or so.

Salute to the Committees and Working Groups

Very early on in this journey, more than 2 years ago, we struck three groups in the core functional areas and recruited leads for each. I’m sure the names below are familiar to many of you. They have all been recognized experts in their functional areas for many years. The Leads chose a small group of their colleagues to create the Alma Technical Advisory Group whose mandate is to become very familiar with Alma in order to provide expertise and advice to the Steering Committee, organize Aleph data cleanup to help our migration, testing, training and anything else we could think of.

As work progressed, the three Service Groups (Access, Acquisitions, Cataloguing) joined in the fun and their respective chairs have essentially joined the leads as the Alma Technical Advisory Group:

Corinne Gilroy (MSVU), Karen Tobin (CBU) – Access/Fulfillment
Terri Winchcombe (SMU), Brenda McKenna (StFX) – Acquisitions
Ian Fraser (NSCC), Adam Keylor (MSVU), Amy Lorencz (SMU) – Cataloguing/Metadata

These people and their respective Service Group and Working Group members have been doing the lion’s share of the work, as you’ll see in their reports, and we owe them a lot!

Access/Fulfillment Report

Fulfillment/Access/Resource Sharing GroupAccess Service Group
Corinne Gilroy (MSVU) – lead
Heather Gardner (NSCC)
Robin Allen (NSCC)
Karen Tobin (CBU)
Wendy Witczak (MTA)
Jean Kelly (ACAD)
Brad Murray (AST)
Karen Tobin (CBU) – Chair
Amanda Sparks (DAL)
Laura Landon (MTA)
Corinne Gilroy (MSVU)
Janice Fralic-Brown (NSCADU)
Shannon Higgins/Sue Cannon (SMU)
Kris MacSween (StFX)
Patricia Chalmers (UKINGS)
Pamela Maher (USA)

Testing Group
The Testing Group kicked off in December with an introduction meeting with Ex-Libris, then dove right into testing using the Datacheck Workbooks.  This testing found errors in how the data migrated from Aleph to Alma in the production instance and lasted until the end of January.  We then switched to testing Alma’s functionality using the Functional Testing Scenarios Worksheet.  Institutions gave a first pass to the Go-Live Checklist for Ex-Libris.  Throughout this process the FARS Group has been communicating with individual institutions to report errors to Ex-Libris. Testing will be ongoing until cutover, at which point we will be repeating all of our testing (Yay!).  We expect to continue meeting each Thursday until hell freezes over.

Training Group
We have been following the Training Timeline set out by the Training Coordination Group.  In November and December, we discussed/debated training delivery with the Access Service Group. In January we put forward the names of core trainers and members of the training documentation group. February brought us the NN Office Q & A and the Alma Remote Workshop (NOT training!), and then we began the training documentation in earnest with weekly Tuesday meetings. We put out our training documentation to the Testing Group for evaluation and incorporated their feedback. The AFN Group joined us to merge their documentation with the Fulfillment Training documentation. Train the Trainer scripts and presentations were then developed, institutional lead trainers have been identified, and dates for the Train the Trainer sessions have been set. Members of the group, along with NN Office staff, have agreed to try to be available (as much as possible) for the institutional training sessions. We also foresee a need for follow-up sessions after cutover.

Service Group
Aleph data cleanup was the first task undertaken by the group with regard to Alma implementation. The group has been keeping up with migration developments and informing both the testing and training processes for the duration.  Individually and as a group we have been making decisions on issues as they arise.  Many overarching issues have been discussed and dealt with such as: primary IDs, patron loads, Terms of Use and configuration settings, SSO, work orders, course reserves, and Fulfillment Network to name a few. We have been meeting fairly frequently and expect to meet bi-weekly for the next couple of months.

Acquisitions/Serials/ERM Working Group Report

Acquisitions Working GroupAcquisitions Service Group
Gail Fraser (DAL)
Brenda McKenna (StFX)
Caroline Power (CBU)
Terri Winchcombe (SMU) – lead
Erin Winchcombe (DAL)
Roni Fenwick (ACAD)
Alison Holmes (AST)
Caroline Power (CBU)
Kirsten Huhn (DAL)
Anne LePage (MTA)
Rodney Tucker (MSVU)
Detta Morrison-Phillips (NSCADU)
Anne-Marie Richard (NSCC)
Terri Winchcombe (SMU)
Brenda McKenna (StFX) – Chair
Alaina MacKenzie (UKINGS)
Pamela Maher (USA)

Mandate: This group will work closely with the Acquisitions Service Group and Acquisitions library staff. In the cleanup phase and testing phase they will advise on things that need cleanup and the instructions on how to do it. In the Implementation Phase, they will recommend workflows and procedures to the Steering Committee.

During the cleanup phase we identified things that required attention (E.g., old open orders, cancelled orders, items with incorrect statuses) and shared them with the owning institutions for fixing or deleting.  This work was completed before the first data extraction.

During the testing phase we worked with the Acquisitions Service Group, Ex Libris and the Novanet office. We used documents provided by Ex Libris to check the data that migrated to make sure there were no severe errors in the data.  The second phase of testing is functionality, and it is on-going. Problems are reported to Ex Libris and the Novanet Office and once fixes are in place, the function is tested again.

Training for the Acq/Ser/ERM institutional trainers will begin April 6, 2022.  Four Acq/Ser/ERM service group members, Brenda McKenna (StFX), Carla White (CBU), Gail Fraser (Dal) and Terri Winchcombe (SMU)) have been learning Alma processes and workflows and writing documentation. This group will be training Institutional trainers, who will, in turn give the training to their co-workers at their own institutions. It is a long process and while we have learned a lot, there is still much we don’t know. I believe this group will be involved in on-going training as we learn more about how Alma works and determine best practices. We plan to have biweekly meetings with the Acq/Ser/ERM service group after go-live to demonstrate what we’ve learned since the last meeting and to help us identify those best practices.

There are a few areas that remain to be worked on by the Working Group, like table set up adjustments in Alma and third-party integrations affecting Acquisitions/Serials and ERM.


Metadata/Resources Working GroupCataloguing Service Group
Adam Keylor (MSVU) – lead
Ian Fraser (NSCC) – lead
Elaine Christensen (StFX)
Phillip Laugher (DAL)
Amy Lorencz (SMU)
Chris MacDonald (SMU)

Jonathan Neimi (ACAD)
Kathy Stay (AST)
Patrick Hanratty (CBU)
Jennifer MacIsaac (DAL)
Anne LePage (MTA)
Adam Keylor (MSVU)
Sadie Richards (NSCADU)
Denise Parrott/Ian Fraser (NSCC)
Amy Lorencz (SMU) – Chair
Elaine Christensen (StFX)
Alaina MacKenzie (UKINGS)
Pamela Maher (USA

The Cataloguing & Metadata Working Group, together with the Cataloguing Service Group, has identified problems with and subsequently fixed over 90,000 MARC records. With a great deal of effort, Novanet cataloguers have considerably improved the quality of our consortial metadata while also preventing data migration errors. Overall, our records appear to have transferred well into Alma, with few major issues to report.

Testing of Alma Resources functionality continues. The Working Group and the larger Service Group each hold weekly meetings which include demonstrations and Q&A sessions. We have produced documentation for many Resources workflows and completed our train-the-trainer sessions.

The Cataloguing & Metadata Working Group continues to co-ordinate our activities with the other Working Groups, as well as with the Novanet Office and Ex Libris.