Adventures in Alma – Issue #5

Well, its May and the blackflies are rejoicing! I spent Saturday with them and it seems they really did miss me (at least judging by the number of bites). Our shed started to fall down a few months ago so we emptied it out and kinda hoped the winter would do it in, but it survived. It took way too much effort to destruct something that looked like it was about to collapse. It’s now just a pile of lumber in our backyard. Anybody want it?

May is important for another reason: In a year we will be launching Alma. I’ve got some updates for you, including to the timeline. Included in this post:

  • Timeline
  • Cleanup
  • Steering Committee/Working Groups
  • OCLC Reclamation
  • Novanet Alma Day
  • Alma Roadshow, part 2

There are three main sections to our implementation (according to the book of Ex Libris): Onboarding, Migration, and Implementation. We are just about finished the onboarding phase, where ExL tries to ensure that we have everything in place for a successful implementation of Alma. Things like a good organizational structure (committees and working groups) and a good understanding of Alma, and that ExL understands the institutions in our consortium and how we envision using Alma. To that end the Steering Committee is in the process of finding answers to a workbook about your institution, which ExL will use to set up our initial environment for Alma.

The next phase is migration and it will begin later this month. During this phase we work with ExL to begin understanding how to configure Alma to work with our libraries. We will be looking at how we share data and how we don’t. How one library works compared to another. A special emphasis will be on the patron, bib, acquisition, etc. data in order to prepare for the actual implementation.

The implementation phase is all about getting our data in Alma and configuring all the workflows. It will begin in mid-September and the first task will be completing our one and only test load. You’ll soon have an actual test version of Alma to play with – aiming for mid to late October. This phase is going to be really busy. Working out codes, workflows, loan rules, training – there will be lots to do. All this in preparation for the final load in late April or early May and then we go live with Alma. Easy-peasy.

We are well on our way to completing our planned cleanup of data in Aleph. Thanks go to the Fulfillment/Access, Acquisitions and Metadata/Cataloguing Working Groups for spearheading this. There are some tasks left to do and some we will likely finish in Alma. You can see an update here:

Steering Committee/Working Groups
As I mentioned, the Steering Committee and the three Working Groups we have struck have been doing the lion’s share of Alma work so far. So thanks to them for that. We are reaching the point where some of the other planned Working Groups are going to be needed. The list of planned groups can be found in our org chart: Stay tuned if you put your name in for one of the groups.

Next up is the 3rd. Party Systems Integration group. That group is being led by Marc Comeau, Director, Academic Technology Services at the Dalhousie Libraries and Brad here at the office. Their task is to do the information gathering and planning for connecting Alma to your university systems for things like patron records and financial services. More groups to follow as we reach points in our implementation.

OCLC Reclamation
ExL uses the OCLC number as its main matching point when loading and deduping records into Alma. So it follows that all our records in Aleph should have a correct OCLC number. They keyword there is ‘a’ – singular. We are very good at reporting our additions and deletions on a daily basis to OCLC. But, as any of you cataloguers out there know, for a variety of reasons, the wrong number can be associated with a bib record, or even worse, more than one wrong number. OCLC provides a service called a reclamation, where we send them all 4 million of our bib records and they perform a matching exercise and send us back the correct OCLC number. ExL recommends that all implementation sites do a reclamation before their test load. We are in negotiations now with OCLC to get that reclamation done. This will entail some type of cataloguing freeze as we reload all of the OCLC numbers into Aleph. It’s too early for details yet, but this will probably take place in September. More to come.

Novanet Alma Day
Mark your calendars! We will be hosting a virtual Novanet day all about Alma on the afternoons of August 24, 25, 26. A subset of the Steering Committee has begun the planning and will be reporting to them at our May 19th meeting. Several sessions and speakers are in the works and we will announce them after the Steering Committee meeting later this month.

Alma Roadshow, part 2
And finally, I’m set to hit the virtual road with a second Alma Q&A at your institution. Your library Directors are booking times as we speak and I hope to have a session for each library this month. I’ll be presenting some more details on the timeline and upcoming Alma work. The ‘meat’ of the session will be an open Q&A for all of you, so please get those questions ready!

To close, a message about Alma Essentials training. This online set of training sessions aims at giving you an overview of the workflows and tasks in Alma. ExL has just redone all of these videos to make them a) shorter, b) more focused and c) less boring. Most of these are 2 to 5 minutes long and a great way to introduce yourself to Alma and to give you some preparation for the more in-depth training that we will be be giving as we get closer to the go live date next May. Give them a go at:

Thanks for reading!


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