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Alma Implementation

Let's do this!

A contract for a library services platform (LSP), Alma, has been signed by CUNY and the vendor, Ex Libris, and approved by New York State. The Office of Library Services is now beginning to work with the vendor to initialize the environment and get our data into the new platform. Extensive testing will be conducted. By the time of the kick-off, we expect to have a fully operational Alma environment.

The vendor has approved a CUNY go-live date of August 3, 2020, with a kick-off event in early January 2020. For the CUNY Libraries, that’s when the project will officially begin!

OLS will be responsible for overall central project planning, training, and communications. That said, the impact and, ultimately, the success of this endeavor will be commensurate to the commitment and effectiveness of the collective. At every level, accountability, communication, and effective change management will be critical.

Aleph to Alma Migration

Current Technology Landscape

The primary difference between the traditional integrated library system ("ILS") offerings and the new library services platform ("LSP") is that the ILS products were largely designed around the management of print collections. As libraries have moved increasingly to accommodate digital/electronic collections (at least 90% of academic library acquisitions budgets are for electronic resources!), they’ve found the legacy ILS products unable to effectively and efficiently handle the integration of all the workflows that are different, yet necessary, for both print and electronic/digital collections. In addition, legacy systems like Aleph, are based on 25+ year old mainframe (client-server) technologies whose total cost of ownership is high in relation to its value. Data exchange with vendors, bibliographic services is primarily via ad hoc, manual loading. Interfaces are extremely outdated. Usability is poor. Advanced reporting requires expertise in writing SQL statements, report formats are constrained.

Legacy Generation: Aleph

Manages primarily print collections. Staff interfaces are Windows clients. OLS, local IT supports 900+ clients across CUNY with no central configuration management.

  • Acquisitions (ordering, receiving, invoicing print materials, budgeting)
  • Cataloging (classifying and indexing print materials)
  • Reporting (via SQL)
  • Circulation (lending print materials to patrons and receiving them back)
  • Serials (tracking print magazine, journals, and newspaper holdings)
  • OPAC (public interface for users)

Current Generation: Alma

An LSP is a unified resource management system, unifying end-to-end management of print, electronic resources and digital collections. The e-resource management workflows for library staff are consistent with workflows for managing print resources, so not only do staff not need to use separate systems or ad hoc manual processes, spreadsheets, etc. LSPs have native advanced analytics to inform collection development, utilization and benchmarking at the campus/system level and between consortia, e.g., SUNY – CUNY.

This approach enables:

  • Cross format selection and acquisition as well as e-resource activation, license management at the system and the campus level.
  • Cross format metadata management and schema for print and electronic resources.
  • Link resolution built into the inventory so many of the steps involving activation and publication of resources for discovery can be automated.
  • Data-driven, shared collection management. Usage, cost per use, and other tools to evaluate value and overlap of print and e-resources when making purchasing, renewal or cancellation decisions can be integrated into staff workflows for ensuring data-driven collection management. Reporting can be self-service with Oracle OBI platform.

An LSP is a cloud-based, SaaS solution:

  • No management of local hardware, clients, or service packs and upgrades. No server access required, no command line.
  • Reduces the technical expertise required for basic management activities.
  • Extensible. API access to vendors, bibliographic services, SIS, LMS.

Migration Scope

Here is what's coming over from Aleph to Alma:

  • Bibliographic records
  • Inventory (print & electronic)
  • Patrons
  • Fulfillment (current loans, current hold requests, current fines & fees)
  • Holdings
  • Acquisitions 
  • Course reserves (Course information, reading lists & citations)
  • SFX