Aleph implementation: An ongoing job well done
A quick glance at the six-page Emory Libraries Aleph Implementation Project Plan gives one an idea of the tremendous amount of work that our library completed in just 283 days. From server and software installation to data conversion to training, the effort was Herculean. Likewise, our gratitude must be distributed across the entire organization. Click here to see a list of names of the 83 people who were part of the core project team or the numerous project subgroups. Many more helped with dress-rehearsals, outreach, etc.
On Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, Emory Libraries completed the second phase of upgrades to discoverE (powered by Primo) and replaced our 17-year-old back-end library automation system (Sirsi) with a new software system (ALEPH). Because the parent company, Ex Libris, owns and supports Primo, Aleph, and SFX, the improvements better integrated discoverE, EUCLID, and our other holdings, with the goal of providing a more seamless interface to Emory’s rich resources. These upgrades will allow future growth in library capabilities and holdings also.
The transition to a new system is never easy and involves so much work that goes unseen and unsung. For example, the two test data loads and the production data load took thousands of hours of planning, testing, verifying and checking. Horror stories from other libraries’ migration projects tell of massive data loss and major disruptions. Given Emory’s extremely tight project schedule, we are fortunate that our issues were relatively minor.
The Metadata Working Group/Cataloging & Serials Testing Group tested the Aleph cataloging, serials, and acquisitions modules, updated the data specs, created data mapping workbooks, conducted training related to these modules, and determined the configuration settings. The Circulation, ILL and Reserves Working Group did all this for their module, in addition to determining how course reserves should be configured in Aleph. At the same time, they reworked and standardized many workflows, systems (like notifications) and policies. The Web/Public Interface Working Group did extensive testing of the Aleph OPAC (EUCLID) and discoverE. The Acquisitions/Finance Testing Group worked on transitioning the ordering, receiving, accounting and budgeting pieces of the system. Finally, the core systems staff managed the exports and productions loads, assisted all groups with data specs, configured settings, and ensured integration between Aleph and other Library/University products and services.
The summer staff training program was another example of many hands coming together to accomplish a very complex goal in record time. Groups designed and implemented introductory classes that everyone attended, as well as different tracks for different staff members (acquisitions, circulation, cataloging, reference and collection development, and serials). Extensive training documentation was created and distributed through several channels (including Staffweb).
Since the 10/10 “go live” date, the library staff has been working tirelessly to identify, report and address problems. We strive to help our end-users understand the changes and learn how to navigate the new features of the system. The library invested in a user-feedback mechanism (User Voice software) that is providing support and a way to collect data that can be used to continually improve the system. The goal is to create a perpetual feedback/enhancement loop with a relatively quick turnaround time. To that end, this month we will see a soft launch of an upgraded discoverE interface. A library group is also working on learning and implementing the Aleph Reporting Module (ARC).
In conclusion, the process has been fast and furious. There is so much more to be done that it is easy to feel overwhelmed or deflated. However, when we take a moment to look over all that we have accomplished in such a short time, we should feel some pride at a job well done. Bravo!
—Kim Collins, chair of the Ex Libris Communications and Outreach Working Group
Readux: The wave of the future
Readux has become part of the Emory Libraries lingo recently. It is a project under the Digital Assets Strategy strategic objective (click the link and jump to page 8). Readux is the acronym for “Read Edit Annotate Digital User Experience.” A mouthful, to be sure. So what is it, exactly?
First, Readux is a web-based research application for Emory and worldwide users to better employ library digital collections for their learning, teaching, and research. Second, it’s an opportunity for Emory Libraries, and eventually other libraries, to collaboratively curate collections with users. We plan to drive both user and peer adoption for managing their online collections. In my opinion, a set of digital assets management strategies such as the ones we are implementing in Readux make this research tool appealing to our users and peers.
Readux presents users with several post-discovery curation tools. We believe it is paramount for libraries to serve them beyond simply providing search and discovery tools. In addition to those tools, we aim to connect them with library staff and peers. Readux will enable these customers to work on their research without leaving the library’s virtual environment by providing them with the ability to extract text for quotations, highlight text for comprehension, or bookmark it for later reference. Readux will also allow people to export their research to Microsoft Word or Zotero, for example.
Readux will change our closed collection management practice to a model which directly involves users. We call the new model co-curation strategy. Opportunities for co-curation come from every user action. When these actions are compounded they become indicators of collection popularity and also serve to continuously enhance discovery and use for others. The compound effect will be more powerful when customers from multiple institutions collaborate together.
Because Readux creates back-office functions to manage digital collections, it is more than a front-end user experience; Readux will leverage technologies to process collections. For example, it employs Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and an indexer to support full-text search. Furthermore, it will tap semantic analysis software to extract concepts and entities from the text for faceted searching. Although those backend functions will free staff from cataloging some collections, we acknowledge the limitation of technologies on some other formats, such as archival images. In those cases, Readux advocates for strategies to allow staff to produce minimal metadata and leverage the co-curation strategy to allow users to enrich metadata over time.
The goal of Readux is to expedite delivery of library collections to users by addressing a long standing universal problem of the libraries: we have more collections than we can process in a timely manner. The application searches for sustainable and scalable solutions for libraries to manage collections in the digital age. For more information, please read the Readux Charter.
Staff from across the Woodruff Library has been conceptualizing, experimenting and prototyping Readux since spring 2011 and we are looking forward to sharing its progress with you soon.
—Zheng (John) Wang, director for digital assets strategies
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