In July 2019 we moved our data and operations into the Alma library management system, working with the IT Application Support – Research Services Team. This huge and complex whole-organisation change was delivered on time, on budget and without major disruption.
What is the library management system?
Our library management system underpins core Library services. It allows researchers and students to discover and access print and online resources in our collections. Through it, we purchase new items and set up new subscriptions, catalogue manage and circulate library stock. With so much of our collection now available online, we also use it to manage our electronic resources, their licences and the authentication routes that enable access.
Scale of operation
With the support and expertise of our IT colleagues we moved the following to the new system:
- 2 million bibliographic records
- 2.5 million items
- 100,000 patrons
- 60,000 loans
- 400 requests
- 600,000 e-records
- 250,000 reading list links.
Benefits of Alma
We are looking forward to making the most of the improved functionality that the new system gives us:
- better e-resources management
- significantly improved workflows for acquisitions and cataloguing
- superior reporting and analytics capability
- simpler integration with other University and external systems
- more resilience with less support needed as the system is cloud-based
- more regular updates to functionality and the means to request new developments
- improved search functionality with real-time updates to data.
Making it easier to find the information you need
Metadata is the key to resource discovery. The better the quality of the data, the easier it is to find the books and other resources that we hold in the Library. Over the years, our bibliographic metadata has come from different sources, going back as far as our paper-based catalogue where records were very brief.
We enriched our bibliographic records before migrating them into the new system, working with a company called Backstage Library Works. Phase 1 of the project matched and enhanced our bibliographic records against those held by the Library of Congress. In Phase 2 we cleaned and validated the data in the records, but the primary focus was to improve authority control. This makes it easier for Library users to find works by a particular author, or that come from a particular organisation.
We share our catalogue records with the UK’s Jisc Library Hub Discover and with OCLC’s WorldCat, so this improvement in the consistency of names and headings enhances the discoverability of our collections for users in Leeds and beyond.
Making user journeys easier: process mapping the user perspective
Customer Services staff used process mapping to identify significant changes to improve the user experience.
Mapping highlighted pinch points, where things don’t work or can go wrong and the decisions customers have to make to complete a task. After discussion with staff and student representatives, we simplified loan periods and user categories, and introduced automatic renewals and online registration.
Creating the discovery layer with user research
An iterative programme of user research, including interviews, analytics and observations, shaped the configuration of the new Library Search. We made over 100 adjustments to the native interface as a result and integrated a new tool called LibKey to make accessing PDF articles much easier.
Other search interface improvements include grouping different editions of the same title together, being able to explore the literature through citation trails within library collections, and saving individual results to your library account to refer to later.
Our research showed that a key task is known-item searching, so we’ve given people more control with new drop down menus on the homepage. So if you want a book by Charlotte Brontë rather than an article about her, you can choose the author and book option and you will get a focussed results set. But the default search behaviour is to put the title into the search bar then hit return, so we kept the options to refine search results too.