|On the Road to the
Adventures with ALEPH
by Natalie Sturr, Systems Librarian, SUNY College @ Oswego
Although it may be hard to believe, it has been three months since Oswego's Penfield Library went live with the SUNYConnect LMS (ALEPH500). From our users point of view, the library is doing business as usual. We are providing reference services, teaching classes, checking books in and out, sending overdue notices, collecting fines, checking-in serials, and ordering and cataloging books - all with ALEPH.
Our adventures with ALEPH began last December. Since then, we have traveled over some pretty rough roads - and we have hit more than our fair share of potholes. As the first Ex Libris site to implement version 14.2, we were challenged by software that was not thoroughly tested. We spent at least as much time troubleshooting and reporting problems as we did customizing the software to meet our needs. As a result, we brought up some modules later than we wanted. But now, three months later, one might never know this. The road is getting smoother, the travelling easier.
Oswego went live with ALEPH on July 3rd. (Was this our way of showing independence from Multilis?) By 10:00 am that day our web pages and all public PCs were Connecting to the new ALEPH catalog and we were checking books in and out. Even after extensive testing there was something hearteningly amazing about seeing that check-out function work...for real.
All the time we spent setting up and testing ALEPH tables - which was significant - has proven worthwhile. Our library policies are intact within ALEPH and we have had to make only a few changes to our tables since going live.
Just recently, we have been able to explore and add new features (this is the fun part!). For example, we are now using Fast Cat (cataloging-on-the-fly) at the Circulation Desk to add unlinked material from our Government Documents collection to the database when students want to check them out. Staff members fill in basic bibliographic information in a simple form (i.e., no MARC tags!), then check the item out as usual. Upon checkout, a hold is automatically placed on the book for the Cataloger account. As an added bonus, Fast Cat records can be easily retrieved from the OPAC.
From the beginning, we offered the 'Personal Circulation Information' feature in the OPAC. Users can see their loans, holds and fines, but best of all, they can renew their books online. This has been tremendously popular with our users - and a terrific selling point. Faculty who complain of 'change' are quickly enamored with this feature and are soon accepting of the new catalog.
We have found that the cataloging module has a number of useful features. The "ALEPH way" (namely - brief record; acquisition; and then, full cataloging) has, however, provided us the opportunity to re-examine our workflow. ALEPH can be set up to import a record directly from OCLC and at the same time provide some clean-up of the bibliographic record while creating and populating the holdings and item records. This is a wonderful feature, but with the ALEPH approach to workflow the responsibility to select the appropriate OCLC record occurs during the acquisitions process. We are still exploring the possibilities in regard to this change in workflow.
For each title it takes a while to finalize the publication pattern and begin the check-in process. Due to some limitations with our previous system, our converted publication patterns need to be carefully reviewed and often updated in ALEPH. And prior to beginning check-in, ALEPH requires additional information to be entered. These requirements point to varying levels of conformance to the MARC format for Holdings in both our old system and in our new system. Although we are beginning to pick up speed, we know we are in for a long journey.
We will soon begin upgrading the ALEPH software from "Patch 1" to "Patch 2". This will involve "reconciling" ALEPH tables (Ex Libris' terminology for comparing, editing and updating the various configuraton tables) and testing the software prior to going live with the upgraded software. We are looking forward to seeing bug fixes and additional functions - including some we suggested while implementing Patch 1.
Our long-term goal is to explore the untapped features and functions of ALEPH. For example, we could send out a different overdue notice depending on whether it is the first, second or third notice sent. We'd like to explore the "fix doc" capabilities in cataloging to see just how much work can be automated. And, we would really like to implement serials claiming.
Although ALEPH requires a fair amount of setup to reflect a library's policies and workflow, it is both flexible and powerful. During our travels so far, we have not had as much time as we would like to sightsee and explore all of ALEPH's capabilities. We hope to have these opportunities soon.
As you can see, our traveling adventures continue. Maybe we're not yet cruising down the interstate, but we can see the entrance ramp just ahead. We're looking forward to a fun ride, and to the time when you join us!
|How to Contact Us|