SUNYergy Archive: Access to All Issues

October 2001
Volume 3 Number 4
Page 1

[A moment of silence, please, for the victims of our national tragedy.]
[Photo of Natalie Sturr, Systems Librarian, SUNY College at Oswego]On the Road to the SUNYConnect LMS:
Adventures with ALEPH
by Natalie Sturr, Systems Librarian, SUNY College @ Oswego

Cover Story

On the Road to the SUNYConnect LMS...Oswego

Features

HarpWeek's Use at Dutchess CC

In Her Own Words: Marlene Harris, Ex Libris

TC3's STP

Document Delivery RFP Released

ALEPH: An International Perspective

What the Working Groups are Working On

SLN Wins Educause Award

Welcome Clare

How to Contact Us

Linkable Links

Link to the SUNYConnect Committees List

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.

[Logo for Penfield Library, SUNY College at Oswego]

Are things running smoothly behind the scenes? Well... maybe not as smoothly as some people would like, but they are not too bad either. Any large project has its challenges; migrating to ALEPH isn't any different.

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.

[Image of the navigation bar for SUNY Oswego's ALEPH 500 Web OPAC]

Circulation
Circulation is functioning smoothly. Books are being checked in and out, holds are being placed, and fines are being collected. We are producing overdue notices everyday, but we still need to automate more of that process. We still are not running statistics and some reports, but that is on our list of 'projects to tackle in the near future'.

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.

Reserves
We hit some very rough roads with an under-developed Reserves module, but some just-in-time software fixes by Ex Libris allowed us to travel into the fall semester with Reserves in place. Managing Reserves is entirely web-based. It is extremely easy to use, although not yet rich in features. It has great potential, which we hope to see in upcoming software upgrades.

OPAC
Our OPAC offers almost all the features of our previous catalog (Multilis) along with many additional indexes and a wide range of search features. We have created a true keyword index as well as indexes to our Document Types and collection codes. The advanced search screen allows pull-down menus to help users more easily narrow their search. A 'filter' allows users to limit their search to 'available' - physical items not checked out of the library as well as to entries for online resources that are listed in our catalog.

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.

Cataloging
Within two weeks of going live we began to enter new cataloging into ALEPH. Even with this delay, it was only six weeks after freezing our Multilis-based cataloging. We have managed to catalog almost all the material ordered with our previous acquisitions system (BibBase) and are now beginning to catalog material ordered through ALEPH.

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.

Acquisitions
Our travels towards implementing the Acquisitions module were a bit delayed as cataloging took a higher priority. "Thanks" to New York State and SUNY not providing money to spend, we gained some extra time to test and explore the Acquisitions module. But, now we have set up our budgets, allocated money, and are currently ordering books via vendor letters as well as via email. Having an acquisitions system integrated into the LMS is a new experience for us, so workflow is still being examined while learning the features available in ALEPH.

Serials
With about 10% of our serials now being checked in through ALEPH, we are just beginning this part of our journey. We are not too surprised; serials management is known for its challenges!

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.

Current Projects
The first two months after STP found us completing the setup of cataloging, acquisitions and serials, addressing some circulation concerns, and taking much needed vacations. By month three, things seemed "under control" and we began looking at important (vs. critical) issues. Library department heads each compiled a list, in priority order, of their projects and concerns. We are now working our way through these lists.

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.

 [Image of the ALEPH500 "toolbar"]

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. [Road sign for Freeway Entrance ramp to ALEPH]

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!

Go forward to page 2


Cover Story

On the Road to the SUNYConnect LMS...Oswego

HarpWeek's Use at Dutchess CC

In Her Own Words: Marlene Harris, Ex Libris

[Image: Bobby Approved Logo]

Feature

TC3's STP

Document Delivery RFP Released

ALEPH: An International Perspective

 

Feature

What the Working Groups are Working On

SLN Wins Educause Award

Welcome Clare

 

How to Contact Us

Linkable Links

Link to the SUNYConnect Committees List