Beyond the Library Catalog and Summit – the bridge to knowledge and an innovative approach to managing library materials and services.
From 37 to one, the libraries of the Orbis Cascade Alliance are moving from stand-alone systems to a single integrated system. Through strategic planning, the members of the Alliance have concluded that improved services, cost efficiency, and prospects for cooperative collection development and collaborative approaches to technical services (the behind the scenes library operations) will be facilitated by a move to a single shared solution. More than simply replicating legacy systems in a cloud-computing environment, we are expecting to be able to deliver a unified set of services that will exceed the capabilities of traditional library systems.
Alliance libraries want to create capacity for improving our services despite our budget challenges. Scale matters – moving from 37 systems to a single, large integrated system enables us to work together in new ways. This collaboration allows us to lower our costs for borrowing from one another, leverage our collections funds, reduce our cost of print management and better preserve the historical record. Just as important, this new system brings with it a new user interface. Through a single search box, users will be able to search across a much broader array of content from the libraries’ collections, exploring locally-managed collections, along with regional and global resources.
As Alliance libraries have worked together over the last few years, it has become increasingly clear that the 20+ year old systems we now use came from a time of limited network bandwidth, expensive data storage, and lack of standards. They were great for their time, but now these old systems make it difficult and costly to create new services, integrate with other systems, create new workflows, and extract data. For example, it is essentially impossible for us to meaningfully pair up circulation and collections data in a way that allows for informed cooperative collection development. We also know the cost of operating older systems is very high, especially so when we each are running our own stand-alone systems. The costs of this new system are distributed across the 37 libraries using a well-established model the Alliance has used for other fees and a team of staff from across member libraries are collaboratively doing the work of implementation.
This is an enormous project that requires a high degree of cohesion. It is big because we are dealing with 8.8 million records. It is big because we are undertaking three projects in one: moving from 37 systems to one, implementing a next generation system, and creating innovative approaches to collaboration in technical services that provides improved options to explore the best ways to work together. We have a track record to build on: Over the last several years the Alliance has participated in a variety of successful collaborative projects including Summit, that familiar system which allows library patrons to search and request library materials owned by other Alliance member libraries. In addition, we created the Northwest Digital Archives, providing access to primary sources in the Northwest, have worked to preserve materials through a distributed print repository, and have pioneered a shared collection of ebooks driven by the interests of our patrons.
Because of the scope of this project, it will take until December 2014 to get all Alliance libraries onto the new system. Groups of six to 10 libraries will migrate every six months, with the first to go-live in June 2013. Not all the functionality we expect to have in December of 2014 can be in place until the last libraries come on board, so we will be running a hybrid of the old and the new until then. The same good service you have come to expect from library staff, along with the delivery of Summit and ILL items, will continue uninterrupted but there will be the inevitable bumps that come with any migration, particularly one of this scale. But the goal should be worth the mild disruption. Thanks in advance for your patience and good humor.
This migration represents our intention as a group of libraries to work together on projects that benefit from scale and shared expertise to gain better services and efficiencies for our campuses. Information on how to navigate the new user interface will be available on Willamette's website, at all our service desks, in fliers, and of course, with staff members. If you have any questions or suggestions along the way, be sure to inquire at any library service desk, with your liaison librarian, or library administration.