by Sever Bordeianu and Laura Kohl, University of New Mexico
LIBROS is a consortium of 17 academic and special libraries in New Mexico. It started when the University of New Mexico’s library automated its catalog in 1989. Soon after, other libraries in the state joined UNM’s online catalog by attaching their library holdings and essentially sharing bibliographic records. The consortium grew organically over the years as more libraries joined in order to participate in a virtual community so important in a geographically large but sparsely populated state as New Mexico. The system ran on a traditional standalone Innovative Interfaces system (III) centrally administered from the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
By 2013 two factors caused the right conditions for a system migration. The server was reaching its end of life cycle and would need to be replaced. At the same time, ILS vendors began introducing the next generation, cloud-based systems. The libraries took advantage of these circumstances and went out for bid for a new ILS. The RFP was sent out in March 2013. Several vendors responded and were invited for visits during the summer. * After an extensive (and very confidential) evaluation process the consortium chose OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services (WMS) in November 2013. Preparations for the data migration began immediately.
*All the vendors that came for site visits had impressive products. Ultimately, the committee considered a variety of factors, including price considerations, but the committee’s evaluation criteria were kept confidential according to the law and were only shared with the parties directly involved.
OCLC A DIFFERENT KIND OF VENDOR
WMS is unique among vendors because the catalog is OCLC’s WorldCat database. WorldCat is the bibliographic database par excellence and the source of most, if not all, bibliographic records used by all other ILSs. A distinctive feature of WorldCat is the master bibliographic record which cannot be duplicated. This means that libraries no longer take the records locally but instead attach their holdings to the master record in WorldCat. The records are branded with the library’s holdings, and local holdings records (LHRs) are attached. The LHR’s are only visible from the library’s WorldCat Local interface. Changes to master records can only be performed by trained librarians whose libraries participate in various cooperative cataloging projects. Moreover, in WMS all records are public. Libraries do not have the option of creating local records and masking them from public view. In the III system there was extensive use of such records and as a result a lot of local information that had been lovingly hand crafted by the catalogers, including valuable enhancements that described the piece in hand, was lost in the migration. This had two implications for the LIBROS data. First, it eliminated the possibility of creating or migrating locally created records. And second, in order for records to migrate, they needed to have an OCLC record number. In the local system there were thousands of records that did not meet the two criteria. These records would not migrate. Over the years we had accumulated many records that were no longer active and that were not visible to the public. Due to a general propensity to err on the side of caution, these records, which were inactive, were allowed to remain in the old system. The librarians examined these records seriously to determine which would need to be archived. In a few cases records were exported into spreadsheets, but the majority did not migrate. In some instances, the data had to be recreated after migration, but on the whole the benefit outweighed the loss.
WMS is a cloud-based system. In this model, the library no longer needs to purchase and maintain a local server onsite. The hardware and its maintenance are performed by the vendor. Cloud-based computing has become common in the industry and is definitely a major trend in automation. In fact all vendors of modern ILSs today offer cloud-based systems (Breeding, 2011).
OCLC assigned a WMS migration team to the LIBROS migration. The LIBROS consortium also created a migration team which consisted of functional experts from the libraries (cataloging, circulation, electronic resources). From the outset, the OCLC team defined benchmarks and timelines for each step of the migration process. This was done contractually and each party committed to achieving the benchmarks by the specified dates. It is to the credit of all participants that no deadlines were missed and the migration took place without any delays.
In February 2014 the OCLC team came for a two day onsite visit to UNM. This set the stage and gave us the opportunity to create a common language. LIBROS librarians started becoming familiar with WMS terminology – what we called “item” records are called Local Holdings Records (LHR) in WMS – and it gave the OCLC team the opportunity to learn about the individual libraries in LIBROS (UNM Los Alamos, Highlands University, etc.) and specific local system terminology like the difference between a branch location (i.e. a library building) versus an item location (i.e. a specific floor in a library). After the site visit, OCLC scheduled weekly WebEx conference meetings to discuss the details for each stage of the migration. In addition, the WMS support center provided numerous training webinars, and some webinars were conducted live by the OCLC team. There was also a constant stream of emails and phone calls. At no time during the migration did the communication break down.
The LIBROS consortium had over 4 million bibliographic records and many more attached item and ‘check in’ records. Each library had patron records numbering in the thousands. Item records for each library contained circulation information and the libraries wanted to keep that data. Over the years, the libraries had created standards for sharing records, but despite our best efforts, there were many incongruities in the system. In preparation for the migration, the libraries engaged in several cleanup projects taking advantage of III’s global capabilities. Library staff took advantage of the migration process to perform some cleanup projects that had been postponed in the past due to time constraints. Cleanup was primarily performed on serial records (in order to standardize holdings), but there were also numerous records that had incorrect branch codes, as well as a sizable number of records with no OCLC record numbers. In the case of this last group, the library sent these records to OCLC where they were processed using a sophisticated matching algorithm to identify the OCLC record number. The libraries decided to migrate only the active bibliographic records that had at least one item attached. Records with no items, such as electronic resources would not migrate. Instead, these would be placed on WMS’s Knowledge Base (KB). The KB is the component of WMS which contains the electronic databases and resources. Linked within the library catalog and discovery tool the KB allows patrons to search electronic content at the same time as bibliographic content.
On April 1, 2014 the LIBROS database was frozen and the system administrator began extracting the data. This took a week. The data was then sent to OCLC via FTP in batches of 90 thousand records. OCLC validated the data and several batches had to be resent. The records sent to OCLC consisted of bibliographic records and item records. With these, OCLC set holdings and created LHRs in WMS. This process took several weeks. At this stage, the migration was essentially complete. Of course, before declaring victory, many more stages of data validation and quality control had to be performed. Libraries had to check that records for each location had migrated, that the holdings were reflected correctly, that the circulation statuses were working, and so on. Once the records migrated, circulation data was sent. The circulation data was not sent with the initial record loads because it had to be added to each library’s LHRs after these were created. The libraries also wanted to have the most up to date circulation information, since these data were sent 3 months after the record loads. Libraries are particular about maintaining circulation statistics because it is important in collection maintenance. One can only imagine the complexity of extracting and then recreating circulation statistics for 17 libraries, many of which have several branches, but to OCLC’s credit this process happened smoothly. And then there were the patron record loads, with each library having to send its patron records separately. In this case, they had the institution’s IT department deliver the data.
Simultaneously, the circulation team worked on loan tables. This task can be daunting for a multi library consortium with numerous locations and a variety of patron types. Just to give a flavor of the complexity – faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduates and community patrons each have different borrowing privileges. Books can circulate for periods varying from 2 hours for a reserve item to an entire semester for a monograph. Renewal privileges vary depending on patron type. And then there are the semester breaks. Tied to all this are the overdue notices. The circulation team, with extensive assistance from WMS staff, created the loan tables and they worked adequately on day one. After migration, some tweaking was required.
After a library validated its data, OCLC performed a “scan/delete” process. This process consisted in a batch deletion of incorrect holdings. Libraries that had been members of OCLC for many years invariably had discrepancies between their actual holdings and what was indicated in OCLC. In standalone systems, if an item was withdrawn, the library also had to delete the holdings in OCLC. We knew that over the years this last step had not been performed consistently. The scan delete identified the titles that OCLC indicated a holding for but for which no record was sent with the migration loads. Libraries received lists of these OCLC record numbers and could check the local system to determine if the item still existed or had been deleted. In the case of UNM, over 90 thousand items had incorrect holdings. After verification by the library OCLC deleted the holdings in WorldCat.
The libraries went live in WMS in stages. UNM was the first library to go live, on July 1, 2014. The other libraries went live beginning in September, and the last library became active in January 2015. There were no major glitches for any of the libraries. Going live was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. While we encountered some initial confusion due to the inherent difference of the two systems, most functions operated optimally from the start. After six months the staff has gotten used to the system and its functionality.
WHAT IS WMS
WMS is more than an ILS. This new type of system, which transcends the ILS, does not yet have a formal name. While not unique to WMS, it refers to the latest generation (not to use the term next generation) library system. It consists of the traditional library catalog of bibliographic records. It also has an integrated Knowledge Base where the electronic resources and databases reside. The KB is quite extensive. There are some collections that any WMS member library can activate, such as the GPO online collection. For other electronic collections libraries can activate their holdings, rather than loading holdings individually. Individual electronic books reside in the KB. The KB also has a built in license manager and allows libraries to create custom collections of electronic or even print resources. This is definitely an area where libraries will be able customize their holdings as they become more versed in the use of this new tool.
WORLDCAT LOCAL AND WORLDCAT DISCOVERY
The public interface of the WMS software is WorldCat Local, with the newest iteration being the WorldCat Discovery Layer. This discovery tool provides access to the entire range of a library’s resources: its books through the bibliographic records, and its electronic resources, at the article level, through the KB. A large number of OCLC records are ‘FRBRized’. The Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records brings together records for every incarnation of a work such as print, video, audio, and more. WorldCat Discovery also supports faceted searching, so users can choose to view only peer reviewed journal articles, or dissertations, or books. This is truly a state of the art system supported by the most powerful search and display capabilities available today. For the LIBROS consortium libraries the difference is staggering. In the old standalone system, the catalog would search 4 million records. Electronic resources required separate searching in EDS. With WorldCat, patrons search 2.1 billion records, of which 300 million are the FRBRized bibliographic records in OCLC, and the rest the library’s electronic resources. At this stage, there is one word of caution. As clould-based systems, both WMS and WorldCat are dynamic resources which are constantly being upgraded and improved. At the time of this writing, the WorldCat Discovery layer, which is significantly more powerful than WorldCat Local is in beta testing. It promises to be an even better interface.
Going live in WMS changed each libraries’ workflow, particularly that of UNM’s, and resulted in new policies and staff having to learn many new procedures. The biggest difference encountered under the system was how streamlined acquisitions and cataloging had become, with WMS combining many tasks previously done by two separate departments into single processes that can be accomplished by fewer staff working within the Acquisitions Module. The ordering of new material has been simplified and requires only that a staff member select the correct bibliographic record available in OCLC’s WorldCat database. When the material is unpacked, both the invoice and the cataloging of the book can be done simultaneously in one single process, which WMS now calls ‘receiving’. Once the barcode is affixed to the book and scanned into the system the library’s holdings are attached and the LHR is created, effectively cataloging the book. There are of course instances where there is not a full or adequate cataloging record available at the time of ordering, or none exists at all, and in these cases temporary records are created. In these instances, once the item is physically received it can be sent on to cataloging for more attention. As more vendors continue to create shelf ready records, and even more libraries participate in the enhancement of bibliographic records, this streamlined workflow becomes extremely beneficial to libraries because it cuts down on the number of steps involved and the number of staff required to order and catalog new material. In fact, one of the benefits WMS mentions in its marketing is that libraries eliminate their cataloging backlogs fairly quickly after adopting WMS.
There were other adjustments besides the workflow changes. The adoption of a new system was a very interesting process, similar to learning a new language, or “migrating” to a new country. From the very first visit of the OCLC team to New Mexico it became obvious that we were using different terminology. The catalogers thought, naively, that working with OCLC, which is the primary cataloging utility in the world, the terminology would be familiar. Not so. We’ve already mentioned the LHR, but there are other terms that took learning. The term cataloging does not exist in the WMS drop down menus. Instead, one uses the “Metadata” module and goes to “Record Manager.” Cataloging can be performed in the Acquisitions module, where it is termed “Receiving.” Invoicing simply means receiving and item and getting ready for payment, not actually processing and invoice. Of course communication is a two way street. The WMS team had to learn LIBROS and III terminology. In item records, III has a “status” field. WMS does not have such a field. Instead this function is performed by a shelving location. Explaining what status was and figuring out how to accommodate that function took some discussion. These examples are used to give a flavor of the experience.
In fall 2014 the LITA annual conference took place in Albuquerque. There were various sessions devoted to migration from libraries that had recently had the experience, such as ORBIS CASCADE and PALNI, as well as UNM. They all had similar experiences about lessons learned. First of all, stress less. Do not expend too much energy on cleanup projects before the migration, do only those that truly matter. The LIBROS libraries definitely had some very ambitious plans for cleanup, and time constraints (from February to April) prevented many of them from being undertaken. This was a blessing in disguise, because it actually didn’t matter. It is important to remember that the migration will not change the data. So it will be of the same quality after migration. One of the speakers at LITA said it most succinctly – if on day one patrons can find the books and if they can check them out (which they could), everything else can be fixed. Of course, on day one the system allowed for much more than finding books and circulating them. And of course, there were things we still had to do, like bringing up the reserves module. But overall, the experience was very positive.
The LIBROS migration was a major undertaking and it was successful. Credit goes to the high level of professionalism and expertise of the WMS migration team and the dedication, hard work, and professionalism of the librarians in the LIBROS consortium. As we are becoming increasingly familiar with the new system we feel that the effort was worthwhile and it is great professional satisfaction to work with a modern, state of the art system.
Breeding, M. (2011, April 1). The New Frontier. Library Journal , 24-30.