v31 #3 Let’s Get Technical — Migration Items in Alma

by | Jun 28, 2019 | 0 comments


by Kristen Fredericksen  (Information Processing Librarian, The Catholic University of America)  

Column Editors:  Stacey Marien  (Acquisitions Librarian, American University Library)  

and Alayne Mundt  (Resource Description Librarian, American University Library)  

Column Editor Note:  In this issue’s column, we profile how one library tackled a post-migration cleanup project.  Kristen Fredericksen, Information Processing Librarian at Catholic University, describes the process that went into cleaning up items that did not migrate with the proper process type to Alma. — SM & AM

The Situation

After The Catholic University of America migrated to Alma from Voyager on July 26, 2018, there were 23,537 physical items with process type Technical – Migration.  These were items whose Voyager item status did not have an equivalent in Alma, so they were marked with a generic process status.  It seems like a high number, but it represents only 2.1% of the approximately 1,121,552 physical item records migrated from Voyager.  Despite the relatively small number of affected items, there was substantial impact on both staff and patrons. The items became unavailable to end users, even if they might have been on the shelf. Staff could not identify the true status of these items, since Technical – Migration is a catchall term that encompasses almost all Voyager statuses except Charged and Not Charged.

In the Ex Libris Voyager ILS, an item status can be either functional or informative.  There are 25 item statuses, some of which are applied automatically by the system, while others are applied manually by staff.  One item can have multiple item statuses. The following statuses used by Catholic University became Technical – Migration:

  • At Bindery
  • Charged
  • Claims Returned
  • Damaged
  • Hold Request
  • In Process
  • Lost–Library Applied
  • Lost–System Applied
  • Not Charged
  • Renewed
  • Withdrawn

Ex Libris Alma has a different approach to item status.  Every item has a base status, which indicates whether an item is in place or not in place.  Items may also have a process type, which signifies that the item is undergoing some type of activity:

  • Acquisition
  • Claimed Returned
  • Hold Shelf
  • Loan
  • Lost
  • Managed by Department
  • Missing
  • Not in Process
  • Resource Sharing Request
  • Technical – Migration
  • Transit

In most cases, there is no direct correlation between Voyager item statuses and Alma process types.  Charged and Renewed items should migrate as LoanMissing should migrate as Missing.  For all items whose Voyager item status does not map to an Alma process type, Alma assigns the process type Technical – Migration and puts the Voyager item status in item internal note 3.

I needed a plan to remove this process type and, if necessary, assign a new status or process type.  I decided to handle the items according to their original status(es) in Voyager, so I ran an analysis in Alma Analytics to generate all items with process type Technical – Migration and the text of internal note 3.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the Voyager item status did not migrate to the note field for 2,510 items.  I reported this to Ex Libris after a test load of our data, but Ex Libris stated that this was expected behavior for items with lost statuses.  However, I realized after final migration that some items with lost statuses did have the right information in the item note field while the information did not migrate for other items without lost statuses. 

In addition, the contents of the item note were not reader friendly, so they had to be parsed in Microsoft Excel.  This was the format of a typical note:


Given the lack of data for some items and the non-ideal formatting of the data that did migrate, I decided to rely on the data in our old ILS.  I still had access to Voyager reporting, so I exported the list of barcodes from Alma and ran an Access query on their original status(es) in Voyager.  There were 19 items without barcodes, so I used their Voyager item ID instead. I used the data from that query to divide the items into groups according to statuses.  I then created itemized sets in Alma for each group. These were the final categories:

About 3,000 items had more than one item status in Voyager, but I felt that it was only worthwhile to subdivide the items with status Lost–System Applied.  This status is applied to items that have been overdue for a period defined by the library.  Therefore, it makes sense that an item would have two statuses: Lost–System Applied and Overdue.  It does not make sense for an item to have statuses Lost–System Applied and Not Charged, since an item had to be checked out to a patron to become Lost–System Applied.  These incongruous statuses were likely the result of improper procedures at some point during Catholic University’s 20-year history with Voyager.

The Process

The procedure for removing the Technical – Migration process type in Alma is not intuitive, but it is simple:

  1. Create a set of physical items (either itemized or logical).
  2. Run the Change physical items job on that set.
  3. Check the box next to the Change Type dropdown menu and select Permanent.
  4. Check the box next to the Missing status dropdown menu and leave it blank.

As I worked my way through the categories, a few overarching strategies became clear.

  • Items that were in use at the time of migration

° The Head of Preservation confirmed that 316 of the items with Voyager status At Bindery were in fact at the bindery, so she created work orders for them. 231 of the items had been returned from the bindery, so I removed the process type by running the Change physical items job as described above.  4 items are still being evaluated.

° The items with Voyager statuses Charged, Hold Request, and Renewed were at some stage of the circulation process at the time of migration.  Most of them were probably still checked out to patrons. Access Services staff verified that the circulation status of the items was properly reflected in Alma, so I removed the Technical – Migration process type.

  • Items that were definitely missing

° Statuses Lost–Library Applied and Missing were applied in Voyager by Catholic University staff after searching for the items multiple times, so I was certain that they were not on the shelf.  I changed their status with the Change physical items job, except I selected Missing in the dropdown menu instead of leaving it blank.

  • Items that needed to be searched

° Lost–System Applied is applied automatically by the system in Voyager, so I couldn’t be sure if these items were truly missing, especially since they all had at least one additional status:

Claims Returned items had not officially been changed to Missing, so they could be on the shelf.

In Transit Discharged items were most likely on the shelf but had not been received properly at their final destination.

Damaged items could have been discarded because they were no longer usable, or they could still be in circulation.

Not Charged items should have migrated to Alma without a problem, so they also needed to be checked.

° Access Services staff searched for 3,023 items in these categories.

They located 123 items, so I removed their Technical – Migration process type.

They did not locate 2,896 items, so I changed their status to Missing.

I determined that 4 of the items were not real inventory, so I deleted them.

I also used the Change physical items job to set some items’ physical condition to Damaged.

  • Items left over from institutional projects

° The items with Voyager status In Process had been cataloged and labeled with the plan of sending them to our shared collections facility.  However, other work in the Preservation Department took precedence, and it will be a while before we can send them.  They were already suppressed from discovery, so I left them unchanged.

° The items with Voyager statuses Lost–System Applied and Charged were located at our shared collections facility, so I removed the Technical – Migration process type.  The lost status was probably due to improper processing and the charged status reflected the practice of checking items out to the shared collections facility.

° The items with Voyager status Withdrawn will need more substantial work than a Change physical items job.  I need to determine whether we have withdrawn all copies of a title.  In some cases, I will be able to delete items and records, but I will retain some information about the titles in case Catholic University wants to claim access through HathiTrust in the future.  In other cases, I will only be able to suppress some holdings and item records.

The Results and Lessons Learned

Catholic University is nearing the end of the project to handle the 23,537 items that were assigned the Technical – Migration process type after migration from Voyager.  Although the process might seem daunting, it is manageable if you analyze the list in terms of functional categories.  The bulk of the work lies in checking the stacks for items that might not be missing. Even though Catholic University had completed a full inventory a few years before migration, we still had a lot of cleanup and this project was an excellent opportunity to do that work.

There are some steps that can be taken prior to migration to reduce the work of removing the Technical – Migration process type, although it is not possible to avoid the situation altogether.  Unfortunately, Voyager does not allow you to remove system-applied statuses, but you can simplify your work by reducing the number of staff-applied statuses.  For instance, change Lost–Library Applied to Missing, since that is the Alma equivalent.  Second, be sure to save a list of these items before you lose access to Voyager in case you need information that doesn’t migrate.  Finally, have a plan in place for how you want to deal with the remaining statuses so that you can fix them before they cause trouble for staff and patrons.  



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