Heather Heckman & Miranda Bennett sat down with Li Ma, Serials and Electronic Resource Librarian, on March 12 to hear her migration story. Their interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell us about a typical day working on this project.
I spent a lot of time preparing for the link resolver form—this is basically all the e-journals that will migrate into Alma through our current link resolver which is Full Text Finder. We are trying to put all of those journals into the Alma form, which sounds like copying and pasting. It’s not! For the same database, the journals might be called different things in Ebsco and Alma. That’s not too hard to figure out. What's harder is that we have been using parallel systems: we have the same e-journal in Full Text Finder and Millennium. For this project, we want to migrate this record *once* if possible. De-duping is a project we are working on as a team. When we started there were roughly over 16,000 e-journal records in Millennium, so I’ve been working with the serials team. The monograph folks helped. Yesterday there were a little over 6,000 left. We touched over 10,000. It wasn’t all accurate, so even before we were doing a lot of work cleaning up Full Text Finder. That takes A LOT. If you ask me what we’ve been working on everyday—that’s it. For example, for each journal, there’s a lot of title changes, that kind of thing. The publishers only care about the most recent title, but there might be 10 older titles we need to account for.
Another challenging piece is the form for our 2-year campuses. I need to figure out, ok, what do they have from us? In the past we didn’t always know whether they have it through us or they pay on their own. After this, that will be clear. Everyone will have their own separate account. It’s quite painful to figure out who has what with so many years of history! We tried our best.
How will your work affect our users? Our faculty and staff?
Alma integrates the link resolver and the catalog. It will be one thing for our users. Right now, as a user, you have to go to the discovery service or the separate A-Z list--two different things. In Alma, it will be one interface. Instead of clicking twice, you can search that one box on the same page. And the indexing in Alma is very powerful. They’re indexing journals, titles, also the article--all as one big index. Right now in the A-Z journal list, you just see the journal title. And if you search the catalog, you just see title level information. If you want to find an article, you will need to use the library discovery tool. All of this will be integrated in Alma.
What has been your favorite thing about this project?
I enjoyed the opportunity to really dig down into each package, to really understand what we have. It's great to see the big picture AND a detailed inventory. Once this link resolver form is complete, it will be everything we have. It will really clarify our holdings.
[Miranda: I imagine that would be very satisfying.]
Yes! Especially serials. With all the changes. It’s hard to keep to track.
[Miranda shares a story about a serials librarian who had a nervous breakdown.]
Yeah! I can really relate sometimes. One of the biggest challenges is the number of titles we have in our system. But I think we can overcome that. We have a great staff--very diligent, very detailed-oriented, very smart. Without our staff this couldn’t be done. We were literally touching 10,000 titles. It’s a challenge, but we did it. I’m really proud of everyone.
Managing title changes is another challenge. The publisher often doesn’t list previous titles for current publications. But the user might have the old title from a citation. You want to make sure the old title is there, too. That takes a lot of work. Based on my experience with Alma, they have better records. Managing titles could still be a challenge, but I’m hoping the Alma records are better and Ex Libris will respond to users after we go live. So far, based on a comparison, records in Alma are more accurate. That’s another advantage and something else I'm looking forward to!
How many lines are in your biggest spreadsheet?
Each title resides in a package, or a collection. We have about 600 collections. We don’t have every title within each package. So we have to individually copy and paste each title. That part of the spreadsheet is the most time consuming. It’s going to be at least 6,000 lines long in the end. I have to copy and paste each line, and then do a lot of manipulation in Excel. It *will* involve 6-7000 titles. But if you look at Full Text Finder, we started with 700,000, so we've come a long way. Of course many of those 700,000 will fall under databases, which I don’t have to work with.
What is the wildest thing you have seen over the course of this project?
I see question marks in records. Or I'll see a note that says this journal was canceled. But we still have access. Who is going to answer all those questions? Do we have this? I’m not sure we should! But for the most part, the records are very well kept. The previous librarians did a good job. And compared to the publishers who really don’t care about title changes--you can see how much we librarians DO care. Our records are so accurate. I’m so proud of all of the librarians who came before--the detail, the seriousness. The title history is phenomenal! I’m kind of surprised. And you can see they’ve been managing 16,000 titles and almost every title is up-to-date. They go back and trace back the history. I wish the publishers would care. Some are better, like the big publishers. Some publishers do a good job on their websites, but the information doesn’t make it into the link resolver. But the thing is students—we know that students don't go look at publisher websites. It's also frustrating that publisher listings for starting date and end date aren’t 100% accurate. That is my most frustrating thing. I wasted a lot of time on that. After this fix at least we will have our version of the records to share with our users.
What else do you want to tell your colleagues in the Libraries?
Ask us questions! For example, if you are a reference librarian and something is not clear—just ask us! I hope you will ask us.