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Leveraging your Solutions

The Open-Platform Program: A Year in Review


Solution Updates

Onward and Upward to Primo in the Cloud

Ex Libris Alma: Building an Infrastructure for Collaboration

A Voyage to the Cloud

A Giant Leap for MetaLib: The New Primo Service

Digital Long-Term Preservation in Bavaria with Rosetta


Ex Libris Around the World

Alma Collaborative Partner Program

North American Regional Meetings for Directors

The Primo Central Index at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010

Ex Libris Solution Days in Lausanne and Paris

NALIS—the Gateway to Academic Libraries in Bulgaria


Conferences and Exhibitions

Fifth IGeLU Conference at the University of Ghent, Belgium

Ex Libris Technical Seminar 2011 and ELUNA 2011

American Library Association 2011 Midwinter Meeting

EPUG-UKI Members Share Expertise and Enthusiasm

Israeli Librarians Gather for Annual User Group Seminar


Ex Libris Alma: Building an Infrastructure for Collaboration
 

John Larson, Alma Product Manager

As Ex Libris moves forward with its strategy of unified resource management, we’re developing a system that has been designed from the outset for cloud deployment. To fully leverage the advantages of the network, we’ve had to reconsider many of the workflows that we take for granted. Our goal is to consolidate wherever possible. This task includes bringing together systems that previously managed resources by format, but it also means consolidating the data and work that is being repeated in libraries around the world. 

Software-as-a-service deployment has many well-understood advantages that don’t require a total change to system design—for example, reduced reliance on local client and server hardware, simplified deployment, and a shift to central management and maintenance that frees local IT staff to work on other high-priority projects. As we design the core URM framework, we have an opportunity to apply the advantages of cloud deployment to create an infrastructure that supports and assumes collaboration at the heart of resource-management workflows.

A good way to start is by bringing data into the cloud, enabling us to reduce redundant librarian effort across institutional silos. For example, our metadata management system includes a ‘community zone’ that provides institutions with immediate access to a rich store of bibliographic and authority data. Similarly, the Ex Libris central knowledge base (CKB) that stores package and portfolio information for electronic resources can be integrated in a manner that supports the acquisition and activation of electronic resources. Robust data-sharing of this sort has been essential to the library community for decades, and by building the principle directly into Alma we ensure that data-sharing will be more streamlined and effective than ever before.

Bringing data into the cloud is a start, but it’s not the goal. We want to use this shared data as a tool to optimize workflows. As funds get tighter, it’s essential to make the best use of them for collection development and technical services. For example, let’s look at how the sharing of data can influence the life cycle of a purchase in Alma. It starts when a selector considers a recommendation in the Alma Selection module, which presents the holdings of peer institutions. Selectors can make informed purchasing decisions based on the overlap in collections of institutions with which the library has resource-sharing agreements. Once the selector has approved the purchase of an item, a bibliographic record from the community zone automatically provides the item’s description, thus accelerating the processing by technical services and getting the book onto the shelf much faster. In addition, descriptions that come from community records undergo community enhancements and automated authority control, which minimize the work that each institution must do. Again, the end goal is to use the cloud infrastructure and shared data as a tool for streamlining workflows and increasing collaboration.

A collaborative environment can also safeguard local needs. By moving applications to the cloud, Ex Libris is continuing to uphold its commitment to deliver flexible solutions that can be adapted to the specific requirements of diverse institutions. Our model is a hybrid of shared and shareable data, with plenty of local control and institutional configurations built into the out-of-the-box foundation. This hybrid model means shared data when it makes sense to streamline workflows, but it also means flexible policies, sophisticated control of institutional structures, and robust integration with other systems. All of these features are designed in the spirit of the Ex Libris open-platform strategy, offering extensions through plug-ins, documented APIs, and code-sharing on the EL Commons collaborative Web site. 

As we look to the next generation of library services, we see the need to consolidate our systems and leverage the cloud deployment for optimized, collaborative workflows. Alma is on track to provide that next-generation infrastructure.