Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Life with Alma at the Library Am Guisanplatz


By Rahel Birri Blezon, deputy coordinator of the Alexandria Consortia and system librarian at the Library Am Guisanplatz (BiG)

I joined Ex Libris at the German Librarian Days in Nuremberg to present BiG’s experiences with Alma and give a live demonstration. The German Librarian Days is the biggest and most important conference for librarians in the German-speaking region of Europe. This year it was attended by approximately 4,000 delegates and 155 exhibitors, and the programme consisted of almost 400 presentations and events held over four days. Over 100 delegates, all of whom gave up their lunch break to learn more about Alma at BiG, attended my presentation, which was very well received by all. The hour-long slot was unfortunately not long enough to answer everyone’s questions so I took the discussion into the foyer afterwards.

Founded in 1848 as the Federal Military Library, the Library Am Guisanplatz (BiG) is an institution of the Swiss Confederation and has been coordinating and managing the libraries of the Federal Administration since 2009. BiG also leads the Federal Documentation Committee and is responsible for the Alexandria Library Network. Open to the public, BiG ensures the provision of international technical literature in several fields such as history, politics, the armed forces, civil protection, traffic, energy, migration, architecture, environment, agriculture, finances and economics.

The project team unanimously selected Alma and Primo as they required a modern, efficient library system that would also offer an appealing online presence, and these solutions laid the foundations for improved services that would enable us to attract and retain satisfied end users. Alma has been live at BiG for almost 18 months.

The implementation was completed within five and a half months. During this time, there was a lot of communication between Ex Libris and our project team to ensure an open exchange of information and enable any questions to be answered promptly and in detail. We decided to go live with the English version of Alma as the German interface was still in production and we didn’t wish to wait. Interestingly, although the German interface was made available earlier this year and each employee was given the option of switching to this version, only half have chosen to do so – despite initial concerns about working in a foreign language. This ties in with a key theme of the entire Alma project: the success of a project such as this goes hand in hand with the attitude with which it is approached.

A number of the challenges we faced during and after the implementation could also be seen as chances for change and improvement. An example of this is the coordination of the monthly releases in Alma, which introduce new functions and provide bug fixes. These are tested and the key developments are then communicated with the 20 libraries within the Alexandria Library Network via a monthly newsletter, which has strengthened communication within the Network. The necessity of rethinking workflows within Alma is also something we saw as a chance for positive change.

Looking back, we have learned a lot from implementing and working with Alma. One crucial lesson we learned was the importance of involving the IT department fully and at an early stage. Additionally, we benefited greatly from setting clear priorities, keeping a cool head during times of change and ensuring channels of communication for feedback – good advice for any large project.

If you would like to learn more about this project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ex Libris here.

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