The Beginning of Ex Libris Alma and Primo Solutions at the CCLC

By Pawel Szponar, Network Zone Manager & Systems Administrator

As the largest Consortium of Community Colleges in the country, the CCLC required a library services platform that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of our students, faculty, and staff, regardless of which of the participating Colleges they belong to: from the smallest to the largest, Alma and Primo are serving the full spectrum of academic libraries that exist in the CCLC system. In order to maximize efficiency and the utilization of resources, a great number of projects have been implemented within the Network Zone of Alma to facilitate data-driven decisions and leverage the opportunities of a shared system. From the shared management of over 250 electronic collections, through the centralization of the NetLibrary titles to the implementation of the Change The Subject Project, each and every college in our system is set to enjoy a reduction in duplicate efforts, improved discoverability of materials and quicker troubleshooting of common issues affecting the system. Through a number of ongoing maintenance and clean-up efforts at the Network Zone, the overall number of records in the system has been reduced, the quality of the existing records improved, and duplicate records identified and removed.

On the cataloging front, OCLC Publishing profiles allow the libraries to automatically synchronize their bibliographic holdings and local records with OCLC’s Worldcat, which results in increased accuracy of the holdings and constant updates to the shared records. The consortia members are enjoying less time-consuming cataloging-related workflows and more efficient updates to their holdings thanks to the integration between Ex Libris and OCLC in this area.

Further, in order to facilitate communication and error reporting from the member libraries, monthly meetings are scheduled between the Network Zone Admin and Ex Libris staff in order to discuss critical ticket escalations and priority issues facing the schools within their Alma and Primo instances. This not only allows for more attention directly from the vendor towards the most impactful issues facing our schools, but also for on-going conversations on how to improve the system and make it more useful to all our stakeholders. 

Finally, thanks to incredible efforts made by our Work Groups, we are able to create policies, procedures and documents aimed at not only codifying the best practices across all areas of the system, but also to envision and implement various improvements and projects across all functional areas of Alma and Primo. By providing guidance on common Alma-related configurations and workflows, our Work Groups are improving the experience of individual colleges in areas such as Acquisitions, Analytics, Circulation, Cataloging, ERM and Discovery and User Experience. 

All in all, the opportunities and the challenges presented by being able to share this environment across all our institutions are numerous and require a lot of time, effort and attention to tend to properly. Thanks to the incredible wealth of knowledge not only from the CCLC staff, but in each and every one our schools, we are able to build up the system, enhance features and provide deep levels of support that not only alleviate various pressure points in terms of workloads for our Librarians, but also present unique opportunities for all our students across the Consortium. As we go on, and as we deploy more and more unique projects and ways of centrally handling systemic issues, we are hoping to further enhance everyone’s experience and satisfaction with the Ex Libris Solutions we’ve chosen to implement as a Consortium.