Benefits of Alma and Primo: The CSU Experience

By Ian Chan, Head of Library Technology Initiatives and Development, CSU San Marcos, and LSP Specialist

When the CSU choose to implement Alma and Primo as the basis for a systemwide Unified Library Management System [ULMS], a primary goal was to combine the library catalog and discovery service into one search tool across resources, including digital archives and other assets. Ready access to CSU-wide holdings was another key deliverable that was sought through the adoption of these systems. More efficiencies and collaboration among CSUs were also seen as a highly desirable outcome.

The implementation of Primo has provided a unified tool that merges the library catalog and discovery search interfaces. All but one CSU currently offers an ‘everything’ search that combines results from local collections, systemwide print holdings, and Primo Central collections. Most CSU libraries also provide their users with separate search tabs for local collections, articles, and course reserves. All campuses use the same branding and overall layout for the Primo interface. More than three quarters of CSU libraries have elected to include non-full-text Primo Central results by default, thus allowing users to check all collections indexed in Primo Central. 

Primo has successfully provided each CSU library with ready access to systemwide print holdings. A search scope allowing users to search print holdings across the CSU is offered by all campuses. A majority of campuses integrate all CSU print holdings within their default ‘everything’ search scope. The availability of systemwide holdings has made it possible to create the CSU+ resource sharing network that allows users to request print items from any campus. Overall, the CSU libraries have seen strong growth in demand for this service.

Central management of some aspects of the Primo interface, as well as shared e-collections, has alleviated the burden of local operational upkeep. Visual and functional preferences commonly adopted across all campuses are implemented and maintained by the central office. This saves time and effort for each campus and creates efficiencies systemwide. This has allowed the CSU libraries to pool development and assessment efforts rather than repeat the same work locally. Successful examples of this include redesigning the sign-in and user account menu options within the Primo navigation bar, improving the display of systemwide holdings within each record, and the placement of the systemwide Primo logo (all CSU use OneSearch as the name for Primo). Shared e-collections are activated and maintained by the systemwide office. The central office also provides weekly ERM updates to assist campuses in managing their collections.

Collaborative development and assessment by teams that include representatives from multiple campuses has produced significant improvements to the functionality and interface of Primo. These initiatives have also created efficiencies by removing duplication of effort at the local campus level. Some examples include a multi-campus user experience assessment of the labels and design used within Primo, a drop-in replacement for the link resolver, and improving the placement of the actions menu (this menu offers options for emailing records, generating citations, and more) within the full record display. These efforts have also produced centrally managed add-ons that allow campuses to integrate Google Analytics, send citations via SMS, and add problem reporting forms to the full record display. A project led by the systemwide office created a web app that makes it easier for users to locate course reserves.

Collaboration among the campuses, a unified tool for searching across collections, and central management of the system are some of the positive benefits achieved through the adoption of Primo. While key project goals were accomplished, there are ongoing efforts in the CSU libraries to seek improvements to the Primo interface, the functionality of the integrated link resolver, and the indexing of collections. Through working together, the CSU libraries will continue to focus on delivering the best possible discovery search experience to its users.