How the Library Services Platform Project is Changing Us

By Doug Achterman, Gavilan College and Past President, Council of Chief Librarians and Co-Chair of the LSP Governance Committee

In the coming years, we’ll be able to assess Ex Libris’s Alma/Primo LSP with depth and specificity. We’ll have figured out how to leverage many of its strengths, we’ll have work-arounds and complaints about what it can’t do, and we’ll be joining other consortia in working with Ex Libris to make improvements. But one fact is already clear: this project has already changed California’s community college library faculty and staff. 

Here are some key ways we are different:

  1. CCC library faculty and staff are developing a stronger identity as a single cohesive group.
    We have a governing committee to provide oversight to the operation of the LSP that is committed to inclusion, communication, and transparency. We are developing policies that will help us act in the best interests of the entire group. Through our work groups, we are developing resources that are already saving our professional community time and are leading us to effective practices and procedures in our new LSP environment.
  2. We are communicating within our CCC professional library community more than ever before.
    That communication happens in major channels—over 600 of us on the Canvas shell, and even more than that signed up with LSP and Council of Chief Librarians listservs. And that does not even account for the many direct e-mails we are sending around the state asking our work friends and colleagues for specific advice on our own situations.
  3. We are strengthening our regional relationships with nearby colleges.
    In two distinct waves—one early in the project and another after we got our test environments—librarians took the initiative in many different regions of the state to bring local colleges together for workshops and professional learning related to the LSP. Every time this happens, we connect more deeply with our colleagues and are more likely to pick up the phone or send an e-mail and ask for or offer help.
  4. We are strengthening our connections to other higher education systems.
    Part of this is happening regionally, as our librarians are reaching out to their counterparts at CSU’s to get input and advice in implementing the LSP. We are also in regular contact with folks at the CSU’s who are participating in the governance group for their LSP who have provided lots of guidance about how to set up an ongoing structure to provide oversight and support.  We have gotten similar input from other large academic consortia, most notably Orbis Cascade in the Pacific Northwest.
  5. We are bringing greater equity to what remains an inequitable system.
    While huge disparities in staffing, budget, and other resources remain, the fact is we will (nearly) all now be using the same library services platform—one that is by many accounts the best available for academic libraries. This means the half our libraries who were operating without a discovery tool will now have one and will begin to see the benefits of such a tool in students’ and faculty’s ability to locate the best available resources.  Understaffed colleges are already getting advice and support from our work groups and colleagues both regional and statewide. The equity benefits of this project will continue to be a model for other statewide resource sharing efforts. More statewide databases, anyone?

If you’re reading this in the Outlook, you likely already have an appreciation of the role the Council of Chief Librarians plays in supporting the CCC library community and this project, which began as a CCL initiative over five years ago. The CCL board has focused many of its efforts in support of this project since initial funding occurred. Its LSP task force members have been meeting weekly for two years to provide input and support to CCC Technology Center Program Managers Amy Beadle and Amy Carbonaro for selection and implementation planning. CCL has sponsored regional LSP meetings and statewide professional development for this project, and it will continue to provide long-range support and advocacy for our librarians. We are an impressive professional group, and this project only shines a brighter light on the talent and dedication of librarians that so capably serve a 2 million-plus student population.