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Nathan and I have the below update for this week.

Demo and documentation on exporting Primo search results to CSV

In last week”s Open Systems Team meeting, Blake Galbreath (WSU) gave a demonstration on how to export Primo search results to a CSV file. Documentation can be found on the Systems Documentation site, and the demo can be seen in the Open Call recording.

Alma sandbox refreshes in progress

The seven Alma premium sandboxes (list) are being refreshed with updated data and configuration. This work is expected to be completed by the time of the October Alma release on sandboxes, October 2. Note that the Alma October release is a maintenance release that will focus on infrastructure and not Alma functionality changes.

Report from the International Users Group meeting

Al participated in the early September Ex Libris users group meeting and provided a report during the Systems Open Call, including much of the below information.

Changes in Alma release schedule

Dana Bostrom described these planned changes in her September 5 Announce message. (October 17 update: The additional release information will be available with the November 2016 release. The install of Alma a week earlier on sandboxes will be implemented with the February 2017 release.)

These changes will give the Alliance a longer period to test, identify any code regressions or defects, and submit them to Ex Libris so they can be resolved by the production installation.

For the community testing tool: ExL's Bar Veinstein (owner of Alma on the management team) provided his take on this. Ex Libris estimates 3-4 regressions are included in each release, many of which aren”t found by release testers but rather after the Alma installation on production, particularly by the Australia/New Zealand customers that go live first during the workweek. The testing tool is designed to improve this situation by increasing coordination and communication across institutions during the release testing period.

Phase out of storing passwords in Alma, internal accounts

During the August in-person meeting with the Alliance in Portland, Bar Veinstein described ExL's plan to phase out Alma internal accounts with the password stored in Alma by December 2017. This is for internal accounts supporting public login to Primo and staff login to Alma. One point of information from the IGeLU meeting:  The transition date could be extended by several more months - making the likely required transition date in the first half of 2018.

There are three options (identified to this point) for institutions to handle this migration:
  • Moving users to the institution authentication system
  • Transitioning users to an OAuth-based service to support Alma login
  • Creating and supporting a cloud-based identity service
For the second bullet point: Ex Libris is developing a tool that was demo'd by ExL's Josh Weisman (Development Director) for handling the user migration to OAuth-based services. The workflow: Notifying users based upon sets in Alma; the user clicks on a link in an email message sent by the library/Alma and sees options for OAuth-based services (Google, Facebook, Twitter are confirmed; more may be added) and then logs in and chooses to link their service to Alma. Even at this early stage, it appears workable for those institutions that feel that can move their users to OAuth authentication.

The third bullet point describes institutions or the consortium taking on a support responsibility, working with a cloud service like Microsoft Azure Active Directory. Its implementation would represent significant add-on work.

There may be European and UK libraries that firmly state that social authentication is not possible due to law or regulation (and that the other options aren't possible as well), which will then drive ExL to develop another option beyond the three listed above. ExL has been adamant to this point that the options defined in the above-bulleted list are all that it will support.

Primo configuration settings integrated into Alma

At this year's ELUNA meeting in May, Ex Libris announced that it was working to integrate Primo configuration into Alma, termed the Alma-Primo workflow optimization initiative. Ex Libris plans to move Primo administrative functionality from Primo Back Office to Alma. This will include mapping fields, labels, local fields, view configuration, and user authentication settings. This approach would offer some benefits, including reducing configuration duplication (such as institutions, libraries, authentication) in the two services. This development is tied to the new Primo user interface that's included in the Primo August release.
At the same time, the Alliance and some other customers have a problem. Institutions that have access to a Primo premium sandbox, but not a matching Alma premium sandbox. All Alliance institutions can currently test configurations in the Primo premium sandbox. However, if the configuration is moved to Alma, only six of the institutions would be able to test configuration, those with a premium sandbox. ExL”s Bar Veinstein reported at the IGeLU meeting that Ex Libris is aware of this use case and will plan a solution that takes it into account before solution delivery. He provided no additional information.

There are significant concerns in the Alliance Systems community about this planned change, based on this week's Open Call discussion. The UW's Kate Deibel noted the need for significant time for UI feedback and ExL adjustment, to help ensure that the settings UI isn't degraded for staff supporting Primo following the move of configuration to Alma.

Alma enhancements process

Expect all enhancement requests, excluding those that made it to the second ballot in 2015 and 2016 and new requests received this year, to be removed from the ballot for next year. This will require a significant Alliance investment in time, in terms of coordination - to determine which should be resubmitted and which should not. Earlier this week, I described this expected work to the Systems Team, which has overseen work on product enhancements since last year.

In practical terms, the first ballot's length will be reduced from a starting point of 600 requests to approximately 60 requests (before needed legacy requests are reactivated and before new submissions).

The UO's Ann Miller will be leading the 2017 Alma enhancements process for a third and final time. Beyond cutting the legacy requests (many of which obtained zero votes from the community in one or both cycles), the Alliance should expect stronger user groups' vetting of requests when compared with past years.   Enhancement requests that explicitly reference legacy management system (Voyager, Millennium...) functionality will be flagged and likely removed from the enhancement process, with the submitter pointed to ExL's Idea Exchange. Also, requests will be reviewed for global impact (example, the approved Bound-withs request submitted by the Alliance referenced only OCLC as a bibliographic utility. This was later seen as a mistake - at a minimum, Libraries Australia should have been added the ballot request).

For clarification between two feeders to Alma development:

ELUNA enhancements process
  • Based on contract agreement (defined point total per product per year)
  • ExL implements all approved enhancements within the year
  • Fundamentally driven by ELUNA and IGeLU user groups, in negotiation with Ex Libris
Idea Exchange
  • Fully managed by Ex Libris, no user groups involvement
  • Ex Libris commits to resolve the issue by adding it to the roadmap, without a specified timeframe
  • Real-time acquisitions with Alma
This is one of the most exciting developments - Staff at Alliance institutions can work in YBP GOBI and GOBI interoperates with Alma to reduce the workload on acquisitions staff, as described in this workflow. ExL is, not surprisingly, pushing the analogous integration of ProQuest's OASIS service with Alma. The Alliance”s Kathi Fountain has informed me that OASIS is currently not widely used in the consortium for print and ebook purchasing, while 32 Alliance institutions are YBP customers.

Other thoughts

Alma continues to be in a dominant market position, which impacts the ILS choices available to the Alliance. One major migration announcement regarding Penn and Alma was only described tangentially from the IGeLU stage (for the integration of Blacklight discovery). This is a huge win for Ex Libris, because Penn was a Kuali OLE institution and it's these institutions that will be the first target for the EBSCO-backed ILS (Folio) initiative.

Marshall Breeding has described the linkage of Alma and Primo as "near mandatory." The planned Alma-Summon integration work is going forward, so Summon would be an option for the Alliance in 2018, and ExL is working to integrate Blacklight for discovery, as noted in the Penn announcement. Still, I would expect the bulk of the Alma institutions to employ Primo and for the other options to represent edge cases, at least for the immediate future.

At IGeLU, I moderated a session on Ex Libris Rosetta, which was an optional product included by Ex Libris in its 2012 response to the Alliance RFP. Dave Allen (State Library of Queensland), a leader in the Alma and Rosetta communities, reported that one of his concerns with Rosetta's use is its poor integration with Alma. In any event, Dave is an excellent reference to consult if the Alliance conducts a Rosetta review. Also, it strikes me that there appears to be little cross-pollination between the Rosetta and Alma product teams, which I see as a negative for Alma digital. For Alma digital, the customer presentations at IGeLU centered on its use with fulfillment services, not archival/special collections services.

The presentation slides for Ex Libris and IGeLU presenters will be made available soon. I will send a follow-up message when this info is online. (ExL conference presentations are posted to this page.)