In May 2016, seven UConn Library staff attended the ExLibris Users of North America (ELUNA) Annual Conference, along with Technical Seminar training, in Oklahoma City. More recently, we held a roundtable conversation to share what we learned with all staff. This blog post records some of what we learned.
Big thanks to Sheryl Bai and Janice Christopher for contributing to this post, and to Tim Dannay, Joelle Thomas, Claudia Lopes, and Elisabeth Umpleby for being such phenomenal conference buddies and colleagues.
If anyone would like the PowerPoints or other information, Michael is happy to help.
Michael Rodriguez (Electronic Resources Librarian, UConn Storrs)
Developing A-Z Database Lists
East Tennessee State University’s Jacob Kindle and Clemon Travis delivered an extraordinary presentation on the Primo X-Services API. They used this API to build an A-Z database list native to Alma/Primo, eliminating the redundancy of maintaining separate lists in the catalog, website, and LibGuides. They began by creating an Alma electronic collection and cataloging each database, plus developing normalization rules, scoping, PNX display, facets, and code table changes. They customized the API-generated interface using CSS and JSON. Results are impressive. Before she found new pastures, Joelle Thomas and I became excited at the prospect of using the Primo API to replace the obsolescent Research Database Locator, used by Storrs and the regional campuses.
Michael and Sheryl attended a highly informative session by the University of Minnesota’s Sunshine Carter and Stacie Traill on “Troubleshooting Electronic Access Issues in an Alma / Primo Central Environment.” One of the very first Alma and Primo Central customers, U of Minnesota shared workflows, tools, and staff training approaches for diagnosing and resolving e-resource issues. All their materials are available open access. Michael and Tim were particularly intrigued by browser extensions and bookmarklets such as Live HTTP Headers and UResolver Debug View. Michael attended another helpful related session, “Picking Apart the Alma Link Resolver” by Rose Krause and Andrea Eickholt of Eastern Washington University, along with a Technical Seminar training session on troubleshooting e-resource access in Alma/Primo. Following the conference, the Storrs-based Licensing & Acquisitions unit members shared and tested techniques for troubleshooting electronic resource access.
An odd man out at ELUNA was Texas Tech University’s talk on migrating from self-hosted to OCLC-hosted Ezproxy. As UConn is planning a similar migration, Michael made a point of attending this talk. Texas Tech migrated in July 2015, but it was not till December that the final kinks were worked out of their hosted solution. Justin Daniel and Lynne Edgar cited the ultimate benefits of migration but advised organizations planning the move to deep dive into their Ezproxy authentication methods, SSL certificates, mobile device compatibility, and other seemingly straightforward elements that may create unexpected complications. Most of the specific problems encountered by Texas Tech emanated from poor communication and lack of in-house expertise. The presentation was helpful in illustrating what not to do for a successful Ezproxy migration – and Sheryl, who also attended the session, concurs with this assessment. TTU’s experience is written up in the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship.
Leaning into the New Primo UI
Among ELUNA’s highlights was the demoing of the new Primo user interface. The new UI features mobile responsive design and boasts a modern look and feel. Thanks to Joelle, UConn’s partially functional beta instance is already online. There is also a sandbox instance. Neither beta version is available for public consumption for months to come, but feel free to click around.
Also at ELUNA, Michael Rodriguez and Janice Christopher volunteered to serve on the 2016 conference planning committee for the ExLibris Northeast Users Group (ENUG). This regional library conference will take place on October 27-28 in SUNY New Paltz, New York. Proposals are due by July 20. Janice, who also presented at this year’s ELUNA, comments that ENUG is a friendly, useful gathering of library users of ExLibris products. She encourages UConn librarians to consider submitting a presentation proposal or two.
Janice Christopher (Systems Librarian, UConn Storrs)
Analytics is the place. I attended several sessions on Alma and Primo Analytics between the Tech Seminar (M-T) and ELUNA (W-F). I had several “Aha!” moments: Use the key values to sort dates; “prompted” doesn’t mean what it did in Voyager; use the report description field to provide detailed description, requester, date, purpose; use the Oracle BI Search feature to find reports (good motivation for good metadata); % and _ are wildcards (multiple- and single-character respectively); how to replace text; the MINUS query; etc. Also found out that ExL has a small group dedicated to creating out of the box Analytics reports and dashboards in all areas, and those would be good to look at and use as-is or modified. Good job to those of you forging ahead with Analytics, but we’re only scratching the surface. And now Primo has its own Analytics and is in the process of growing. (N.B. Greenglass? All the circulation data came out of Voyager—15 years’ worth.)
The APIs are the other place. After attending an excellent session from the ExL VP for Development, I have a much better sense of what the APIs can be used for and what you can achieve with them: as he said, “You used to query the database with SQL, now you use the APIs.” The cool and scary additional thing, though, is you can use the APIs to change data. (With great care and after sufficient testing, of course.) One issue, as was pointed out on the Alma list last week, is that ExL is segregating a certain amount of capability in the APIs, but using them requires programming skills that not all libraries have. We have them, but can’t wait for a sprint to complete projects. Hence, I will be trying to pick up some programming skills…
ExLibris plenaries are like shareholders’ meetings. I have no idea why this had not occurred to me before; I’ve attended enough of the darn things. At ELUNA, ExLibris management does a lot of talking: Wednesday morning, two-thirds of Thursday morning, and early Thursday afternoon. Recaps of the last year, the roadmap for the next year, reports from Next-Gen Systems, Operations (the Cloud, basically), strategic directions from the resident Big Thinker, all that sort of stuff. They didn’t mention this past year’s revenues (the previous year’s were $100 million), but did talk a lot about joining with ProQuest. It does help deal with ExL if you think of yourself sitting there as one shareholder, owning one share. Some institutions may have a pile of shares. Sometimes you magically find a number of shares under a mattress. ELUNA is the shares multiplier – it is the users’ group, and as such tries to influence ExL’s direction, with varying degrees of success. I do have to give ExL management credit for taking open questions from the floor at the annual Q&A—not many companies do that.
Sheryl Bai (Systems Librarian, UConn Health)
Integrating ILLiad and Alma
UConn Health is currently implementing ILLiad and an ILL staff mentioned this program to Sheryl. Presented by Northwestern University’s Alice Trippit and Kurt Munson, the session focused on integrating the ILL functionalities of Alma and ILLiad, with Alma handling the borrowing and lending and ILLiad handling the notices to patrons. The ILLiad Addon sends four NCIP messages from ILLiad to Alma. It handles creating incoming borrowing request item records and the associated patron hold, deleting the record when borrowing item is returned, outgoing lending requests are moved to the Resource Sharing Library and returned lending items are restored to their permanent location. The presenters provided screenshots showing how to configure Alma for this optimization.
Like Michael, Sheryl highlighted the University of Minnesota’s “Troubleshooting Electronic Access Issues in an Alma/ Primo Central Environment.” Presenters provided helpful toolkits, flowcharts, schedules, and guidelines.
“Transitioning from PDS to SAML in Alma/Primo,” delivered by ExLibris rep Andrew Walsh, was a Tech Seminar session introducing SAML (Secure Single Sign-On Protocol) to replace the currently used PDS user authentication method. SAML is the most standard and secure framework for authentication and authorization for web application. PDS provides an Active-Passive solution for authentication while SAML provides an Active-Active solution. The new Primo-SAML Authentication method supports LDAP, and SAML authentication and can handle cascading and parallel configuration using Primo Authentication Manager. The presenter showed how to configure Alma/Primo. With ExL support, customers should be able to implement SAML themselves.