Migrating Library Systems: Pulling the Trigger on WMS

UTC's Lupton Library is moving forward with our transition to OCLC's Webscale Management Service. This is a transition we've been working on for two years as we've kicked the tires on the new service, asked for additional development and functionality out of the brand-new system, and tested it to within an inch of its (and our) life.

Our ILS administrator, web guru and all around data-mogul-of-awesomeness Andrea Schurr has moved on to bigger and better things and now works for OCLC, but (thank the gods) is doing our data migration for us. I can't express how big a boon this is, especially since this is her third (?) time doing the data load, so she's an expert at it. No one else knows our data so intimately. Having Andrea with us for this massive move is something we are all grateful for.

Andrea was also our former Head of Access Services before UTC hired me back, so having her upstairs in IT has been a huge help to me in terms of helping me figure out what our soon-to-be-former ILS (VTLS Virtua) could and couldn't do. And whatever it couldn't do, Andrea could kludge together. Moving into WMS is interesting new territory for me - I won't be the library system administrator, but I do have my hands in interesting things. Case in point: my daytime circ manager and I have been holding regular meetings to go through the wirewalk of circ policies - loan limit matrices, loan policy matrices, notification policies, and more. I watched Andrea set these up initially two years ago, her fingers flying over the keyboard. My own progress through is more plodding and methodical, with many notes taken, noting where the connections are and what gaps still need to be addressed before our policy maps are complete. And once this is done (probably tomorrow or this Tuesday), then we move on to the training blitz for everyone who works the circ desk (every single staff member in the library, and some of the librarians) which will happen concurrently with the documentation blitz that will happen once we're up and live.

Everything is changing, and it touches every single one of our current departments:
  • Access Services since the circ module and back-end discovery will be in the new system and since we set up the notifications and circ and loan and billing policies;
  • Reference and Instruction since we're moving to WorldCat Local as our new public catalog and to using WorldCat as a discovery layer;
  • Materials Processing since for e-resources we'll be using Knowledgebase and will be turning on some discovery, because it so drastically changes the ordering and receiving processes and has serious implications for staff time, and for adopting the new course reserves model;
  • IT, since they'll no longer have to deal with a client-based ILS (but a web-based one brings all new IT questions with it;
  • Special Collections as they decide how best to display local and unique collections.
Each of our departments is also dealing with the necessary workflow changes and workarounds that come from both using a new system as well as using a system that is still working on development of more advanced features. It's a great opportunity for us to review our processes and see what we can do to make them more efficient on the back end and patron-friendly on the public end.  

And, of course, all this change is being done beneath the shadow of the new library building which is moving along (opening slated for late summer 2013) and with the knowledge that we also want to do a complete revamp of the library website.

That all of this is going on and exhausting everyone is not surprising, given the team of folks we have who are into doing the most good with what resources we have. What continues to amaze me is that this is all happening while people remain in good humor, with taking time for feedback from the various areas and a focus on clear communication and documentation (thanks largely to Katie Gohn, our Digital Integration Librarian who has taken point on the WMS implementation, and Theresa Liedtka, our dean with a serious transparency philosophy). As always, you can see how we're handling the project and its myriad to-do lists on our library wiki.


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