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OLS to discontinue SerSol MARC record loading in summer 2019

(Please pardon the duplication. This information is also being shared with the PUBLIC-SERVICES, TECH-SERVICES, and ERAC mailing lists. The Chief Librarians have also been notified.)

The Office of Library Services will discontinue the Serials Solutions (“SerSol”) MARC records service for CUNY in summer 2019.

The SerSol MARC service provides title-level bibliographic records of subscription e-resources for public access. The monthly service sends updates (changes, additions, and deletions) of the holdings, triggered by collection activations in SerSol 360 Core, to the local online catalog (i.e., Aleph) and, subsequently, OCLC. CUNY uses the service to provide title-level access to e-journals via the library’s online public access catalog (“catalog” or “OPAC”) and Primo, and also to display holdings in OCLC WorldCat.

Sending SerSol records to OCLC to sync our holdings has always been a necessary but daunting and flawed process. It involves monthly identification and extraction of records from the Aleph database for submission. Mismatched records occur often and handling the unresolved records reports is extremely time-consuming.

The new library services platform (“LSP”) offers title-level access to e-journals in Primo through its shared metadata repository. Migrating SerSol MARC records to the LSP would result in duplicate records in Primo. Subsequent deduplication of these records has proven very time-consuming and inefficient by other institutions that have preceded us in their migration to the LSP. Therefore, it has become accepted best practice to not migrate SerSol MARC records of e-journals during this process.

Because SerSol MARC records will not be in the new system, there will be no records for CUNY to send to OCLC to attach holdings in WorldCat. In order to continue our status as providers of information to the global community, especially as ILL lenders, CUNY Libraries must maintain their holdings in WorldCat by activating e-resource holdings in OCLC’s WorldShare Collection Manager (“WCM”). OLS is making every effort to help with this transition to a new knowledgebase. We are currently testing a method that may allow for a one-time migration of all SerSol data to WCM.

While OLS works on a year-long OCLC reclamation project (to update and sync the OCLC control number, the primary matchpoint between records in the LSP) for the 24 CUNY campuses, we will temporarily suspend the monthly new holdings syncing process in OCLC in order to successfully bring CUNY’s holdings up to date in WorldCat. This makes it a good time for our cancellation of the SerSol MARC records service as there is no need to extract the new/updated SerSol records from Aleph.

We recommend that CUNY Libraries begin transitioning to using the WCM to manage their OCLC holdings now so that their holdings are accurate in WorldCat come summer 2019, when OLS will cease loading SerSol MARC records into the catalog.

More details will be shared as they become available.

If you have any questions, please contact OLS.

Advance planning for printing

Advance planning for a technical solution is the type of issue that seems worth bringing to your attention. This one applies to a library’s future purchases of printers. It may be prudent to consider only buying printers with full network connection capabilities. This allows them to be email aware, meaning that they can receive and print email messaging.

We know that in the future we will replace Aleph with something that is going to be a next-generation cloud-based system. We can predict that it will be a hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) environment, sometimes referred to as a ‘Library Service Platform’ (LSP).

Due to security concerns and technical limitations, cloud-based environments do not support direct connection of local or network printers. Instead, print jobs are sent by email to the printer for processing. (Documentation for Alma, as shown in just one example, can be found on the Ex Libris Knowledge Center.)

This may change in some future Alma enhancement, but for now one should plan for what we known to be already developed. For printing labels and circulation transfer slips, it is wiser to plan on using email aware printers.

An inexpensive network printer (aka not email aware) can continue to be productive without using Aleph or its replacement. Consider carefully whether you would really have a use for printers in some way. For example, the desktop Connexion application—used by many CUNY libraries—allows staff to batch print labels directly to a networked (or directly connected) printer.

Also, some Alma libraries are not be concerned about directly printing transfer slips and patron loan receipts. Instead, they route these emails to a dedicated staff email address, and then selectively print out (on their local network) the emails as needed.

It is up to each library to decide how this applies to their future equipment purchasing plans. It is important that the options be considered and factored into any plan being made.

If you have further questions, please contact the CUNY Office of Library Services.

Aleph Item Process Status: Bindery status

The Aleph Item Process Status (IPS) in Aleph is sometimes misunderstood, as it is sometimes (but not always) more than a display field. The functionality built into some of the IPS is complex, so it will probably be best to approach them separately. Let’s please take a look at the Bindery related statuses:

BD   At Bindery        
BP   In Repair             
PB   Binding Preparation     
SB   Sent to Binding

While these statuses are not assigned by every CUNY library in the same way, we know that all four cause items to function in Aleph the same way. In Aleph, they block items from being CLICS eligible. They suggest that the items are not readily available. (The only difference between these four is the screen display text.)

These IPS will all migrate to our new LSP in the same way. These Aleph Item Process Statuses will ONLY appear as a comment on the items for staff to see – assuming that they look up each individual item. These comments will give no indication to patrons that these items are not actually available on the shelf. Also, the items would follow the circulation policy of their collection. For example, patrons could suddenly place holds for these items, if they are in a request-able collection.

I discussed the following plan with the Director of our new LSP’s Data Migration Services. She concurs that the below is probably the best method for migration of these particular statues. (She has a history of work in our new LSP, as well as with Aleph.)

It would be recommended to set up in Aleph a collection called “Bindery,” or some similar verbiage of your library’s choosing. The on screen description should indicate as intuitively as possible to patrons that the items are unavailable due to being out for re-binding or repair.

Next, all of these items should be placed in this location of “Bindery” as a temporary location. The Aleph Item Process Status should then be removed. Should the item return for use at some future date, one only needs to remove the temporary location check box. The items will revert back to their permanent location as listed in the holdings record.

An added benefit is that this will also work well in our current Aleph environment. It will communicate clearly to patrons that items are temporarily unavailable, or at least not available now. Reverting back to a permanent location (in Aleph) this can be done manually or as a batch process.

This would not apply to all Aleph IPS. Some are very much more than just a display field. There is software functionality tied to the Item Process Status. We will not want to lose that functionality in Aleph, nor in the new LSP. For example, we would specifically not want to use a temporary collection location for misplaced (missing, searching, lost, etc.) items.

Related topic: Aleph IPS – New Book

Planning to remove Lost Items from the Aleph catalog?

If your plans include using any batch processes for removing lost items records, please consider first removing titles that are suppressed with an Item Process Status of “LO” or “LP.” We can use a batch process with titles.

We can use a batch process for items if and only if we have first removed the titles.

If a title has more than one item, and all of the items are suppressed (Aleph Item Process Status = LO, LP, SU, WD, or CA), the title will be suppressed. We can safely remove these in batch by tagging the Bibliographic records with STA=OLSDELETE. (This suppresses titles, and at the start of the next month completely removes those records, after withdrawing your library’s holdings from OCLC for that title.)

If we have run this batch process, we know that the remaining LO and LP items are on titles where the bibliographic record has at least one active item remaining. This means we can safely use the batch process to remove these items. This batch process removes the items and, if there are no items remaining on the holdings, it also removes the holdings record. If there are no holdings left for the title, it removes the Bibliographic record.

The dangers come from three potential issues.

If we just remove items, holdings and the bibliographic record, without removing the holdings from OCLC, we do not know anything more about the deleted title. We do not know which holdings to unset. This is not a concern IF we have first used STA=OLSDELETE.

A second danger would be IF the item record is not linked to a holdings record, it will not know which holdings record to remove. However, we can identify those unlinked items as the Holdings number will appear in our custom listings as ‘000000000CUN60.’ (Since we recently ran a fix for holdings records, we are down to roughly 60K items not linked to holdings across CUNY; a third of those are at a single institution.) These small numbers of items can be easily handled in advance.

Looking at a listing (for your library) of all items currently on loan but never returned by patrons, we see that none of them have an Item Process Status for suppressed, lost, not returned, or missing. These items are not misplaced, and instead have a loan status of ‘Not returned by patron.’ These items are not suppressed, and neither are their titles. Please do not assume these might be lost by batch removals when done properly by a trained Aleph Admin.

Print to Electronic record conversion for the new Library Service Platform

Moving away from Aleph to a Library Services Platform requires preparation BEFORE data migration. One important pre-migration goal is to separate print items and electronic items out at the title level.

Aleph, like many legacy ILS systems, handles electronic and print records using the same data structures. We have bibliographic, holdings and print records.

In a Library Services Platform, electronic records are handled in a very different way. The data structures are different, as they look to manage these records in a more sophisticated way. For example, the link resolver is taken into account. This requires that the current record structures must be transformed at the time of migration.

There are a number of titles in CUNY’s Aleph catalog which have both print and electronic items on the same bibliographic record. In some cases physical items are incorrectly identified as electronic records. At least some electronic records incorrectly identified as physical print items. There are also physical print items where the library also has access to full electronic text.

As part of your preparation, we are looking to separate print items from electronic items at the Bibliographic level. One of the main reasons is that we need to migrate there records in a very different way. This impacts more than the catalog records. Some titles have serial subscriptions. Both serials patterns as well as acquisitions orders are impacted.

As we look to other libraries that have successfully migrated we find a repeated recommendation. Separate your print items from electronic items before migration. It absolutely requires a great deal more manual work to sort out and rebuild your catalog records if a library does not. For example, under certain conditions electronic items can show up “as if” they are physical items, which is a problem.

A second reason is that print and electronic records can have separate OCLC numbers. OCLC numbers become increasingly important in an LSP environment as the primary match point. This will facilitate functionality such as replicating the CLICS borrowing that we currently enjoy.

There are a variety of problems that arise by not separating these records. This goes beyond not following modern RDA standards. In presentation after presentation libraries keep pointing out the need to get this done. Let’s please learn from their history and not repeat their mistakes.

We will be talking more about this during the coming year in the Cataloging and Acquisitions Committee meetings. (Both areas will be impacted, in their own ways.)

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