The power was completely out for half the campus on the first day of the fall semester at Santa Barbara City College. The library, already a crowded place, was even more crowded than usual. We experienced our continued record capacity with over 5,000 students each of the first three days. The Luria Library also went live with our new library system from OCLC – WorldShare Management Services (WMS). How did the first week go with the new system? What did we learn?The biggest challenge heading into Day One was the lack of a complete and updated patron database. During the summer we had added patrons with their summer expiration dates not fully realizing that WMS would start applying those expiration dates with the August release of the software. In addition, we hadn’t fully tested the export/import from the Banner student system so we could apply later expiration dates and include the newly registered students. On Monday morning I created a GoogleDocs form to temporarily track our circulation transactions. Then, with the above mentioned power outage, the campus internet temporarily went down shortly after opening the library and therefore rendering the GoogleDocs solution useless. The circulation staff switched to Word for performing circulation transactions. As the internet returned, staff started using WMS by manually updating expiration dates. By mid-morning we had circulation transactions in GoogleDocs, Word, WMS, and a handful in our legacy system. A mess, but students were getting their materials and we had a transaction record in one of four places. By the end of the day, our patron load at OCLC was complete after they kindly massaged the data file we had sent them. Day one was basically “all hands on deck” and non-stop service to students. The staff was wiped, but we did use WMS for most of the day.
I came in Day Two hopeful, but with the realization that I hadn’t fully thought out the report needs (overdues, bills, etc.) that the circulation staff would require. Not to mention the four different data sources we used the previous day. After cleaning up some of those transactions manually, I began to look for the transaction data coming out of WMS. An email to OCLC returned the solution and I began to review the type of data that circulation staff would be able to receive, quickly setup access for the supervisor, and provided an overview of the data. At the same time, I continued to work with our IT department to clean up the Banner export into the required XML format that WMS requires. Based on the feedback from OCLC, we modified the file and prepared another patron data file for review and import in WMS.
More errors with our patron load on Day Three. The staff at OCLC continued to work with us and provide their specifications for the import. We massaged our report and provided what we hope to be the last review before setting up the automated process. With thousands of students, a handful of library employees, and the new system, I determined that all fines would be waived for the first month (at least). We simply don’t have the capacity to move those transactions from WMS into Banner (so students can pay) given the volume we are experiencing. The goal is to build an automatic system to bring that data from WMS reports into Banner. In the meantime we have suspended library fines (with a few exceptions). At this point, most of our patrons are loaded into WMS and we have been doing all transactions in WMS since Monday afternoon. For the circulation staff, adding temporary items for non-cataloged materials and the speed of the circulation interface cause the most heartache. Having been in a DOS/Windows environment for over a decade, the move to cloud-based circulation has been an adjustment. There is a waiting period for pulling up patron accounts. It’s not long, but when you are 10-people deep with a line and staff working non-stop then 10-, 20-, 30-seconds can be an eternity. We’ll need to work on this with OCLC to improve the transaction speed.
We’re in a flow now; with Day Four we are getting used to some of the nuances and now have time to tackle some of the other migration issues that hadn’t been resolved. These include transactions that didn’t migrate, transactions that migrated correctly but had bad data from us, materials for reserve that remain to be cataloged, and the handling of interlibrary loan materials. On the backend, continued work with our knowledge base to reflect our database holdings and trying to improve the search functionality in the reserve module. Let me stop with this topic for a minute. We have yet to determine how to effectively search in reserves module because it appears to not support any type of boolean search nor exact match searches. Typing “Math 100” brings any course with math or 100 and therefore generate quite a lengthy list when we all know we want the course Math 100. This needs to be resolved.
It’s hard to believe we made it to Friday – Day Five. Not only because it’s the first week of the semester, but we made it through using our new system. I know we lost transactions. I know students received notices for material that was returned. I know that our migrated data is still messy. I know that the knowledge base still needs fine tuning and cleanup. I know all the staff don’t love WMS (main complaint being speed and apparent freezing). There is a TON of more work to do in the coming weeks and months, but we have a game plan. I too have been deeply discouraged by some of the mistakes in our data migration (again, our fault). I am hopeful that we’ll be able to automate patron loads and the fines process. My attitude is that it will all work out and there isn’t anything we can’t adjust to and simply live without if necessary.
I’ve only scratched the surface of our experience (I didn’t mention anything about the new acquisition processes) and I certainly can’t speak for the 8 other library employees and thousands of students. I didn’t work on WMS all weekend, and for that I am grateful, and we had a 3-day weekend thanks to Labor Day. Tomorrow is Day Six with OCLC WorldShare Management Services and I’m still convinced we made the right decision with this migration. It probably goes without saying, but I know some OCLC staff will read this post. I know it will generate discussion and action, and that is one of the reasons why I chose to work with them on a tool so integral to our operations. Head up.