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ILS Migrations

(L-R) Mei Xie, John DeLooper, Lotta Sanchez, Devlyn Courtier

(L-R) Mei Xie, John DeLooper, Lotta Sanchez, Devlyn Courtier

This panel described some experiences in migrating Integrated Library Systems (ILSs). John DeLooper, Web Services/Online Learning Librarian at Lehman College, said that ILS migrations are hard but doable. There are 5 key lessons to be learned (each of the panelists discussed one of them). The history of ILSs is important because we can learn from it. As computers evolved, so did ILSs, and this has continued. People have been doing ILSs for 50 years; approximately 800 libraries change every year. It is a normal part of the library operations process.

Here are the lessons learned:

  1. Lotta Sanchez, Library Technology Associate, Hudson County (NJ) Community College (HCCC): Know your needs and whether migration is right for you. Do you need or want to migrate? Ask yourself the cost/benefit question and know that there intangible costs. Staff might ask why a migration is happening; be sure to cooperate and answer them. It is important to get their support. Look at the future and see if the new ILS will meet your needs. Make sure you have the budget and time to do the migration and that you can do it without affecting current circulation.
  2. Devlin Courtier, Library Associate, HCCC: Know your people and your vendors. Things will be different but don’t worry. How much time will this project take? What do your users want and expect? If they like something, don’t get rid of it. Do you need a vendor? Larger libraries may not. How reliable is the product? Make sure support will be provided when you need it. See what is in the product that you need and what you don’t. Be aware of local laws regarding bidding, privacy, and OS requirements.
  3. John DeLooper: Make a plan but be ready for change. HCCC’s migration took about 2 years from start to finish. Changes such as unexpected issues, finances, and a new library Dean will occur.
  4. Mei Xie, Technical Services Librarian, HCCC: Data is key. Conduct testing on test server.  It was more challenging and more complicated than expected, so an experienced vendor was needed to facilitate the process.  (They chose Koha.) Data cleanup is time-consuming.Data cleanupMake sure every field and subfield in the MARC framework are defined and added when needed.

    By experimenting on the test server, they learned Koha better and established an efficient communication channel with their vendor.  With vendor support, they saved time, guaranteed a smooth migration, and became more confident with the new system.

  5. Lotta Sanchez: Identify legacy processes and opportunities to improve. Public services/circulation: Koha vendors provided training. The old system and new one were used separately side by side which provided comparisons. You must expect mistakes with something new so must be flexible and learn.

Post implementation and conclusions:

  • Use test servers and add them to the new ILS package; they will continue to be useful. (Many vendors have this as an option.)
  • Change continues.
  • Migration is a huge process.
  • Systems track things differently and it can be hard to migrate them.


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