New library engagement system incoming!

A post by Dr Richard Pears

On 1st August, the new library management system (which provides the catalogue and the means to borrow and renew books) will be available. Our current system, called Millennium, was introduced in 1996, so it’s older than most students. It will be replaced with a much more up-to-date system called Alma, which is used by many UK and European university libraries. We already use the Discover search engine from the same company, and introducing Alma within Discover will make it much quicker and simpler to see live information on books in the library, place reservations and renew books. 

ExLibris Alma logo

I’ve been managing this project since October 2021, working with my colleagues across Library and Collections, CIS, and with our partners in the college and Durham Cathedral libraries, to ensure that Alma will deliver all that we need to support library, museum and archives users. Alma will provide access to all Durham University Library books, theses and journal articles from 1st August, and we’ll integrate other sources including open access publications, archives and museum collections over the new academic year. You’ll also be able to link to over 300 library databases that provide everything from company financial data to images, film and digitised archive collections. If you want to look more widely at available sources, you can ‘Expand beyond Durham collections’ to see books and articles held in other libraries. We’re launching new request forms for you to recommend books to buy for the library collection, or for you to borrow from other libraries using interlibrary loans, or to request scans of chapters and articles.  

The company that owns Alma and Discover also owns the Endnote referencing software, so it will be very easy to save references in future to use in student assignments and academic research. You’ll be able to save favourites and label them to create groups of references for different assignments or projects. 

From 1st August we’ll streamline the different loan periods between undergraduates, taught and research postgraduates and staff, and everyone will have an initial loan period of three weeks followed by automatic renewals every three weeks for up to one year (or six months for college libraries). At the end of the twelve months, you’ll need to bring the books back to the library. This is to ensure that books are available to all library users, but if they haven’t been requested by other readers you will be able to borrow them again. All books that have been borrowed by other readers can be reserved if you need them and will be returned in one week (or two weeks in the summer vacation). For high demand books, such as seminar reading, there’ll either be an eBook or a three-day loan copy (which can’t be renewed) to ensure that everyone on a module can access it.  

Behind the scenes, the new library management system will enable Library staff to rethink processes for acquiring new items, connecting to online resources and to use modern technology such as APIs to deliver better services to library users. My usual role is the faculty librarian for Arts and Humanities, which gives me an overview of all our collections and how they support teaching and research across the University. I’m excited that the new library management system will ultimately bring these great collections together for everyone to use. 

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