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ALEPH Implementation Update

Implementation of the ALEPH system—the new Ex Libris product chosen by Harvard to replace aging HOLLIS software—is moving along at a brisk pace. Staff from OIS and Ex Libris have been meeting frequently since December on topics such as data conversion, ALEPH configuration, Harvard enhancements to ALEPH, and much more. Initial meetings have been kept intentionally small to facilitate the early learning process. Within the next two months, implementation teams will be defined to include broader library participation. The following list summarizes current planning activities.

Systems Analysis
Staff members from Ex Libris and Harvard recently spent four days on systems analysis. Ex Libris acquainted Harvard staff with the basic data structures and functionality of ALEPH. Harvard staff oriented Ex Libris to the complexity of Harvard's library system and its processes—and the meaning of those processes for configuration of an ALEPH system at Harvard. The "output" from these meetings will assist Ex Libris in configuring the "first draft" ALEPH test system now being installed on Harvard's server.

Data Conversion
Implementation of ALEPH will entail moving 8.7 million bibliographic records, 1.3 million authorities, 1.1 million holdings, 600,000 orders, 6.7 million items—and more—out of HOLLIS ILS and into the appropriate place in ALEPH such that access to and usability of data is preserved. Because of the volume and complexity of these conversions, Harvard will sometimes face hard choices on either moving data or leaving it behind. It is also clear that some cleanup of our data ahead of time will make for a smoother conversion. Better information on record cleanup efforts will be available later this spring.

Loading Test Data
During March and April, Ex Libris will load a subset of data from the HOLLIS ILS (approximately 100,000 records) into Harvard's ALEPH test system. Half of this first subset will include randomly selected records. The balance will be pre-selected records with attributes that will help in testing indexes, record displays, and, eventually, Harvard's configuration settings. The process of defining subsets, conversion, loading, and testing will happen over and over again until Harvard is satisfied with the conversion results. The first full-scale test conversion is expected to happen by the end of 2001.

ALEPH Configuration
The goal is to set up ALEPH in a way that supports processing routines in the libraries. One of the initial hurdles has been to understand functions of the ALEPH "sub-library," which is similar in concept to the HOLLIS ILS "LOC" (library holding location code). Work is also underway to define the properties of the indexes and displays of search results that staff and patrons will be using to find information in ALEPH. Shortly, we will begin the task of defining tables that control circulation policies as well as the codes and functions used in acquisitions, fund accounting, and serials control. This is an area where input from individual Harvard libraries will be critical. This process will begin later this year.

Harvard Enhancements to ALEPH
Harvard is requiring a number of enhancements to ALEPH over and above its current functionality. What Harvard considers "critical" enhancements—necessary on Day One of the Harvard implementation—will be effected across a series of semi-annual ALEPH software releases. Small task groups composed of staff from OIS and libraries are now working with Ex Libris to define specifications for these enhancements.

Implementation Teams
Teams of staff from OIS and the libraries will be responsible for carrying out many of the activities associated with ALEPH implementation. There will be teams responsible for specific ALEPH functions (e.g., cataloging, acquisitions, serial control, OPAC) in addition to teams covering training, staff productivity tools, desktop software issues, etc. Teams are expected to work closely with individual libraries. The scope and membership of these teams remains under discussion.

Implementation activities to date have not been very visible to the library community, but this will soon change. Once the ALEPH Implementation Steering Committee (AISC) approves the general plan for ALEPH implementation, details of the process will be described in open meetings, newsletters, and on HUL-Info. Direct any questions about the ALEPH implementation to Kathy Anderson or Tracey Robinson at 5-3724 or kathleen@hulmail.harvard.edu and/or tracey@hulmail.harvard.edu.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.