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Aleph 16 Upgrade Planning in Progress

The Harvard University Library Office for Information Systems (OIS), along with Ex Libris, the Aleph Steering Committee, and the Aleph Advisory Teams, is planning for the new release of Aleph: Aleph 16. In its role as the beta test site for this new release, OIS will have significant work to do to test and upgrade the software and manage the database migration.

The primary focus of planning is to ensure that the system is well tested and stable before it is rolled out at Harvard. Although OIS had hoped to implement the system this summer, it has become clear that a rushed implementation would be disruptive and risky. By taking the time needed this summer to configure and test the system, and to allow more time in the fall for training and documentation, OIS will ensure a smoother transition to the new release of Aleph. OIS teams are continuing to work with Ex Libris toward a September acceptance of Aleph 16 software, but, as the cutover will require several days of system downtime, they will target the winter break for the cutover. Exact dates will be determined on the basis of cutover testing and library schedules during the break.

What is the reason for the upgrade from Aleph 15 to Aleph 16?
There were several important developments that were not implemented in the Day 1 version of Aleph (Aleph 15.2). These included:

  • full support for the MARC holdings format, includingcompression of serial items into holdings records;
  • GUI client redesign for Cataloging, Acquisitions, and Serials; and
  • full support for UNICODE, which will incorporate the extended character set and non-roman scripts into the reporting database. OIS plans to begin the testing and configuration work needed to expand the repertoire of supported scripts to include Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Other smaller enhancements are also expected as part of the Aleph 16 release. More information on these will be released at a later time. OIS and the Aleph Advisory Teams have begun testing an early release of the new system. Harvard will be the first site to install this version of Aleph, so thorough testing is critical.

How much downtime will be needed for the upgrade?
Procedures are being developed that will minimize downtime to the fullest extent possible, but some interruption of service will be inevitable. At this point, it is anticipated that technical services functions will be unavailable for two to three days. OPAC and Circulation will be down for a shorter period, but hopefully not for longer than twenty-four hours.

When will training be available for staff? How much training will be needed? How soon will there be more details about training?
Training sessions will most likely begin eight weeks before the cutover. It is not yet clear exactly what kind of training will be required or useful. Staff will certainly not need as much training as last year. Staff in some functional areas will need little, if any, training because there will be no significant changes to the system functions they use (e.g., Circulation). Open forums will suffice for other types of training. It is possible that some hands-on training will be required for areas that will change significantly. OIS is also planning to have a practice database available for staff to try the new system four to eight weeks before the cutover. A thorough review of Aleph 16 functionality and changes is needed before a complete training plan can be developed. More information should be available in September.

When will the new desktop clients be distributed?
New clients should be distributed to local IT staff for installation at least four weeks before the cutover. This way, IT staff will have several weeks to install clients on staff desktops. Staff will continue to use the old client even after the new client is installed.

What are the advantages of postponing the upgrade?
There are several advantages worth noting:

  • As we all know from last year, system cutovers can be extremely disruptive and painful. Delaying the implementation of Aleph 16 will give OIS and the Aleph Advisory Teams more time for system configuration and stabilization before it goes into production.
  • Time for planning a customized training program and writing adequate documentation for the new release is very important to a good transition. The delay will allow for a more systematic approach to designing and executing a well-planned training program for staff.
  • A December cutover will provide time for more macro development before going live with the new system.

If you have questions about the Aleph 16 upgrade, please send them to the HOLLIS support center at

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Last modified on Wednesday, July 30, 2003.