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Challenges and Transformation at ALA Midwinter


February 11, 2013 | 2 min read |
I had the pleasure of attending the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Seattle last month and was impressed with the incredible interest librarians expressed in addressing the challenges they face while transforming their processes and expanding their services.  We all know the challenges – fewer staff, more and more resources (particularly electronic), stagnant or decreasing collection budgets, increased focus on demonstrating value and relevancy to the organizational mission and goals, and more.  These challenges, or at least some of them, are now widely acknowledged and it is encouraging to see the discussion shift from recognition to problem solving.  I sensed a real focus on transformation at this year’s meeting: transformation of services through more collaboration and cooperation, transformation of traditional cataloging to emphasize metadata services that enhance discovery, and transformation of workflows to take advantage of next-generation unified systems.
This increased emphasis on collaboration and cooperation was clearly demonstrated when over 150 people crowded the Orbis Cascade Alliance and Ex Libris session entitled “Unlocking Opportunities for Collaboration” presented by John Helmer and Lynn Chmelir from Orbis Cascade, and Asaf Kline from Ex Libris.  The Alliance, which has a strong history of cooperation across its vast membership, discussed its decision to move from legacy systems with limited bandwidth and lagging functionality, to a next generation infrastructure based on Primo and Alma.  They envision better services for students, faculty and staff, improved resource sharing, and new opportunities for collaborative technical services enabled by Alma.
The Orbis vision of “one collection” was echoed in an ALA session I moderated with Roger Brisson from Boston University, an Alma Early Adopter.  Roger’s session, which was presented to another overflowing crowd, focused on how Alma has been a catalyst to fundamental changes to the technical services environment at BU and how Primo, along with the library’s new website, is further demonstrating the value of the library’s services. For details on Roger’s presentation, please see the coverage in Library Journal’s Digital Shift.
All in all, it was encouraging and rewarding to see the vision of Alma and Primo being realized by such forward thinking librarians.
Susan M. Stearns
vice president of strategic partnerships, Ex Libris