October 2, 2023. Although most library users will not notice any difference, a major change is coming to the complex back-end system that Yale Library uses to handle everything from purchasing, cataloguing, and checking out books to managing thousands of databases and licensed electronic resources. Between now and summer 2025, the library will replace Voyager—its 22-year-old catalog and back-end inventory system—with the cloud-based Ex Libris Alma and Ex Libris Primo, both part of Clarivate.
Benefits of Ex Libris Alma
"Ex Libris Alma and Ex Libris Primo will help us modernize our library systems and enhance our ability to manage and deliver resources more efficiently," said Barbara Rockenbach, the Stephen F. Gates '68 University Librarian. "Our current system has been updated and expanded many times, but it is reaching the end of its useful life. Ex Libris Alma will streamline workflows, improve the user experience, and facilitate better collaboration among library staff, ultimately benefiting all of the Yale community."
The new services platform will also be adopted by the Lillian Goldman Law Library, replacing the existing MORRIS catalog. "The enhancements and features in Ex Libris Alma will allow for a streamlining of our processes and a significant improvement in the search-and-discovery experience for our users," said Femi Cadmus, director of the Law Library. "The migration will be a much-needed upgrade from the Innovative Interfaces legacy system, first installed in 1988. The legacy system currently serves as the home of our online catalog, MORRIS, which was named after former Law Librarian Morris Cohen."
Like other large research libraries, Yale Library depends on multiple specialized software processes, connected behind the scenes to provide an increasingly seamless web of library services across a dozen library locations and online. The vast majority of patron interactions with the library now take place online, although in-person interactions to access or borrow physical materials are equally dependent on the underlying services platform that acquires, describes, catalogs, tracks, and retrieves materials.
All these processes must be fully accessible and integrated with each other and interoperable with systems across the university in areas such as IT, security, and budget. Currently, many of those software processes and the connections between them depend on homegrown integrations that require a high level of staff support. Moving to Ex Libris Alma and Ex Libris Primo will reduce the staff burden and free up development resources for other projects that support patrons.
An easy transition for users
For most library patrons, the change to Ex Libris Alma will be largely invisible because the way in which they search for and request library materials will not change. Ex Libris Alma will not replace Quicksearch, Yale Library's primary search-and-discovery interface. However, Orbis—an older discovery function that a small number of advanced researchers use—will be eliminated with the transition to Ex Libris Alma.
In anticipation of this changeover, the library has been improving the functionality of Quicksearch during the past few years. As a result, many search functions once available only in Orbis are now available in Quicksearch. A major milestone last year, for example, was the inclusion of all archival and special collections records in Quicksearch.
"We are committed to easing the transition for the small number of scholars who are avid users of Orbis," said Rockenbach. "In particular, we want to understand any Orbis functionality not yet directly replicable in Quicksearch so that we can address those researcher needs."
Yariv Kursh, senior vice president and general manager of Ex Libris and Innovative, part of Clarivate, said, "At Clarivate, we are committed to helping academic institutions such as Yale University think forward, to navigate roadblocks and transform their libraries with enhanced user-focused operations for both librarians and students. Our library and discovery services platforms are easy to implement and they work together to provide a cohesive and streamlined user experience that will benefit Yale University's library ecosystem."
Patrons who have questions about the retirement of our Orbis and MORRIS catalogs, are interested in demonstrations of the new Quicksearch functionality, or would be willing to share how they use Orbis or MORRIS in their research are invited to fill out this user research contact form. The Assessment and UX Research team will contact you as part of our user research program.