South Plains College Librarians Discuss WMS Experiences in OCLC Webinar

Library staff from Amigos member South Plains College, Levelland, TX, related their experience migrating to OCLC's WorldShare Management Services (WMS) library management system in a March 5 webinar hosted by OCLC. The presentation was part of OCLC's webinar series "Results, Revelations and Rewards: The Power of Cloud-based Cooperation." OCLC invited the presenters in the series, all current WMS users, to discuss what led them to migrate to WMS and their experiences since transitioning to the cooperative cloud.

Director of Libraries Jim Belcher, Public Services Librarian Katherine Anderson, and Technical Services Librarian Hope Beyer conducted the South Plains College Library presentation. Belcher began with the background and circumstances that led the library staff at South Plains College – a two-year, multi-campus community college with an enrollment of over 9,000 students located in the Texas Panhandle – to conclude that the library's server-based system was on its last legs and in urgent need of replacement. He said the school's IT department had no idea what the library's software did or how it worked, had never worked with and were not certified to work on the library's aging server.

Staff librarians began researching alternatives. They examined various library management systems, both local server-based and cloud-based, and talked with colleagues at other libraries. Everything ultimately pointed to the cloud, which could replace outdated hardware, provide 24/7 backup, save staff time, and provide around-the-clock expert technical support. After much deliberation, the library staff unanimously chose OCLC's WMS.

Anderson noted that because the library's current Ex Libris Voyager system subscription was only paid through September, their migration process beginning in February had to be compressed. She outlined the timeline for the project that would have to be completed in less than six months, not ideal but doable. She described the OCLC implementation team as amazing and very helpful. Their knowledge of the WMS system and experience with previous migrations enabled the team to advise library staff of problems they might encounter.

South Plains College's system went live last August 15. Anderson said LDAP authentication was enabled in December, and that system adjustments continue to be made. She noted that WMS is changing constantly, but library staff sees the ongoing changes as improvements and refinements to the system, a good thing. Anderson said staff has utilized the online training that OCLC offers through short videos and longer webinars.

The system's impact on library staff has been positive. Beyer said cataloging time has been reduced and deletions are now easier. The intuitive nature of the web-based circulation system has made training for student workers less time-consuming. Using less library jargon, Anderson said the system is more readily understood by student workers with little or no library background. Shelf checking has been facilitated through the use of tablets or laptops that can be taken directly to the shelves, which should also make future inventories easier. Remote access is a definite plus, allowing many tasks and training to be performed from home. This was particularly helpful during their compressed migration time. Anderson also threw in a plug for OCLC's WorldShare Interlibrary Loan – which the library implemented at the same time – that has resulted in speeding up the library's interlibrary loan processes.

Beyer and Anderson discussed WMS's impact on the faculty and students. Acknowledging that the old system was not too faculty-friendly, Anderson said that WMS has made the library's online catalog easier for faculty to use. This has increased their interest, and instructors are beginning to request more lists of books. As for students, Beyer said they like the easier-to-use, cleaner looking discovery interface. Such features as the Hold function and the ability to renew items online have been particularly popular with students. Beyer said a little confusion still exists about the Hold function with some students, but staff is working with them.

Beyer said WMS will help the library with new projects it will soon be undertaking, including a book fair in which library staff will take books directly to students in their classes and check items out in real time. Another major effort will be the weeding of the reference section to make room for other library collections including a biographies section. Additionally, an inventory project is scheduled for the summer of 2015.

Asked about reports in a question-and-answer session that followed, Anderson termed them very good. She noted reports can now be retrieved both from the Reports tab and via FTP, an improvement over the old Ex Libris Voyager system that relied on Microsoft Access to create and run reports. She said the library hasn’t encountered any information they have needed that they could not access.

The best advice the South Plains staff had for any library planning to migrate to WMS: give yourself as much time as possible, rely on your OCLC implementation team, and start doing prep work such as records cleanup immediately.