William & Mary

Library to launch new catalog

  • Evolution of the card catalog:
    Evolution of the card catalog:  This summer W&M Libraries is launching a new catalog that will improve how materials are browsed, searched and discovered.  Photo courtesy of W&M Libraries
  • Evolution of the card catalog:
    Evolution of the card catalog:  The current library catalog, although updated throughout the years, is based on decades-old technology and design.  Photo courtesy of W&M Libraries
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It will soon be easier than ever to locate and access library resources at William & Mary. This summer, W&M Libraries is launching a new catalog that will improve how materials are browsed, searched and discovered. 

The current library catalog, although updated throughout the years, is based on decades-old technology and design. As digital collections have risen – over 80 percent of W&M Libraries’ collection budget goes toward electronic content – improving the technology platforms that support them has become critical.

“Systems have changed significantly in the last decade, and our ‘dinosaur system’ has lasted nearly 20 years – a lifetime in technology years. When this system was developed, the Internet was in its infancy. Since then, electronic collections have grown, technology has evolved and research practices have changed to reflect the new digital world we live in,” said Dean of University Libraries Carrie Cooper.

This next-generation system, Alma/Primo, has been implemented by many libraries across the nation and in Virginia, most recently at Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University. Prior to selecting Alma/Primo, W&M Libraries’ staff conducted extensive research on catalog platforms and visited local academic libraries that had adopted new systems.

“The new catalog will offer a single, clean interface, which we hope will make it easier for faculty, students, and scholars to find the wonderful materials in our print and e-collections,” said Georgie Donovan, associate dean of collections and content services and co-project manager for the migration. “Any migration from one huge system to another presents so many data challenges, so I want to convey that we’re eager to hear feedback on the new system once we go live; iteration is key to good design. This new system will allow us to update and fix problems more rapidly and enhance the search functionality continuously.” 

Alma/Primo will integrate the library’s multiple back-end systems and three separate public catalogs into a single search platform for accessing millions of library holdings. Its user-friendly interface will make databases and websites easier to navigate and research content more discoverable. Other features include responsive design optimized for smartphones and tablets, options for advanced search and integration into the interlibrary loan system.

While the library works to ensure a smooth transition, the effort is not without challenges. Link addresses to titles in the current catalog used in Blackboard or course syllabi will change with the new catalog. Additionally, personal saved lists of books and other items from the VuFind public catalog will not migrate to the new system.

“I’m excited to be working on this vision of a smart, helpful catalog for our patrons, one that offers an elegant interface and helps me, as a user, access PDF full text articles and find rare books equally well. Right now, it’s a lot of work behind-the-scenes to migrate our data thoughtfully and set up new workflows and functionality that will help us realize the vision of a smart, helpful catalog for our patrons,” said Donovan.

The library has created a catalog migration webpage with frequently asked questions, directions on how to update links and export lists, a feedback form and more.

The new catalog will go live on Monday, Aug. 8.