Tech Blog

Clio and Alma: Together at Last

The cloud-based Clio system integrates tightly with Alma through NCIP (NISO Circulation Interchange Protocol), which is a protocol that enables, among other things, interoperability between stand-alone interlibrary loan systems such as Clio or ILLiad (often referred to as broker systems) and an ILS such as Alma.  With this new NCIP communication between Clio and Alma, we’ve been able to significantly streamline our workflows.  Note that our library uses OCLC Worldshare for downloading and updating interlibrary loans, so the following workflows assume usage of Worldshare.  Your library’s workflows may differ if you don’t use OCLC.

Lending Workflow

An example of a streamlined workflow is ILL lending requests for physical items.  Our previous workflow required we download lending requests into Clio from OCLC, mark the request as “yes loan” or “yes copy” for requests we could fill (or “no” for requests we couldn’t fill), check out any loans in Alma under the “interlibrary” “patron” (a pseudo patron set up for interlibrary lending loans), and finally send the “yes loan” or “no” updates to OCLC manually via Clio.

The new workflow still requires us to download requests from OCLC and process them in Clio, but once we click “update” on the request in Clio for loans of physical items, the NCIP configuration sends an automatic message to Alma to check the book out, and the request status is automatically updated in OCLC to “shipped” and marks the request in Clio as “yes loan.”  NCIP communication allows Alma to easily recognize the items as resource sharing items and apply resource sharing policies to the items.  The result of the greater interoperability between Clio, Alma and OCLC is less tedium and human error.

One discovery was NCIP obviates the need for using an “interlibrary” pseudo patron in Alma; instead, Alma automatically moves the lent item(s) from their permanent location in Alma (stacks, media collection, etc) to a temporary interlibrary loan location (“ILL Dept” in our case, although you can name the interlibrary location what you choose).  The item information in our OPAC (Primo) will then display “on ILL process until x due date”).  Note that the relocation behavior of a lent item is merely a way that Alma interprets the NCIP communication message; some ILS’s do indeed use an “interlibrary” pseudo-patron in conjunction with NCIP.

Lending copy requests (such as for journal articles) are similarly simplified.  Once the request(s) is downloaded from OCLC into Clio, we process the request in Clio as “yes copy” and then attach the PDF of the requested article into a dropbox area in the Clio request and when we click “update” an automatic email is sent to the borrowing library which includes a download link and password for the article’s retrieval.  Note that because Clio is cloud-based, it has its own server to store articles we upload from the Clio form; the download link and password allows the patron to fetch the article from the Clio server. Finally, the Clio status is updated to “yes copy” and the OCLC status is automatically updated to “shipped” upon clicking “update.”

Lending returns also flow easier.  Once the item is returned to us, we download the OCLC “returned” message into Clio and pull up the request.  We update the Clio status to “complete” (meaning we received the returned item) and click “update” and that automatically moves the loaned item from the temporary “ILL Dept” location in Alma back to its permanent location.  The update button also completes the OCLC request in Worldshare.

Renewals are also easier.  When a renewal request is downloaded from OCLC into Clio and we pull up the request in Clio, the requested renewal date is displayed.  If we grant the renewal, we type in the new due date in the Clio request form and then click “update” and a “renew OK” update is sent to OCLC and the new due date for the item is updated automatically via NCIP in Alma.  Conversely, if the ILL staff chooses to decline the renewal request, we mark the request as “RenewNO” in the Clio request.  This automatically updates the OCLC status as “renew denied.”

Borrowing Workflow

The borrowing side is similarly streamlined.  Once we receive a borrowed item, we download OCLC updates into Clio and the process the Clio request as “received loan.”  Clicking the “update” button triggers an automated cascade of events: the loan status is updated in OCLC and Clio as “received,” and an NCIP message is passed to Alma to automatically create a temporary bibliographic record for the item to put on the patron’s hold shelf; we then print a book strap in Clio.  Once the patron comes to claim the item, it is checked out to them like any other item.  You can use either Clio or Alma to send automated notices to patrons, letting them know about newly-received items, overdues and renewals.  Since the request is coordinated between the two systems you can use whichever notice system is most appropriate to your situation.  Once the patron returns the book, we update the request to “returned” in Clio and that automatically removes the book from the patron’s Alma account and updates the OCLC status to “returned.”

The process for receiving copies is similar to lending copies; again, we attach the PDF of the article to the dropbox area in the Clio request form, but this time processing the request in Clio as “received copy.”  We then click “update” and the OCLC status is updated to “received” and an automated email is sent to the patron with the download link and password to retrieve the article.

Renewals are similar to lending renewals.  When a patron requests a renewal, we enter the desired renewal date in Clio and click “RenewalRequest” which sends the request to OCLC.  Once the request is granted, we download updates from OCLC into Clio which automatically sends an email to the patron that their book has been renewed (along with the new due date) and Alma automatically updates the due date in the patron’s record.  If a renewal is denied, an automated email is sent to the patron from Clio stating the renewal was denied and to return the book as soon as possible.  Note that these automatic emails to patrons are an optional feature of Clio.

Integrating Clio with Alma

What follows in this section is a sample of some of the setup screens we used to integrate Clio with Alma.  This is not a blow-by-blow account, and your local Alma installation will no doubt have some settings that are different.  Below is the “summary” setup tab for the resource sharing library settings screen in Alma (Fulfillment>Fulfillment Configuration Menu>Library Management>Library Details), with annotations below:

For the Borrowing Setup section, we left both boxes unchecked because we are using Clio, which is a third-party “broker” ILL solution platform, versus a peer-to-peer resource sharing setup (such as using Z39.50 protocol). Finally, we chose “ILL Dept” as the default location for borrowing as that was the location set up for us by our Alma implementation coordinator and where the temporary borrowing bibliographic records are stored.

The screenshot above is the Parameters” tab in the “Partners” screen (Fulfillment>Resource Sharing>Partners).  We set the “user identification type” to “primary identifier” simply because that identifier would link our Clio patrons with Alma and, coincidentally, with our university portal authentication system that Clio uses to ensure only current Curry faculty/staff and students can set up a Clio account.  Each library can use any of the values in the drop-down menu, but the library must check with Alma and Clio support to be sure that patron accounts in Alma and Clio share the same identifier.

The request pushing method was set to “link” but is not relevant here because we have configured our base openURL (supplied by Clio) in the General Electronic Services (GES) area in Alma (Fulfillment>Fulfillment Configuration>Configuration Menu>Discovery Interface Display Logic>General Electronic Services).  Similarly, we left the “URL Template” field blank because our ILL request form automatically displays in Primo and in our databases based on the openURL supplied by Clio which was already set up in the “URL Template” field in our ILL GES settings in Alma.  Also, the “disable service when” option is irrelevant here because that setting is also set in our ILL GES settings.  It[MS1]  should be noted that Clio supports all openURL versions, which allows the ILL request form displayed in our discovery layer and in our databases to automatically populate the citation data of the patron’s requested item.

Finally, we left the “Automatic Receive” box checked to allow the barcode for the item received in Clio to be the barcode used to check out the item in Alma.

There were a few parameters that needed to be set up in Clio to enable NCIP communication, as seen in the screenshot above.  We first needed to select “Ncip” as the “protocol type.”  We also needed to fill out the “LMS URL” field with the NCIP URL provided to us by Ex Libris.  We also needed to fill out the “LMS ID” field with our agency ID, which Ex Libris provided us with.  The “Clio’s system ID” field was also filled out with “Clio” which corresponded with the “Code” field value in the screenshot below.  We left the “ILL patron ID (for checking out Lending Items)” field blank because, as previously mentioned, NCIP communication with Alma does not require an interlibrary loan pseudo-patron: the loaned item is simply moved to a temporary ILL location.  Finally, we added an extra 30 days to our automatically generated due date in Clio for the patron due date in Alma in the “Due Date Offset (for lending items) field.

Below is the “General Information” tab in the “Resource Sharing Partner” setup screen (Fulfillment>Resource Sharing>Partners).  The “Clio” code corresponds to the “Clio’s System ID” field in the above Clio NCIP setup screen.  Predictably, the “Profile Type” is NCIP, and “System Type” is set to “Other” (Clio is not one of the options in the drop-down menu, but this field is for informational purposes only).

Putting It All Together

Overall, Clio has been a great success for Levin Library.  It integrates fluidly with Alma, and has greatly reduced our workflows.  Because of the more dynamic and automated interaction between Clio and Alma, errors have also been reduced.  Because of Clio’s intuitive UI, ILL staff training has been smooth and patrons are satisfied with our turnaround time for their requests.  To conclude, below are some screenshots of typical Clio menus as well as two diagrams illustrating the basic workflow from OCLC/Worldshare to Clio to Alma and back to OCLC/Worldshare again.

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