Tech Blog

Digitization requests at the University of Liege Library

University of Liege Library went live with Alma in February 2015. We had been using Aleph and SFX since 2006 and Primo since 2013.
One of our main concerns during the Alma implementation phase was to go live with all services that were already available in the past and to add some new Alma related services at the very beginning, additional services for end users being progressively launched.

One of the services that were directly launched in February 2015 was to allow patrons to request physical available items that the library staff would pick up from the shelf and put on the hold shelf at the circulation desk, waiting for the requester.
The idea of such a service when we moved to Aleph in 2006 was not really appreciated by the library staff (extra load of work, etc.), it was finally not launched.
Ten years later, times, software tools and librarians’ conceptions of services have changed! Picking up items from the shelf on behalf of the patrons was highly supported by the library and its staff, and Alma’s smooth workflow for hold requests has certainly been key to this success!

Enabling patron digitization requests is one of those new services we decided to launch progressively, after going live.
Alma allows a patron (or staff member) to request the creation of a digital file for any physical or electronic item. Physical items are transferred from their library location to the digitization department, where they are scanned and digital files are created. Electronic items are digitized by locating them in the repository and saving them in digital format.
Alma digitization request workflow is configurable according to the library’s wills and needs: requests can be created via Alma or Primo, can be full (the whole item) or partial (chapter, page range, or article within an item), digitization requests can be limited to some user groups, digitization requests can be limited in numbers or associated with an approval process (they can be approved at any point in the digitization workflow, but delivery cannot be completed until approval is granted), digitized material can be added to the inventory of the institution and made accessible to registered and/or guest users via Primo for example or directly be sent to the requester via email, etc. So the library can deal with a lot of different options.

In order to have a clear view of what could be done at the very beginning, it was decided to carry out an internal study to check Alma digitization workflows against our own existing institutional workflows and see if they had to be updated, if additional scanners should be acquired, what would be the best configuration for us, etc. The final report suggested the Board of Directors of the Library to first work within a pilot phase (until end of 2016) and to allow digitization requests for patrons within the following framework:

  • only partial requests (journal articles, book chapters)
  • for faculty and staff users only (based on the Alma user groups)
  • maximum 3 concurrent digitization requests
  • service free of charge
  • no approval process
  • only delivery via email
With the three first limitations, we expected to fulfill the main needs of one of our priority user groups and to limit any eventual queue before being served, and this because we wanted that new service to be launched appropriately, effectively and in accordance with the law. Offering a digitization service free of charge for the University Faculty was also a central concern among the board!
After Alma was configured according to our needs and expectations, training sessions were given to the library staff in February and March 2016; the Alma digitization requests service was finally open to Faculty and staff users end of March 2016.

We try to have reasonable delivery delay, within the day if possible and at least not longer than 48 hours! Every library branch supports locally digitization workflows; some new collaboration between closely located branches has also been established.

On the Primo side, the digitization request form has been adapted and simplified in order to only display what is really necessary; we only require from the requesters to mention the chapter or pages to digitize.

At the very beginning, some library staff members were a bit worried that they might be overloaded with too many requests or that patrons would not clearly indicate pages to digitize, or would request the library to digitize several chapters at once! This fear is however not reflected in the usage statistics: after a few weeks, this new service has not given rise to any abuse!

When the digitization request is fulfilled, the requester gets the digitized material as an attachment. For larger files (more than 10 Mo), library staff does not attach any file but use an institutional large file sharing service. The URL for download is provided to the requesters in the email they receive from Alma.

The pilot phase will be analyzed end of 2016. If it is successful, then the digitization service might be offer in a much broader way: open to other user groups, allowing full digitization requests for library books in the public domain, increasing the limit of concurrent requests, making digitized full materials available via Primo to registered users, etc. We are also carrying on a survey among the users of the service: in each email they receive with the digitized material, they can anonymously take part to a quick survey and judge notably the quality of the scan and the delivery delay. Feedback from faculty is extremely positive!

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