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Ottenheimer Library prepares changes in digital resource system for improved user experience

UA Little Rock’s Ottenheimer Library will unveil changes to their online resource systems on Aug. 10 that will streamline the search process and create a more seamless user experience. 

Ottenheimer Library currently uses a vendor called EBSCO for the electronic discovery and a system called Sierra for the physical Library Catalog. All of these platforms will soon be consolidated to a single platform called Alma/Primo. This platform will have a significantly different user interface, but will also create a more seamless and effective user experience.

“We have a lot of systems in place right now, so Alma/Primo is kind of a single solution for us,” said Nicole Hensley, metadata systems manager. “It will streamline processes on our end as well as make things nicer for everybody out there.”

To start, sign in will be easier as users will be able to integrate it with the campus single sign on. This will look the same, but reduce the amount of times required to sign in while searching for resources. The option will also be available to log in using Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

However, the bulk of the changes affect the actual process of finding and requesting resources through their online database. For example, one new feature is called bX Recommender. This takes the data from all the searches across every school using Primo to see how articles are related before recommending the best matches. It will also allow researchers to select a particular facet or subject within a resource and get recommendations for more targeted, related material, making for a more precise and efficient search.

Chris Stewart, the discovery and metadata coordinator as well as the lead on this project, said this new feature will greatly improve the process.

“The way it is now, if you want to have a comprehensive literature search for a particular topic, you might have to go in and then out of three or four separate databases,” Stewart said. “Primo will now allow us to bring all those databases together so that they will be one single search across many platforms, all with quality delivery. We prioritize full text articles so that we come as close to one click delivery as possible.”

The improvements don’t stop there. It will also be easier for researchers to retrieve a resource as the changes allow the library to accept digitization requests for printed articles or a part of a physical book. Users will also be able to request that an item be held for them to make pick up quick and easy.

As Stewart said, they are still in the book and shelf business so the library’s physical catalog will be kept in place. However, the online catalog was built approximately 25 years ago and has not kept up with the changes in web technology over the years. The changes being implemented allow the library to move closer to more sophisticated delivery of digital materials.

“We expect that there will be a distinct post-COVID research environment,” Stewart said. “People who have come to rely on remotely accessing materials will continue to want to remotely access materials. Things like digitization requests will allow us to answer those needs for people who still want to work remotely. We love to see people in the library, but we also realize that we’re in a new day and age.”

These changes will also coincide with the establishment of a Learning Commons, a space within the library where students can go for direct, one-on-one assistance from tutors or teachers. While there are still little details on this aspect at the moment, Stewart said they expect this new catalog and search function to play a part in this new program as well.

“This is all about keeping our enrolled students enrolled and getting the materials that faculty need for course work into the classroom,” Stewart said. “That will also be part of the Learning Commons mission.”

The library has four instructional librarians that will be providing guidance to students and faculty on the new functions available. They are already working to prepare training events both before and during the roll out of the new catalog. The librarians are also available to assist faculty with concerns about their course materials and their availability through Blackboard as the current links may change come August.

“We want people to know that the library is working in the mission of student success,” Stewart said. “We thought this was a significant development toward that mission.”