Florida's New Integrated Library System

New ILS Provides More Access For Students, Faculty And Staff

Headshot of Elijah Scott

July 15, 2021 | Elijah Scott,
Executive Director, FLVC Library Services

The new, next-generation Integrated Library System (ILS) went live on July 13, 2021, and will allow students, faculty, and staff to search for and find information across all library collections at Florida’s 40 state colleges and universities.

The ILS is a combination of two products, Alma and Primo VE, from the vendor Ex Libris. Alma is the Library Management System, which does all the “behind the scenes” work. Alma maintains information about the books and other resources held at each library; directory information about the students, faculty, and staff at each library; tracks which items are checked out and to who; holds information about library purchases; and much more. Primo VE is the “discovery tool,” which is where students, faculty, and staff will go to search and discover information held by Florida academic libraries. In years past, we would have referred to Primo VE as the library catalog, although the catalog now searches much, much more than only the items that physically live in the library.

In the past, the library catalog was mainly used to locate print books that physically existed on the library’s shelves. However, libraries now provide access to content in many formats, including electronic resources such as online databases, scholarly journals, digital versions of magazines and newspapers, films and videos, and much more. The integrated library system allows researchers to search across all that content, or to search only specific collections or types of content, from a single search interface. It also allows researchers to access full text content from these high-quality, scholarly, and peer reviewed resources from anywhere in the world that has internet access.

The new ILS will provide extra benefits to students, faculty, and staff in the State University System (SUS) and Florida College System (FCS) by allowing researchers to search across the print collections of all 40 SUS and FCS institutions, and then to request materials to be sent to them at their home institution. For instance, a student at Miami Dade College (MDC) might search the statewide catalog and discover that a book they really need for a research project is on the shelf at the University of West Florida (UWF), over 600 miles away. With just a few clicks, the UBorrow service within the ILS allows the researcher to request that book to be sent to them at the MDC library, and at no cost to the researcher. Once the researcher is finished with the book, they can return it to the MDC library - or any library in the SUS or FCS - and the book will be returned to UWF. Through the UBorrow service, the ILS provides students, faculty, and staff with access to more than 18 million print items across 40 institutions and more than 150 libraries.

The new ILS can integrate with other enterprise systems across the college or university campus, so that access to content will be seamless for students, faculty, and staff. For instance, the ILS will connect with systems including the student information system (SIS), the campus financial system, and the institution’s learning management system. Students can see what they have checked out, easily see when things are due back, and know if they owe fines or fees. Faculty can easily add links to library content within the learning management system. The ILS is fully mobile friendly, so students can do advanced academic research from their phone or other smart device.

A project of this size and scope requires extraordinary amounts of work from a large number of people. Our incredible FLVC Library Services and FLVC staff have been working on this project from the very beginning of the selection process. The commitment and dedication of our staff has kept this project on target for our projected go-live date, even with unexpected hurdles such as a global pandemic. Another key piece in the development of the new ILS has been the teamwork and collaboration with library faculty and staff from all 40 Florida colleges and universities. Multiple groups and committees have collaborated to ensure that the ILS migration happens as seamlessly as possible. An Implementation Team of 21 members is the main decision-making body for specific project deliverables, along with the policies and workflows necessary to successfully implement the system. There are eight ILS working groups, with 11 members of each group, who provide advice and guidance to FLVC Library Services and the vendor on how best to configure our new ILS and discovery interface. Additionally, each Working Group has a corresponding Discussion Group that allows broader input from all interested staff. There is also an ILS Coordinator at each institution, who acts as a liaison between the institution and FLVC Library Services on all matters related to the implementation of Alma and Primo VE. There are representatives from all the colleges and universities on these working groups that not only helped us figure out what system to select, but now that we are doing the implementation, they are looking at all the features and functionalities. They are making sure that the data has migrated over correctly, and that the system works with the data in the way that we think it should. It is a big project, and this teamwork has been critically important to the success of the project.