Case Study

Plymouth Marjon University Library had a requirement for the supply, support and maintenance of a replacement library management system to meet the needs of a single campus university with a population of just under 3000 students. The system has over 55,000 holdings and circulates around 6,000 items per year. PTFS Europe was awarded the contract to implement Koha and Metabase analytics in August 2020 with a view of going live in December 2020. The contract included integration with self service machines, EBSCO Discovery Service, the university’s single sign on system, Reading List Management System, the Unity student registry system, EDI (EDIFACT) ordering (with Coutts and GOBI) and ILL with the BLDSS.

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Plymouth Marjon University

December, 2020 | Koha | Higher Education

The Challenge: The library was looking for a system which would engage its users, enable integrations with other systems and have fantastic usability; allowing staff to be able to easily manage the system whilst having first class support from their vendor. The online catalogue had to be appealing to students and fit their understanding of libraries. It also had to have features that would make it a real pedagogical tool rather than just a catalogue sitting in the background. This meant it had to be fully customisable. Having a flexible and open system which allows for easy integration was also key. The university integrates with the CLA, Discovery, Reading List Management software amongst other things. Open source was attractive to the university for enabling this kind of integration via freely available OpenAPIs. The fact that the system was easy to manage was advantageous as the majority of the staff are fulfilling multiple roles, there is no dedicated Systems Librarian! Finally, the reputation for support from PTFS Europe was also a factor in choosing Koha. The university wanted to work with an organisation who was a partner rather than a supplier.

The Implementation: The project was delivered on time and to budget. The existing SirsiDynix Symphony system resided on site and PTFS Europe were able to provide assistance to the library in extracting the data. The library chose to migrate Bibliographic and items records, Users and current loans and Authority records.
Any migration issues were identified during the initial workshop which meant any problems could be resolved well in advance of the go live date. This was important in terms of building confidence and strengthening buy-in with library staff. Training on Koha was carried out using Plymouth Marjon’s data prior to going live and was well received by library staff. All the training was delivered remotely over Microsoft Teams as the implementation took place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Project assurance calls were arranged throughout the project to check on progress. Integration with other university systems was woven into the project timeline to suit the availability of staff in other departments whilst ensuring that everything was available on day one.

Positive Impacts for the Library: Switching from proprietary to open source software was a big benefit for the library in terms of both cost savings but also in terms of influencing the development of the software (which had previously not been possible). If there is a project that the library would like (or need) to happen they can carry that forward and there are plenty of examples of UK-specific developments going into the Koha codebase which have originated from UK libraries (ILL module, EDIFACT ordering, integration with RapidILL etc). The library is able to work with other UK libraries to either sponsor this development or get behind it in other ways. The fact that Koha is natively responsive and accessible has been hugely beneficial to students who often prefer a mobile phone or tablet over a desktop environment. The fact that Koha doesn’t lose functionality between devices stops this being a barrier to access.

Contact: Kerry Kellaway, Head of Library, [email protected]

“We’re entering in to our third year of partnership with PTFS Europe, as the suppliers of our LMS Koha and our analytics tool, Metabase. The customer support level remains unrivalled: our support tickets are answered in a timely and thorough matter and the PTFS team work with us to resolutions, so we can better understand our system and how to make the most of it. PTFS regularly send out communications and present opportunities for us to learn more about their service and the products we use through webinars and YouTube videos, plus a responsive customer accounts team. Upgrades to the system are handled with sensitivity and real insider knowledge of the demands of academic libraries too. I’m hopeful that our partnership can continue for many years to come!” – Kerry Kellaway, Head of Library, Plymouth Marjon University.

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