Test Driving Alma Digital: A New Tool for Making Digital Collections Available Online

The challenges of the past year have really demonstrated the importance of our online resources and digital projects. We’ve been able to forge new partnerships and strengthen relationships with academic departments across the university, thanks to our ability to pivot and provide the digital resources our students and researchers really need, even if they can’t visit us in person. Our digital resources, however, are useful to our patrons and online visitors only if the tools used to deliver them work well. In an effort to further expand our capabilities, we’re been testing something new for our expanding digital projects toolbox.

Alma Digital is an extension of the Ex Libris services we already use for the discovery of information resources and other online services. It adds collection management and delivery capabilities for digital resources and gives us more options to make our digital collections discoverable. If we choose, we can make a digital collection in Alma Digital discoverable in our QuickSearch interface, better unifying how we share our digital resources. To get a feel for how Alma Digital works, and how it can serve our needs, Central IT and members of Instructional and Publishing Support (IPS) have been looking for potential digital projects to pilot test this platform. For our initial test, we chose the New Brunswick Student Exhibits collection.

One of the biggest success stories of the past year has been the partnerships forged between the Libraries and our schools in showcasing student research. Since last year, we’ve been working with both Camden and New Brunswick schools to bring what used to be in-person research symposia to the virtual space. When we began this initiative, it required a lot of work from Libraries faculty and staff to manage deposited presentations and make them accessible online. With the demand for service growing for our second year, we were expecting the number of deposits to more than double from last year. It was clear we needed a better way than the manual process put in place during our first attempt.

We learned that Alma Digital provides a method for managing deposits and accepting patron-driven content using deposit forms. Using this capability, the team behind the New Brunswick Student Exhibits was able to streamline the process for students sending in their presentations. This gave us a way to quickly manage both the media students were sending in and the metadata describing that media.

The results so far have pretty impressive: in one week, we processed the same number of presentations that we received in over three months last year… and the students taking part aren’t even close to finished with sending us their work. Using Alma’s digital lobby, we’ve also offered an easily searchable way for to students to explore their work and that of their classmates, offering up documents, infographics, poster PDFs, podcasts and video summaries.

What we’ve learned so far is that Alma Digital does an excellent job of collection management and delivery for digital collections with born digital content – resources that originally started as a digital document. We hope to continue exploring what other types of digital collections Alma Digital will be useful for. As we get more digital collection proposals from library unites, I hope to work with collection sponsors to see what tools in our toolbox will work best to tell each digital collection’s story.

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