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Data Migration

The following is a list of tips for migrating automation records from one system to another.

Involve Staff
Get staff, particularly the selection team involved Staff that participated in selecting the system will have a sense of ownership. It is important to have broad representation for all areas of expertise--circulation, cataloging, ILL, etc.

Elect Team leader
Elect one person to lead the migration. This person should be well organized and sensitive to a timeline. Decision structure is also essential to migration. Knowing when to make a committee decision, or when you need to act immediately is crucial to getting through this transition. Don't involve committee members in every decision that is made. Determine who's expertise you need for particular items, and involve these individuals in the decision.

Maintenance Issues
Migration is just part of the process. There will also be clean-up projects, re-keying data, catching up on backlog created during downtime, verifying loads, training, creating new policies and procedures, and publicity and communication to the clientele

Communicate the timeline
Include major events such as turning off the old system, or vendor training. Also include the smaller items that build up to these events. All staff emails that highlight what is happening when will help keep staff informed of events and is more time saving then holding meetings. Communication within sub-committees and administration is also important.

Make training work
Vendor training is expensive and you can never pay for enough. Prepare before attending the training. Experiment with the system so that you have specific questions during the training, rather than a general idea of how things work. Send questions and training expectations ahead of time to the trainer.

Design good testing data
Give the vendor a sample of your database by testing records. Initially, the load may look fine, but is all data present and in the appropriate fields. Test data will give you an idea of this.

Going live with the new system
If you don't have all migration task completed by opening day, not to worry. The first couple of months after you implement the system will serve as a pilot for testing the features. After wide spread public and staff exposure, there may be features or configurations you wish to change or add. Every bell and whistle of the system doesn't need to be implemented on the first day. You can add features such as self-check out stations, or audio and video files to the database as you go.

Plan ahead
Update wiring, purchase computers, and revise circulation policies are some items to do before you migrate to a new system. A new system may have different options which will dictate circulation policies.

Communicating with the vendor
This will be a busy time for you and your vendor, but stay on top of things. Realize the vendor has other installations, but be persistent in getting what you need to make this a success. After migration, re-examine the RFP and make sure all vendor obligations were met. If you wait too long, the agreement will be null and void. Take care of outstanding transactions as well as database clean-up before migration. Obviously, there will be exceptions, but the fewer the better. Ideas for ceasing outstanding transactions might be to suspend ILL and bindery shipments for a period, forgive fines, and not allow renewals.

Ensuring a successful voyage
Communication, representation of diverse staff, and specific task designations are particularly important elements to the migration process. There will always be unexpected challenges, but with a core team, the journey will be a smoother process.

Citation: Doering, William. "Managing the Transition to a New Library Catalog: Tips for Smooth Sailing". Computers in Libraries, Vol. 20, No.7., July/August 2000, pp. 20-24.

For additional information, email: Regan Harper (

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