- Getting Started
One of the most important steps you can take to ensure a successful migration is to prepare your existing data. Data migration is one of the potential stumbling blocks in the ILS migration process since the fields or formats used in a previous system may not correspond directly to the new system. The data you will be moving includes the catalog records of items in your collection; patron records including patron addresses, currently checked out items, and fines and fees; and any other information you keep track of using your ILS, such as acquisitions.
Libraries migrating to OSS ILSs should do as much data preparation as they can. There are two main reason for doing data preparation. First, it keeps you from spending the time and money migrating data that you don't need. Second, the time you spend preparing you data beforehand prevents you from having to do massive cleanup after migration. In both cases, data preparation helps make your migration a success.
Data migration is one of the steps where vendor expertise can really help. Many support vendors have experience migrating data from a variety of different proprietary ILS so they can help guide you through the potential pitfalls you may face with your system. Ask vendors if they have worked with migrating data from your current system before you commit to a migration contract, and contact other libraries who have migrated from your system to get their input on potential problems.
Migrating to a new system is an opportunity to start fresh. Any problems with your old records, any inconsistencies, any annoying quirks, now is the chance to fix them. The added advantage is the more consistent your records are the more easily they can be migrated. The key to migrating data is to know where each field in the old system is going to appear in the new one. This is easier to track when the old records are standardized. (For a general slideshow on the importance of data cleanup.)
More data means more potential problems and may also increase costs if you are using a vendor. You can reduce amount of data that you have to migrate by doing things like weeding your collection, removing user records that are no longer active, and considering other events like fine amnesty. Collection weeding was one of the most frequently mentioned suggestions in our survey of ILS migrators and helps by reducing the number of records and removing older items that may not have up-to-date records. Fewer records also means less time must be spent checking for errors. Purging old user accounts reduces data overhead, while holding a fine amnesty day for patrons or just wiping out fines and fees entirely can also make your process easier.
Another important element of data prep is getting rid of unneeded records. Weeding, both collection and patron records, is useful. ALA has some great resources on weeding library collections. Although this is not a necessary part of data prep it is highly recommended. This is also a good time to think about doing an inventory. Knowing what materials you have ensures that the records that you migrate reflect the current state of your library. The major motivator is cost. If you are using a vendor to migrate your data, you should know that they charge by the record. So why pay for records that you don't need? If you're doing the migration internally, why would you want to clutter your brand new system with unneeded records.
Fines are an element that deserves some discussion. Often fines, or at least the fine details, are difficult to migrate from one system to the other. If at all possible, consider a fine amnesty. It will give you one less thing to worry about. If you can't do an amnesty then consider other options. Some libraries put their fines in an Excel spreadsheet, print it out and keep it at the circulation desk. Then they put a note in the system. As people pay their fines they are cross off the printout. This method allows them to keep the details of the fines without fighting to move them into the new system. It may take some creativity but sometimes the answer isn't to migrate the data into the new system.
Library catalogs often suffer from inconsistency in the fields used to enter information, causing confusion about item information and creating problems in migrating the data fields. Any migration planning process should emphasize the need to enter information consistently to avoid migration errors later.
This is a good idea for several reasons, but when it comes to your data, doing a test migration will let you see what happens to your information in the new system and make changes before you commit to going live.