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It Takes a Village:. Managing Unicorn in a Large Academic Library . Ann Snowman Head, Access Services Dace Freivalds Acting Head, Dept. for Information Technologies Pennsylvania State University Libraries. Abstract.

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it takes a village

It Takes a Village:

Managing Unicorn in a Large Academic Library


Ann Snowman

Head, Access Services

Dace Freivalds

Acting Head, Dept. for Information Technologies

Pennsylvania State University Libraries


Sure, we have a sysadmin (or two). But beyond that, who else is involved in managing Unicorn in a large, multi-campus institution with 24x7 operations?   What is Sirsi Steer? What do the Sirsi Expert Teams do? And then there is the Unicorn Operations group. How does it all fit together?  This presentation will discuss the model used at Penn State University where approximately 40  individuals from the Libraries and IT are involved in managing Unicorn. Hear what works and what doesn't, who is updating policies, and who has the final word.

penn state library environment
Penn State Library Environment

We are:

  • A single library
  • Comprised of 37 sites
  • Distributed among 24 Campuses
  • Employing 576 FTE Faculty & Staff
big impressive numbers
Big impressive numbers!
  • 6,504,510 items in all formats*
  • 1,027,274 positive circ transactions 2007*
  • 85,000 Serials checked in
  • 60,000 Titles cataloged
  • * Charge, renewal, in-house use per Director’s Station 2/25/08
unicorn at psul
Unicorn at PSUL
  • Hardware:  SUN 6900 domain w/ 32 GB memory
  • Operating System:  Solaris 5.10
  • Database: Oracle 10g Release 2
  • Unicorn: GL3.1 Symphony (May 2008)
  • 3 servers: Production, Test (synched monthly),Development
  • Single union database for all libraries
original unicorn leadership model
Original Unicorn Leadership Model
  • LIAS CAT Oversight Team (L-CATT)
  • Managed move from development to maintenance environment
  • Membership mix of admin, IT, functional areas (16 total)
  • Charge
    • Create implementation plans for post-2000 releases
    • Develop communication plans – Libraries, Sirsi helpdesk, forums, listservs, etc.
    • Define and charge subgroups
original unicorn leadership model cont d
Original Unicorn Leadership Model(cont’d.)
  • L-CATT served for one year (Nov. 2001 – Nov. 2002)
  • Different model was needed
    • Group too large
    • Same five folks doing 80% of work
    • Subgroups never implemented
  • Nov. 2002: New leadership model established
    • Sirsi Steering Committee
    • Sirsi Expert Teams
who are the leaders
Who are the Leaders?
  • Steer (SSC) = Sirsi Steering Committee
  • I-Tech = Department for Information Technologies
  • DLT = Digital Libraries Technologies
ssc membership
SSC Membership:
  • Acting Head of I-Tech (co-chair)
  • I-Tech IT Specialist
  • Music & AV Cataloging Librarian
  • Head of Access Services
  • Head of Acquisitions
  • Lead Research Programmer, DLT
  • DLT Research Programmer (co-chair)
  • Reports to IT- Strategies
ssc provides leadership
SSC Provides Leadership
  • Bi-weekly meetings
  • Manage Sirsi/Dynix initiatives for University Libraries.
      • Will we upgrade to Symphony, and when?
  • Makes policy decisions
      • Acceptable window for downtime
  • Direct activities of 5 Sirsi Expert Teams
      • Begin testing the upgrade this week, report back in 21 days.
      • Assess implementation decisions and suggest changes
5 expert teams function based expertise
5 Expert Teams-function based expertise
  • Acquisitions
  • Serials
  • Cataloging
  • Circ/Reserves
  • Next Gen Public Interface – cross functional


  • Expected to know and understand nuanced functionality of their Unicorn module.
  • At least one member from each team is also a member of the Steering Committee.
  • A representative from DLT is on each expert team.
responsibilities of expert teams
Responsibilities of Expert Teams
  • Train other staff
  • Test releases
  • Devise procedures/initiatives
  • Advise scheduling and implementation
  • Schedule and run reports
  • Serve as forum masters
  • Suggest enhancements
  • Submit helpdesk requests and evaluate responses
  • Troubleshoot functional problems
  • Document procedures
  • Provide assessment
ad hoc groups
Ad Hoc Groups
  • The SSC also works very closely with, and in some cases, directs the activities of, other groups on various Sirsi/Unicorn issues.
  • Groups have included:
    • Online Help
    • Reports
    • Unicode Steering Team in hiatus
all about i tech
All About I-Tech
  • I-Tech = University Libraries Department of Information Technology
  • Reports to Asst. Dean, Technical and Collections Services
  • 10 staff responsible for
    • Staff technology training
    • Libraries website management and coordination
    • Development of applications to support administration
    • Digital project management and interface design
    • Applications support for enterprise software
    • Web 2.0 technologies
i tech unicorn role
I-Tech Unicorn Role
  • 1.5 FTE
  • SysAdmin – Policy configuration & updating
  • Maintain and run regular & on-demand reports
  • Manage Director’s Station
  • Troubleshoot – Libraries helpdesk and SirsiDynix client care
i tech unicorn role cont d
I-Tech Unicorn Role (cont’d.)
  • Participate in development projects (e.g., Gobi, bibloads)
  • “Go to” folks for functional issues
  • Institutional memory
  • Represents Unicorn on Libraries IT Strategies group
  • 2 reps on Sirsi Steer
all about dlt
All About DLT
  • DLT = Digital Library Technologies
  • Unit of Information Technology Services (ITS)
  • Reports to Vice-Provost for Information Technology/CIO
  • 25 staff responsible for
    • research & development of digital library software components & systems
    • library servers, networks, workstations, and systems software
dlt unicorn role
DLT Unicorn Role
  • 1.5 FTE
  • Maintain system security
  • SysAdmin
    • Perform upgrades
    • Install patch clusters
    • Back-ups, restores
    • Perform annual re-indexing
    • Extract data files for OCLC, authority processing,e tc.
dlt unicorn role cont d
DLT Unicorn Role (cont’d.)
  • Customize delivered product per request from library
    • WebCat interface
    • Links to Central Accounting Office, Registrar, etc.
    • Create custom reports
  • Troubleshoot -- Libraries helpdesk and SirsiDynix client care
  • Monitor API and SysAdmin listservs
  • 2 reps on Sirsi Steer
unicorn operations team
Unicorn Operations Team
  • Reps from I-Tech and DLT
  • Weekly meetings
  • Prepares technical plans and timelines for upgrades based on input from Sirsi Steer
  • Evaluates development, customization, and enhancement requests
  • More technical in nature than Sirsi Steer
it strategies
IT Strategies

Top Level administration provides oversight, strategic planning, timelines, and resource allocation for all library technology initiatives.

  • Oracle Calendar Conversion
  • SFX/MetaLib Projects
  • CMS Implementation
  • DPubS
  • Solaris 10 Migration
  • Libraries Facebook Application
  • Sirsi Steering Committee
it strategies membership
IT Strategies Membership


  • Dean (Chair)
  • 4 Assistant /Associate Deans
  • Acting Head, I-Tech


  • Director, DLT
  • Director, Digital Library Research and Development
  • Director, Digital Library Infrastructure
  • Evolving model
    • Constantly changing/reinventing ourselves
    • Adaptable
    • Exploit skills/knowledge/abilities/experience as it develops
    • Flexible
unicorn admin transition
Unicorn Admin Transition
  • Goal: Empower library staff to exercise more control over their Unicorn system
  • Move some policy configuration from I-Tech to Access and Technical Services
    • Original Strategy: develop web tool to allow updating of policies via the web
      • Not implemented due to reorganization & change in direction for DLT & I-Tech
    • Current Strategy: authorize & train staff for selected policy configuration wizards
unicorn admin transition cont d
Unicorn Admin Transition (cont’d.)
  • Phase 1– 2007
    • Circulation & reserves policies
    • Acquisitions & serials policies
    • Location policy
  • 5 staff
    • 2 from circ/reserve
    • 2 from acq/serials
    • 1 from location policy
    • Serve as each other’s back-ups
unicorn admin transition cont d1
Unicorn Admin Transition (cont’d.)
    • Staff assumed to have excellent understanding of policy for which they will be authorized
  • Training consists of
    • Overview of policies: internal numbers, risks (lack of granularity, insufficient testing, etc.)
    • Instruction in mechanics of updating policies
    • Practice on Test server before being authorized in Production
unicorn admin transition cont d2
Unicorn Admin Transition (cont’d.)
  • Risks
    • Change made for one group has unintended consequences for another group
    • Multiple people working on same policy at the same time
    • Custom reports breaking due to policy rename
  • To minimize risks, coordination remains in I-Tech
  • So far, so good – system has not been brought to its knees!
evolving unicorn leadership model
Evolving Unicorn Leadership Model

Unicorn Operations Team

Policy Updaters

IT Strategies

Circ/Reserve team

Cataloging team





CAT Interface Expert Team

futures where we are going
Futures: Where We are Going
  • Implementation occurred 2001
  • 7 years into Unicorn, settled and reviewing
    • Implementation evaluation
      • Consultant
    • Role/makeup of steer
    • Role/makeup of all groups
  • Handing off responsibilities
    • Policy wonks (libraries staff)
    • Hand off reports to wonks
    • New CAT interface team with expanded role
    • More sys admin responsibilities in I-Tech
future policy configuration
Future: Policy Configuration
  • Move additional policy configuration into Technical and Access Services
    • Authorities Policies
    • Format policies
      • More extensive training than for other policies
    • User access policies
      • Need for creating and managing ~ 600 individual user access policies driving some of this
  • Continued need for coordination in central area (I-Tech)
future reports
Future: Reports
  • Allow selected staff to run reports in Production
  • Background
      • I-Tech runs majority of Production reports; DLT runs bibload, MARCIVE, PromptCat reports in Production
      • Libraries staff runs reports on Test server (synchronized monthly with Production)
      • Sufficient for majority of reports
future reports cont d
Future: Reports (cont’d.)
  • Need
    • Efficiency: decrease dependence on others’ availability
    • Streamline processes: eliminate duplication of effort
  • Concerns
    • Non-critical, long running reports may disrupt regularly scheduled reports
    • Insufficient testing before reports are run in Production
    • Insufficient communication among individuals running reports
future reports cont d1
Future: Reports (cont’d.)
  • Next Steps
    • Small group to make recommendations on how to proceed
    • Start small with one or two reports where need is greatest
    • Precedent: End-of-year rollover already run by individual in Acquisitions
    • Bibload may be next candidate
future cat interface expert team
Future: CAT Interface Expert team
  • Expanded role
    • Operational & maintenance issues relating to CAT (opac)
    • Adding value to The CAT via wayfinding, RSS feeds, etc.
    • Explore opac add-ons & replacements, and make recommendation to IT Strategies group
    • More direct responsibility for updating stylesheet.h, system.env, etc.
  • Morphed into Next Generation Public Interface Team
    • Members from Public, Access, and Technical Services; DLT, I-Tech
what s your model
What’s Your Model?

Ann Snowman

Head, Access Services

Dace Freivalds

Acting Head, I-Tech