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The Alberta Library

Improve online discovery for consortium members

Photo of a student using a laptop in a library

The Alberta Library

"The catalog now allows our users to connect to our resources through organic search processes that they already practice."

Jason Openo
Director of Planning & Program Development, The Alberta Library

The Alberta Library (TAL), a consortium of 49 public, university, college, technical institute and special libraries, selected a solution from OCLC to launch its revamped union catalog, TAL Online, in October 2013. By adding OCLC control numbers into member libraries' records to facilitate deep linking and by maintaining holdings in the WorldCat® database, the consortium greatly enhanced the discovery process for users throughout the province.

The Alberta Library was formed in 1997 as a virtual library consortium to connect Alberta's physical and digital libraries to promote resource sharing throughout the province. In 2009, TAL Online was identified as a priority in the Government of Alberta's Ministry of Municipal Affairs report, Framework for the Future: Positioning Alberta Libraries for the 21st Century. Also, building a new group catalog was Recommendation 1.1 in Alberta Public Libraries Technology Report and Recommendations, published in 2011.

In July 2013, The Alberta Library and the Alberta Municipal Affairs Public Library Services Branch entered into an agreement to revamp TAL Online using WorldCat, the most comprehensive online database of resources available in libraries worldwide. Working with the WorldCat group catalog provides users with a modern interface that includes social tools such as list creation, a Facebook widget and a Google gadget. Improved searching and metadata for accessing multilingual resources and a multilingual interface support the goals of the provincial government to provide services to help integrate immigrants. WorldCat surfaces Alberta's library collections through Google Books, Wikipedia, social networking sites such as Goodreads and DOGObooks and other OCLC syndication partners.

"The revamped TAL Online launched in October 2013. Within the first six months, TAL Online has supported more than 50,000 users, more than 200,000 searches and thousands of interlibrary loan requests."

Jason Openo

"It's great to see our vision of barrier-free access to resources realized," said Clive Maishment, TAL's CEO.

TAL Online facilitates resource sharing requests using a custom-built Where Are You From (WAYF) Application, Interface & Administrative Panel. Created in partnership with software developer Hybrid Forge, WAYF facilitates resource sharing to TAL's member libraries across multiple integrated library systems and interlibrary loan (ILL) management solutions in an attractive and responsive interface.

TAL Online and Hybrid Forge developed a custom configuration to streamline workflows from an internal perspective. The solution bridges individual academic libraries' ILL management software with the public libraries' OCLC VDX ILL management software using the WorldCat Search API. Externally, the experience is now consistent for users and expanded to include more organic search paths for resources held by TAL libraries.

Map showing the location of TAL Online search origins from October 2013 to May 2014

Jason Openo, Director of Planning & Program Development, provided a graphical depiction of where TAL Online's searches originated during the first six months. "Alberta's library collections are integrated in the global information environment and exposed in a way we have never been able to achieve before," he said.

Through the WAYF interface, requests generated from WorldCat can be processed by any TAL member library, regardless of its ILS or ILL management software. Requests are then formatted to the preferences of the relevant member libraries. WAYF streamlines workflows, reducing staff time required to process requests. It auto-verifies user eligibility and allows users to monitor the status of requests.

"Using the WorldCat Search API, the WAYF interface can also perform a 'check against local holdings,' and if an item is owned by the local library, it can drive user traffic back to the native OPAC," Jason explained. "Local in this case can mean either a single library or a group of libraries. If libraries index OCLC control numbers, the WAYF interface will take users to the item in their catalog so that their requests are fulfilled quickly and efficiently."

WAYF provides users with the discovery-to-delivery experience they want. It has improved lending processes for both library staff and users. It has also enhanced collaboration among TAL's member libraries.

Services used by TAL libraries


WorldShare Metadata




Map showing location of The Alberta Library

Consortium at a glance

  • Formed in 1997 with 49 member libraries in more than 300 locations
  • In May 2013, the two billionth holding was set through an automated process by TAL member University of Alberta Libraries in Edmonton
  • In January 2014, TAL Online was awarded the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services' Outstanding Collaboration Citation
  • In April 2014, the Canadian Library Association (CLA) awarded the CLA/OCLC Award for Innovative Technology to TAL Online for its WAYF Application, Interface and Administrative Panel
  • In April 2014, the Library Association of Alberta awarded the Punch Jackson Award for Excellence in Library Service to TAL Online
  • In June 2014, TAL received the Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative 2014 Innovation Award for its TAL Online WAYF Interface

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