The information on this page will be updated as the response to COVID-19 evolves.
As of March 10, 2020, CLAS support will continue as normal, though team members will be working remotely in alignment with UMD guidance.. Please continue to submit service requests through appropriate channels for questions, incidents, and change requests.
This is subject to change as UMD's COVID-19 response evolves. Even in the event that CLAS staff are unable to work (e.g. health, change in campus/library policy, etc.) systems are expected to remain online. Emergency protocols would be in place to ensure all critical shared USMAI systems remain online to the best of our abilities.
Remote Access to Aleph
In the event of a campus closure where staff at USMAI libraries plan to work remotely (a.k.a. "telework"), there are multiple methods by which Aleph can be accessed.
Access Aleph with Remote Desktop
This is the preferred method as it allows you to use your workstation with your existing Aleph configuration. Using the remote desktop protocol, staff can access their work computer in order to use Aleph. Please consult with your local IT staff to determine if this is an option and what needs to be done to access your workstation. Please note: your workstation must be powered on in order for this option to work.
Access Aleph with your campus VPN
If Remote Desktop is not an option, CLAS can configure your campus VPN to access Aleph, in the event that your library authorizes working on Aleph from home.
This requires two actions:
- Install Aleph on your home computer (Aleph Client Download and Installation; consult your library IT for help with installing Aleph on a home computer)
- The Campus Contact should submit the IP address(es) for your campus' VPN via Aleph Rx (Functional Area: Technical). CLAS will add these to the IP addresses from which Aleph can be accessed.
Please note: this is a temporary measure for extraordinary situations. The longstanding USMAI policy is to restrict Aleph access to library IP addresses only.
If neither of the above options work for your situation, don't panic. Please submit an Aleph Rx (Functional Area: Technical) to explore additional possibilities.
Certain circulation functions (checkout/return and billing) require additional IP address setup. Using the Remote Desktop access method is the best method for ensuring appropriate configuration and functionality. If you need to use these circulation functions and cannot use the Remote Desktop access method, please contact CLAS via Aleph Rx.
See USMAI Guidance page for updated information on this issue (3/23/2020).
Advancing Due Dates: CLAS has developed a mechanism to advance due dates on items that are currently on loan. This can help minimize the accumulation of fines and fees. Please submit an AlephRx request, specifying the new desired due date and the range of current due dates that should be advanced (e.g. "advance all loans due between 3/12020 and 5/31/2020 to 6/1/2020").
Some things to remember:
- fines are not charged for closed days IF the date is entered before the item is returned. If an item is discharged and a fine is charged to the patron's account, retroactively changing one of the overdue days to "closed" won't remove the fine. However, if you enter a closed day before the item is discharged–even if it is already overdue–then when the fine is calculated on return, the closed date will not be counted.
- books are billed as "lost" in Aleph based on tab32. Essentially it's "number of days overdue," but the way Aleph calculates it is based on how many days since the overdue notice. So if an overdue notice is generated when an item is 3 days overdue and the lost notice is generated 17 days later, an item is "lost" when it's 20 days overdue.
- Every campus gets cash reports daily. These show the fines that have been charged to patrons. If you want to be proactive, you can make adjustments before the patron complains about a fine. Be sure you are consistent in doing this.
- Remember you only control fines on your own items. Unless SAS or CLD issues guidance for all campuses, you should not make any promises to your patrons about fines or fees for other campus materials. The USMAI Circulation Contacts page has contact information for the Billing supervisor at each campus.
- If you need a refresher, there are pages which explain How Aleph Fines Work and How Aleph Lost Charges Work
Suspending Resource Sharing Due to Library Closing
If a USMAI library closes as part of a campus closure, it is likely that they will no longer be able to participate in USMAI's physical resource sharing. CLAS has mechanisms to make a library's items unavailable, remove a library as a pickup location, etc. If your library is closing and you will not be able to participate in USMAI's physical resource sharing, please submit an Aleph Rx asking to be removed as a supplier and pickup location.
When a library asks to be removed as a supplier for resource sharing requests, CLAS performs two actions:
- Remove the library from the configured list of suppliers. This informs the PPH balance program to ignore that library when routing requests.
- Mark the library's items as "currently unavailable" (IPS: "CX"). This will prevent requests from being placed by users on your items.
We have found that without action #2, patrons from across the consortium can still place requests, which will subsequently be silently canceled when the PPH balance program runs (per action #1), resulting in a sub-par user experience.
The ability to recall items has been suspended since this would require patrons to physically bring items back to the library.
There are several types of reports which might assist you in handling an extended service disruption.
Ad hoc reports: if you submit an RX, the CLAS team will create (or modify) a report for you. You might request, for example, a report listing all of your library materials that are currently on loan (Circulation Status of "A" or Active). You could also narrow this down, for example "Please list all Laptops currently on loan" or use this report to see items currently on loan to your faculty (Borrower Status 11). Another useful report might be a list of all of your local borrowers who have at least one item currently charged out to them. It is important to determine what your final goal is intended to be, so you can request only the information you need to achieve this goal, omitting extraneous data.
Regular reports: www.catalog.umd.edu/reports will take you to the links for reports regularly generated. These include Snapshot of Loans by Institution (found under Circulation Counts by Institution), which can tell you how many of your items are currently on loan to your local faculty (or students) and how many of your items are currently on loan to faculty (or any other borrower status) from other USMAI institutions. Other reports include the SCMI report which indicates (among other things) how many of your items in a Collection/Item Status/Material type are currently on loan (as of the date of the report, usually the beginning of the month).
As always, you are encouraged to contact the CLAS team about obtaining the data you need to help inform your decisions about library policies and procedures.
Contacting Your Users via Courtesy Notice
Most campuses have automated email Courtesy Notices set up to remind borrowers before their books are due. Some campuses also have special notices run at certain times for specific items or borrowers. Courtesy Notices can be sent XX days before the item due date, can be limited to certain Item Statuses and/or certain Patron Statuses.
So, for example, if you wanted to send a special Courtesy Notice to everyone who currently has an item borrowed from your library and due (for example) 3 September 2020, you could do this. The text of the notice can be customised (to a certain extent), so you might want it to say "Please renew these items online. If you want to return them, we now have contactless book drops available outside the front doors of the Library and in the Student Union building." (Please allow at least a week for us to make changes to the notice text)
Please note that Courtesy Notices are connected to your items on loan: you cannot use them to send an email to all of your patrons, only those who have items on loan. Also, they are generated based on a particular due date–if you have used the "advance due date" service, then that makes it easier. (standard Courtesy Notices will still be generated on the regular schedule, so if you don't have something special you need to say, you don't need a separate Courtesy Notice)
As mentioned in the previous section, we can generate reports for you that include the borrower email address, but then it's up to you to send individual emails to specific borrowers you choose.