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Ex Libris Knowledge Center

New ILS Data Delivery Guidelines

Migration Overview

Ex Libris has experience in migrating data from various ILS systems into Alma. Consult with your project manager to determine if we have experience migrating data from your existing system.
If we have not migrated from your system into Alma in the past and the migration team indicates that we will start supporting migration, use this document as a guide for how to export your information in the expected format.
If we have not migrated from your system in the past and the migration team indicates that we will NOT start supporting it, then use the Generic to Alma Data Delivery Specification guide instead.
The procedure for migrating from a previous ILS to Alma consists of the following steps:
  • Extracting the relevant data elements from the existing system into flat files (customer)
  • Transforming the data elements into an intermediate conversion XML format (Ex Libris)
  • Loading and processing the transformed data into Alma (Ex Libris)
During the transformation process, a number of configuration options are specified to accommodate individual customer needs.

Requested Files

Ex Libris expects a certain set of data elements to be provided by the customer. We have included the general expected deliveries below. The data elements listed are those that Ex Libris expects to use in conversion. Some data elements may exist in the existing ILS but are not necessary to transfer to Alma. The formats are more specific to each field and represent an exact specification in terms of field names, the order in which the fields appear, as well as the delimited nature of the fields.
The scope of your specific conversion is agreed upon in your Alma contract.
With the exception of bibliographic and holdings records that are accepted in MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC format, the rest of the files are expected in csv delimited format. Files in csv format are expected to have one record per line and be field delimited (using comma separators and quotes around fields). Use the semicolon (;) as the delimiter between elements for fields that may have multiple values.
If your previous system cannot provide in the above format, contact your Ex Libris representative and we can have a discussion.  Ex Libris prefers to have customers use exports as they come directly from the former ILS, rather than require many different customers do a lot of individual work to get into an acceptable format.  
To migrate data in your existing system to Alma, provide data elements in flat files and place them on a secured Ex Libris SFTP server (MFT). Prepare the data files with the following naming conventions and accompanying description document as described in Appendix – MFT Drop Point Delivery and Form.


Bibliographic Records

Bibliographic records are expected in MARC, UNIMARC or KORMARC format. Binary MARC, UNIMARC or KORMARC is preferred, but Ex Libris also accepts files in MARCXML, UNIMARCXML or KORMARCXMLformat as well. The character encoding expected is UTF-8 or ANSEL/MARC8. If your library prefers to export in a different format, inform your Ex Libris project manager. All files should be delivered with the same character encoding.
Each Bibliographic record MUST have a single unique source key/identifier in a consistent single source MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC field. Records which do not conform will be rejected.
If Marc Holdings are provided, each record MUST have a single unique source identifier in a consistent single source MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC field as well as a valid unique Bibliographic identifier in order to link it to its correct Bibliographic record. Records which do not conform will be rejected.
The following are additional bibliographic and holding use-cases which are supported:
  • Suppressed records: provide a text file that contains the source BIB key/ID, one key per line, for bibliographic records that are suppressed.
  • Boundwiths: if your ILS allows a single item to be linked to multiple bibliographic records, provide Ex Libris with information on how that is indicated in the extracted records, either in the bibliographic record or in the item record as indications of multiple Bibliographic record ID associations.
  • Linked bibliographic records: if you use standard 7XX fields for linking between MARC/KORMARC bibliographic records (or standard linking fields for UNIMARC), they are leveraged during migration and create appropriate bibliographic-level linking in Alma.
  • Electronic Link resolver records: if you have SFX MARCIt records or equivalent electronic records in your ILS that are also represented by your link resolver system, it is suggested they be excluded from the data provided to Ex Libris (unless they have active orders or physical inventory which are also being migrated) to avoid unnecessary duplication with the link resolver system data. If these records are desired (for instance because they have open orders or physical inventory) ensure that an 035 $a field with a unique and consistent marking – e.g.(SFX) or (SeSS) in the Bib field content is provided, so that they can be identified.

Holdings and Items

Ex Libris expects item records in one of two formats:
  • csv delimited format. Items that do not have a BIB key are not migrated.
  • Item field data which are embedded in Bibliographic tag/s in the Bib extract.
All suppressed item records are migrated to Alma as regular items (not suppressed). However, specific locations can be marked as suppressed in Alma.
Items that are shared by multiple bibliographic records (called boundwith items) have multiple bibliographic records and all of the call number fields are repeated for each instance of the bibliographic record. Since Alma supports standard Bib relationships using Marc 21/UNIMARC/KORMARC linking fields, the migration processing associates this shared item with a new parent bibliographic record and links to the existing bibliographic records via the standard linking fields.
Some systems store holding or checkin/serial information in MARC format for holdings and some do not. If your ILS stores MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC holdings records, provide them in MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC format as described above, and indicate if the item records have a link to the holdings records. If your ILS does not store holding information in MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC format or if not all inventory records have a holding record, for example, if serials records have a MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC holding record but monograph records do not, Ex Libris generates holdings for the items based on the item information provided.
If Ex Libris generates holding records during migration, there are two options as to how the items are grouped to make a unique holding record:
  • Unique holding by location only – When generating call numbers for the holdings records based on items grouped by location, the first call number of the group is used and subsequent items inherit that call number. If an item is attached to a holding record with a different call number, the original call number is stored in the item’s AlternativeCallNumber field.
  • Unique holding by location and call number – When a unique holding is created based on a string of call number subfields, multiple holding records are created for each unique call number found. This can create many extra holdings records if the item call numbers include volume information, for example, in serial items.
Some systems may store summary holding statements in a non-MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC format. Ex Libris generates MARC holding records with an 866 (summary statement) and a library/location if non-MARC/UNIMARC/KORMARC holding information is provided.

Electronic Identification

In most ILS systems, inventory records have only one category – physical. In Alma, physical items are stored differently than electronic items. All inventory (bibliographic records, holdings, and items) are migrated initially as physical, and then the electronic inventory is converted to electronic post-migration, based on which type of electronic resource it is.
Provide a list of bibliographic source identifiers/keys that represent Bibliographic records describing electronic resources and an indication if these electronic resources are portfolios, packages, or database resources. The list should be a comma separated text file containing lines that represent each e-resource. Structure each line as follows: <bibnumber>,<resource type>
For example:

Local Authorities

Alma stores many name and subject authorities, including but not limited to the Library of Congress name and subject authority records and GND in the Community Zone. For the latest supported community Authorities, please contact your Ex Libris project manager or Ex Libris Alma documentation. As part of the move to Alma, your Bibliographic records may be associated with one of the Authority types the community supports.
Local authority record conversion is not part of the migration scope of Alma. If you have locally created or modified authority records to load into your local institution which are not available in the community, you should consult your Ex Libris project manager. In such coordinated cases, you may load these to Alma using standard Alma loader tools post-go-live.

Fulfillment (Patrons and Circulation)


Ex Libris expects patron records in csv delimited format. Patron records without a record key identifier are skipped, since this is the minimum required patron information. The record key identifier is used to link the patron to other records such as loans and fines.

Fines and Fees

Fine and fees information is not mandatory, but when it is provided, Ex Libris expects active fine and fee information in csv format (preferably as an outstanding active balance total in the patron csv extract). Only active (outstanding) fine and fee information is migrated, and only the outstanding balance of each individual fine/fee; partial payment information is not preserved.

Active Loans

Ex Libris expects active loan records in csv delimited format. The minimum requirement for active loans is that there is a clear item and patron identifier available in the item or patron data provided.


Ex Libris expects active hold requests in csv delimited format. Extract only those hold requests where the specific item is waiting on the hold shelf for pickup already. The minimum requirement for active requests/holds is that there is a clear item and patron identifier available in the item or patron data provided.


Course reserve data is only migrated when contractually in scope as part of premium or additional migration services. Courses and their associated reading lists are generated from the course reserve extract. When reading lists are linked to multiple courses, the reading list is duplicated.
Course information is migrated if it is part of your contract agreement.


Acquisitions data is only migrated when contractually in scope as part of premium or additional migration services.


Ex Libris expects the list of vendors in csv delimited format.

Purchase orders

Ex Libris expects purchase orders in csv delimited format, when in scope.
All purchase orders are required to have a valid vendor reference (provided in the vendor file). In addition, all orders are required to reference a bibliographic, item, or holding identifier to indicate what has been ordered. If any purchase order does not have a vendor or one of bibliographic record, item, or holding reference, ensure that it does when provided or the order will be rejected. Though not required, it is strongly recommended that when providing orders that the fund provided in the funds file is referenced. Funding encumbrance information is only migrated for active orders with valid fund references.


Since Invoices in Alma are tightly validated and contain key financial information, it is most common that during migration payment invoice information, if provided (which is largely historical in nature) is enriched on the order record when an order reference is provided. Therefore, invoices are typically not migrated as invoices to Alma, though the information is migrated to the orders instead.
If invoice data contains valid invoice numbers, valid currencies, payment amounts in clear parseable fields which are each linked to the invoice number, a valid vendor, a valid fund code and fiscal year reference as well as a purchase order number reference – Ex Libris can consider using that data as Alma invoice data rather than enriched payment data for reference on the order. The invoices in Alma are only linked to a bibliographic record through a related order record.


Ex Libris expects fund information extracted in a specific pre-defined csv delimited format. Provide only the current fiscal year’s fund information parallel to purchase order information, according to scope in your Alma contract.
The following is the fund format:
Fund records are collected in an Excel migration form and then exported to csv format and submitted to Ex Libris. Funds are not extracted from your ILS directly. All funds must be listed in the first tab of a spreadsheet before exporting to csv. Files in Excel format are not accepted by Ex Libris. Also, since the file must be exported to csv before submitting, there is no possibility of having multiple Excel tabs in the submitted file.
In the fund file, LEDGER CODE, LEDGER NAME, FUND CODE, and FUND NAME are mandatory. Ledgers are mandatory. If your institution does not have ledgers in the current ILS, define one general ledger for use in Alma. Note that fund codes are unique across the entire fiscal period, not just within specific hierarchies – so in the spreadsheet submitted, there should be no fund code duplication since all of the funds go into a single active fiscal period. This uniqueness restriction applies across ledger codes, summary fund codes, and fund codes.
Funds are grouped under summary funds, and summary funds or allocated funds are grouped under ledgers. Only one level of summary fund is allowed in the extract; however, you can create a new summary fund in Alma after migration and drag other summary funds underneath it in the hierarchical fund structure.
You can use the LIBRARY field to differentiate the funds of multiple campuses or libraries from one another. (The library code must match a valid library code that is indicated in Alma migration/configuration).
The FUND CODE in this file must match a fund code used by your ILS’s order records to make an encumbrance transaction in Alma that links the order to the fund.
Field Name Notes
LEDGER CODE Can be repeated across lines to group funds under a single ledger.
LEDGER NAME Can be repeated across lines to group funds under a single ledger.
SUMMARY FUND CODE Not mandatory, can be repeated across lines.
SUMMARY FUND NAME Not mandatory, can be repeated across lines.
FUND CODE Alphanumeric, not repeatable (This is the fund code that links to the fund code in the ILS order record.)
FUND NAME Alphanumeric, repeatable.
LIBRARY Must be in the ILS library list from the ILS migration form. Matching is case sensitive. There can be multiple libraries in this field, separated by a semicolon. This field can be left empty, which means that all libraries in the institution can use the fund.
EXT ID External ID for linking to an external source, if one exists.
ALLOCATION Allocation, in local currency, of the current fiscal year’s funds. Enter only the numbers with decimal places, not the currency symbol.  For example: 10000.00.

Fund Transactions

Fund transactions are generated based on links from purchase orders to the fund code as well as allocation amounts in the fund csv. Only active fiscal year fund transactions – and therefore only active order <> fund associations are made.

Appendix – MFT Drop Point Delivery and Form

Each time data files are provided to Ex Libris in the formats indicated in the specification section above, they should be placed on an FTP drop-point on the Ex Libris MFT server with the access credentials provided by your Ex Libris project manager.
The following is the default naming convention:
For example: centralu_bib_01_20120420.mrc, centralu_bib_02_20120420.mrc, centralu_bib_03_20120420.mrc, etc.
For security purposes, the file names listed on the MFT server are not displayed after you upload them.
Ex Libris recommends a maximum of 200,000 records per MARC file and 400,000 for other types of records (items, orders, etc.).
Provide an accompanying text file or document with the same name (for example, centralu_bib_20120420.txt) as the data file with each data file submitted that indicates:
  • Who provided each file and when it was provided
  • Whether the data provided is a sample file or a full scale set of data
  • The number of records in the files, ensuring the field names and order match the requirements and the match keys to other files
  • Any special notes that might need to be communicated to Ex Libris
The following is a template for the accompanying text file:
Institution Name:          Central University
Area:                      Patron
Type:                      Migration Test Load Data Delivery
Related files:
Date of Delivery:         17th April 2012
Delivered by:             John Smythe
Notes:                    Note goes here
Please confirm the below:
We inform Ex Libris that the supplied data is the full scale data for conversion to Alma. We certify that the attached specification is a complete specification of the data, supplied to Ex Libris for migration.
Confirmed and accepted by Central University:
Name:                    John Smythe
Date:                    Apr 17, 2013
Data Delivery
File Name: centralu_patron_01_20120417 full.csv
Record Count:           67,303
1. Data validated/adheres to exact field names, field order and separator set-forth in Data delivery specification (Y/N):
2. File is encoded in UTF-8 ( Y/N):
3. Match key with related files, if relevant:
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