Q. How can I create physical items in batch using an Excel file?


We can add multiple items in bulk using an Alma import profile. Often import profiles are used to add bib records in bulk along with items or electronic portfolios. We do this, for instance, with Films on Demand records. However, we can also add dozens or even hundreds of items to existing bibs; this is sometimes needed, for instance, when we acquire laptops or other technology items.

If we were importing bib records we would use a binary MARC (.mrc) file to do the import. But since we only need to create the item records, we can do it more simply using an Excel file.

Locate or create the bib record

If you are adding items to an existing bib record, find it in Alma and note the MMS ID. Otherwise, create the bib record in Alma using whatever method appropriate. If it is a record suitable to be housed in the NZ, import the record from Connexion. For technology or similar, create an IZ-only record using the Metadata Editor (MDE) and an appropriate template, following any local conventions. (The bib record can of course be edited at any time post-import.) When you are done, save and release the record from the MDE and note the MMS ID.

Process the items and create the Excel file


When processing the physical items that will be imported, save any data to separate columns on a spreadsheet. It is recommended to provide any library personnel doing this work with a template, which will ensure that, if more than one file is created, combining them later via copy/paste will be uncomplicated. Make sure to format the cells as text to ensure that barcodes and other data don't get transformed inappropriately.

You will probably want the following data in your spreadsheet captured at time of processing:

  • Barcode
  • Serial number (for equipment/technology)
  • Item number (for books, maybe for equipment?)
  • Any other data that varies and is reflected on the physical item that you want in the record.

Other data that will be included in the item record, but is the same for all the items, can be handled in the import profile configuration rather than the Excel file.

Finishing the Excel file

After combining any separate files if necessary, add a column to your file for the MMS ID you saved above. Copy/paste that MMS ID so that it is present in every row that shows item data.

You will also need a column for the 245$a, or title. The title does not need to be identical to the title in the repository bib, because you will not be replacing the 245 with the value in the spreadsheet, but the import file must have a 245$a column.

Create a row at the top for your headers. The header for the MMS ID column must be 001. For the others, you can use any 9xx field. The 949 field is often used for this purpose. The practice is often to use a single field for all the remaining columns, varying the subfield. So the header for barcode could be 949$b; for serial number, 949$s; and so on. Make sure to use each subfield character only once (unless you are doing something more complicated than described here). A sample file is included at the end of this LRCQ.

Create the Import Profile

When you create an import profile in Alma, you are presented with a wizard-like interface.

Screen 1

  • Choose Profile type: Repository. (If there is a PO line, it is likely easier to add that manually than via the import profile.)

Screen 2

  • Use Network Zone: this must be set during the creation stage; it cannot be changed after the profile has been saved. If the bib is IZ-only, which will be the case with technology, then you should not select this option.
  • Originating system: Other.
  • Physical source format: Excel
  • Source format: MARC21 Bibliographic

Screen 3

  • Filter, Normalization, and Validation Exception Profile: use default values

Screen 4

  • Match Profile
    • Match by Serial / Non Serial: No
    • Match Method: 001 to MMS_ID Match Method. We use this because we already know what bib we are using in the repository and we are including it in the import file.
  • Match Actions
    • Handling Method: Automatic
    • Upon Match: Merge. Our goal here will be not to alter the repository bib. (I believe an upcoming enhancement will allow us to basically skip this section by selecting "use repository record.")
    • Single match - match only record with the same inventory type (electronic/physical): (doesn't really matter since we are matching by MMS ID; leave unchecked)
    • Merge method: Keep only old value. Remember, we are not changing the bib record! We are just adding inventory.
    • Select Action: Leave all boxes unchecked
    • Do not override/merge record with an older version: Disabled
  • Automatic multi-match handling: doesn't really matter; leave all boxes unchecked
  • Merge records and combine inventory for Multi-match: nothing here really matters since there will be no multi-match.
  • Handle Record Redirection: leave this section as-is, it won't be needed
  • Upon no match: Do not import (there definitely should be a match! So if not, something went wrong.)

Screen 5

  • Set Management tags: leave settings as is. They won't make a difference because we are not importing any new records.

Screen 6

  • Inventory operations (now we're having fun): Physical
  • Physical Mapping
    • Items creation policy: create items and holdings. Note if you already have a holdings record matching the permanent location data below, the items will go under that existing holdings record. Otherwise a new one will be created.
    • Material type: Note this means the item material type. Set appropriately, could be Book, Laptop, etc.
    • Item information field: 949 or whatever field you decided to use.
    • General information: Here is where you will map the variable information to the columns in your spreadsheet, and, for fields that don't vary item-to-item, include a "default value" that will be applied regardless of what's in the spreadsheet. So for instance, if your column header for barcode is 949$b, you will put 949 in Field and b in Subfield.

      A note about serial numbers for technology: if you are intending for users to be able to request items via Primo VE, do not put any data in the "Description" field! If you do, title-level requesting is disabled and users must request a particular item.

      Default values you might want to set:

      • Receiving date
      • Replacement cost
      • Library
      • Location
      • Any notes you find helpful.
  • Holdings Records Mapping. This is a more advanced thing...  I haven't had a need for it yet.

Remember to click Save!

Test the import

Before doing the whole thing, try importing just one item and see if it all works.

Make a copy of your spreadsheet and delete all but the first two rows (header and first item). Or, copy the first two lines to a new spreadsheet.

Find your import profile and select Run. Select your test file and, when the import job finishes, take a look at the report. You should find a link to the record and you can examine the bib, holdings and item record. Did the bib stay the way it was before import? In the item record, did all the fields come through from the columns to the item?

Run the import

Now do the rest of the items. Check the job report when you're done. Take a deep breath, stare into space...

  • Last Updated Apr 09, 2021
  • Views 6
  • Answered By Jeff Karlsen

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