Library Catalog Migration Project

Frequently Asked Questions

This summer William & Mary Libraries launches a new catalog that will improve how materials are browsed, searched and discovered. The new system features a user-friendly interface, responsive design optimized for smartphones and tablets, options for advanced search and integration into ILL.

Currently, there are three catalog search screens available: VuFind, which most patrons use; Summon, which includes both the catalog and full-text journal articles; and the classic catalog, which patrons use to find special collections or browse by titles and subject headings. All three catalogs will be replaced with a single catalog interface as part of this migration.

For more information, check out the FAQs below or read the full announcement.


What is the new system?

Primo is the new library search tool for finding materials in the Swem Library including Special Collections, Law Library, and other William and Mary Libraries such as the McLeod Business Library, Hargis Library at VIMS, Learning Resource Center in the School of Education, Music, Physics, and Chemistry libraries.  You'll be able to search for books, articles and more in a single search box. William and Mary will still share a system with the Rockefeller Library at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and with Richard Bland College Library, and will make it clear how to search those materials using the new system.

Will it look different?

Yes, Primo is a new product from a company called Ex Libris, and the interface will look different.  To see other libraries who are already using this interface, check out the library catalogs at VCU Libraries default search (, Purdue University Libraries’ search all catalog (, or Harvard University Libraries’ Everything Search (

Why the new search?

The libraries haven’t migrated to a new integrated library system in over twenty years.  In that time, library catalogs have evolved tremendously, especially in how they treat digital collections, e-journals, and other e-resource access.  Our current system wasn’t able to keep up with the types of collections which we license and steward for our faculty and students.  

When does the switch take place?

The official “go live” date for the new system is August 8, 2016.

Migrating Saved Lists and Links

What if I have a saved list in the current catalog; can I migrate that list to the new system?

Saved lists from the current catalog will *not* migrate to the new system.  However, you can print those lists or export them to a citation management software.  If you’ve saved titles of books, DVDs, government documents, and other items into lists (folders) in our library catalog – and if you want to capture those lists - here’s a PDF document with instructions on how to export those items to either RefWorks or EndNote, two bibliographic manager programs. 

We recommend that you capture your lists by July 31, 2016.

For assistance, please make a research appointment with one of our librarians or contact the Research Department at or 757-221-3067.

What if I can’t migrate my saved list/s before the go live date in early August?

We have saved all the current lists in the catalog offline, and will help faculty or students recover a list if it’s lost during the migration.  Please contact Associate Dean Georgie Donovan at if you need help with recovering a list after the new catalog is in place.

Will I still have access to the same materials?

Yes, the same materials will be available to you, including books, articles, digital collections and more from the collections of William and Mary.  We will continue to share a catalog with Richard Bland College Library and the Rockefeller Library at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, but we may choose to filter those results from the default search screen.

What about all of the links that I have to catalog records in my Blackboard course / website / syllabi? Will all of those links break?

Most likely, yes.  We will redirect links to the library’s catalog so that they land in the new system.  However, if you’ve linked to the record for a specific book, journal, government document, film, or other item, that link will likely change once we switch to the new system.  We are sorry about all the work that it will create to change those links – we are doing a lot of it ourselves as we update resource guides, and it is no fun.

Our “go live” date for the new library catalog is August 8, 2016.  If your Blackboard course pages, webpages, syllabi, etc., have permalinks to library catalog titles, you will be able to search and save new permanent URLs starting on that date.  If we can help you with a major project, we will try.  Make a research appointment with one of our librarians or contact the Research Department at or 757-221-3067.

Catalog Content / E-Resources

Will there be journal articles and e-resources included in the catalog?

Yes!  As data is made available from our licensed databases, the full-text articles, citations, e-books, and other resources for many of our e-resources will be included in the catalog alongside records for books, DVDs, and other physical materials.  The new catalog includes the ability to filter results (like an Amazon search result page) by facets such as format type, publication date, subject, or peer-reviewed status.  You may get a larger list of search results initially, but you can winnow it down if you are looking for something specific, or you can complete an advanced search to hone in on a known item.

Where do the catalog’s subject headings come from?

The subject headings come from the source of the item, so subject headings are not consistent throughout Primo.  Not every item has a subject heading.  Books and media and other physical items use the Library of Congress subject heading system, while e-resources might use a vendor’s unique categorization method.  Keyword searching is effective in this type of catalog, but there is also a way to browse by subject, or to use the hyperlinks in each record to connect to some of the resources on similar topics.

My Account

How will I log in to my library account?

You'll log in using your William and Mary username and password, and be able to see all of your checked out items, due dates, holds and renewal options. 

Will the new catalog work on my mobile device?

Yes. Primo’s mobile interface allows you to search the entire collection directly from your mobile device.

Will I still be able to request items from Interlibrary Loan?

Yes, interlibrary loan requests will be available through the new system.  Within the first year of implementation, we plan to have a “request” button from inside the catalog that can populate an interlibrary loan request for you, so that you don’t need to go to a separate link outside the catalog.

Can I use the new catalog off campus?

Yes!  If you log in as you start your catalog search, you will be searching a larger set of materials, but you can search the catalog from anywhere.  You will not be asked to log in until you attempt to open a full text e-resource.

Background Information

Why Primo?

Web-scale discovery systems, like Primo, are becoming more and more commonplace in academic libraries; many of our peer institutions have already implemented such systems.  User studies also show that library users are interested in being able to get different types of library materials from within one interface, which web-scale discovery systems attempt to do as seamlessly as possible.  For these reasons, library staff and professionals have been looking at these systems for several years.

Last summer, the Libraries, including Swem, Law, Colonial Williamsburg, and branch libraries at William and Mary, created a task force to research integrated library systems and discovery systems which would meet our current and future needs.  The task force worked hard to vet the products on the market, analyze our current system and needs, and visit libraries to see “behind the scenes” how different new systems work.  We created a blog ( to share our findings with our colleagues.

The decision to go with Ex Libris as a company and use the Alma library system (back end) and Primo discovery system (for the catalog) was straightforward, once we saw that many of the features and functionality of Alma/Primo matched where we wanted to move as a library system.  Not only will the Primo catalog offer greater flexibility and functionality with search results, it will make the acquisitions, resource management, and e-resource work on the library end much more streamlined.  We know there will be a big learning curve for all of us, but every person in the libraries is committed to the migration and trying to make it as successful as possible for our patrons.

Course Reserves

I’ve had ongoing reserves on a specific class. Will those reserves be put in the new system ?

No, if they are not current as of Summer 2016.  The differences between our current, 20+ year old system and the new system are big, so we've decided to start fresh and reorganize the reserves so that they work in a more efficient and streamlined way using the functionality of the new system.  Even though reserves won't migrate over, we believe we'll be able to process them more quickly and accurately using the new system from scratch.

So, how do I get my reserves set up for fall semester?

Use the same process  as always to submit your reserve materials to the library staff.  We have records of current reserves through Summer 2016 and will use the new system to make them available to students by the beginning of fall semester.  You may submit reserves here