Alto Blog

Alto 5.4.1 is now available on general release

On 28 January BDS will begin to supply bibliographic records catalogued using the RDA rules.  The main difference that will be seen is the use of the new 264 field for publication details.

We have now released Alto 5.4.1 to allow you to use these records.  The release consists of a small server upgrade and a new Alto client version, plus an updated set of Usemarcon rules and a change to the Zebra indexing rules.

The Usemarcon and Zebra changes are not dependent on the Alto release and should be implemented before 28 January.  If they are not, the implications are as follows.  For any record that you import containing field 264:

1. The Place of publication, Publisher and Date display fields in the WORKS table will not be populated.  These are normally seen in the Work field at the top of forms such as Item and Order in Alto.

2. The publication data will be absent from the WORK_SUBFIELD table.  This means that any scripts that read publication data from the WORK_SUBFIELD table, such as those that produce ILL requests and orders, will not find the data.

Such records would need to be edited to replace the 264 field with 260, or dummy edited after the new Usemarcon rules have been loaded.

For Assist Managed Customers, we will be in contact over the next few weeks to schedule in the Usemarcon and Zebra changes required.

For those libraries that have a bespoke set of Usemarcon rules, an updated set will be sent to system managers via email.

The Alto 5.4.1 release itself includes these features:

In Bibliographic Search:

  • In the Bibliographic Search results grid, the Publisher and Date fields show the contents of the new RDA 264 field if there is no 260 field in the record.

In Cataloguing:

  • A new bibliographic template is supplied, which sets the Leader Descriptive Cataloguing Form code to ‘i’, as appropriate for RDA records, and displays the 264 field instead of 260.  This template is only used if the new environment variable TAL_CAT_RDA is set to ‘YES’.
  • The Quick Manage Work form now reads publication data from field 264, if present, when displaying an existing record.  When creating a new record, it will create field 264 if the new environment variable TAL_CAT_RDA is set to ‘YES’.

In System Management:

  • A new environment variable, TAL_CAT_RDA, can be used to indicate that the library is now creating catalogue records following RDA.  This controls the template that is used when creating bibliographic records.

You will find the release notices and upgrade files at  You will need your Members’ Enclosure username and password to access the files.  The files are also available via the FTP server.

18 Responses

  1. John Hudson Says:

    It would be helpful if the Usemarcon and Zebra changes were in a separate blog entry, as the relationship between them and Alto 5.4.1 – or how we implement them if we don’t want to install 5.4.1 – is not completely clear here.

  2. Anne Stacey Says:

    Thanks for your comment, John.

    To clarify:

    If you are able to upgrade to Alto 5.4.1, follow the instructions in the Alto 5.4.1 Release Notice, which covers all the elements: the server upgrade, the Alto client upgrade, the Usemarcon upgrade and the Zebra change.

    If you are not able to upgrade to Alto 5.4.1 before 28 January 2013, you should do just the Usemarcon and Zebra updates, as these are not dependent on having Alto 5.4.1 installed. For these, follow the instructions in the RDA Usemarcon Release Notice. You can then load the Alto 5.4.1 client and server upgrades at a later date.

  3. Anne Stacey Says:

    If you are already on Alto 5.4, and have not yet loaded the Alto 5.4. Patch which was released in November, you should load that patch before loading Alto 5.4.1.

  4. Lesley Morgan Says:

    We are planning on upgrading to 5.4 in the New Year but haven’t yet set a date. As we’re not already on 5.4 is there a later version of it that contains the patch mentioned above or do I need to do
    1. Upgrade to 5.4
    2. Apply patch
    3. Upgrade to 5.4.1 or just do the Usemarcon and Zebra updates
    all before the end of January

    Many thanks

  5. Anne Stacey Says:

    If you are able to do the Alto upgrades before 28 January then yes, you will need to:
    1. Upgrade to 5.4
    2. Apply patch
    3. Upgrade to 5.4.1, including Usemarcon and Zebra updates.

    These could all be done at the same time – running each of the server upgrades (5.4, patch and 5.4.1) in turn, and just loading the latest Alto client (5.4.1), plus the Usemarcon and Zebra updates..

    If you cannot fit in the Alto upgrades before 28 January, you should just do the Usemarcon and Zebra updates by that date.

  6. Lesley Morgan Says:

    Thanks Anne. Reading through the release notices as I type and have alerted the library service of what’s to come if we can fit it all in next month.

  7. Lesley Morgan Says:

    I need a little bit of clarification on the latter stages as we are now planning on doing 5.4, patch, 5.4.1 (including Usemarcon and Zebra updates) all at the same time.

    We always load new client software from the server so haven’t used the deployment assistant in all of the time I’ve been managing the upgrades so I intend to load the client files from I will have already updated the Zebra Indexing rules. I won’t be using the Deployment541004.msi file.

    Do I need to use the DeploymentUsemarconRules.msi? If I do, does this need to be run on all PCs or just some? I’m either having a bad day or the instructions aren’t clear as I would expect to have the same options for this as for the client updates.

    We do not yet have MarcService installed on a Windows server. When we do get around to that will the appropriate Usemarcon files be included in that install?


  8. Anne Stacey Says:

    Yes, you will need to use the DeploymentUsemrconRules.msi to load the updated Usemarcon rules into the database. You only need to do this once, on one PC. This puts the rules into the database, so that AltoRun can download them from there onto each Alto PC.

    When MarcService is installed on a Windows server, as part of the installation it retrieves the Usemarcon rules from the database. The rules are not included in the MarcService installation package itself, so you will still be able to use the original MarcService package.

  9. Lesley Morgan Says:

    Thank you Anne. That puts my mind at ease now and I know what I need to do.

  10. Andrew Jackson Says:

    We are just going to implement the Usemarcon and Zebra index rules changes for now. Is it OK to make these changes while the system is in use?
    Thanks, Andrew.

  11. Steve Campbell Says:

    We have an added complication, which is bespoke Usmarcon rules, so the procedure looks like this:

    1. Install AltoUpgrade5.4.0.4
    2. Install patch – AltoPatch.
    3. Install AltoUpgrade.
    4. Update Zebra indexing rules, using DeploymentUsemarconRules.msi
    5. Install product_updates541
    6. Load the bespoke rules into the database using the Deployment Assistant.
    7. Run Altorun on all PCs.

    Have I got steps 4,5 and 6 in the right order?


  12. Anne Stacey Says:

    Hi Steve,

    That’s not quite right – you don’t use the DeploymentUsemarconRules.msi to update the Zebra indexes. If your Zebra files are in the standard place (as yours are) you will need to follow the instructions in the Alto 5.4.1 release notice to either overwrite your existing file with the one shipped as part of the server upgrade, or edit your existing file.

    You will then use the DeploymentUsemarconRules.msi in conjunction with the special instructions you’ve been sent for loading your bespoke rules.

    It makes sense to do the Zebra indexing rules bit first, at the end of the server upgrade, and then load the Alto client using product_updates, while you’re still logged onto the server. Then you can load the bespoke Usemarcon rules, but as long as you do both before allowing people to restart Alto using AltoRun the order isn’t critical.

  13. Sandra Cockburn Says:

    If the upgrades are all done on the same day, one after the other, do we need to do a full_dbdump after each one?

  14. Ian Says:

    Hi Sandra,

    Here at Sunderland we never have and don’t plan to on this occasion.

    Anne, was the patch publicised? It seem have gone completely past us, we upgraded on Nov 6 and the file dates are Nov 12 yet I can’t see anything on Lis-Capita for it.


  15. Anne Stacey Says:

    I checked with Sandra that she was asking about the need to repeat a full_dbdump after running each upgrad – 5.4, patch and 5.4.1.

    As the database updates performed by both the patch and 5.4.1 upgrades are minor, it’s not essential to do a database dump after each one. You will need to run full_dbdump (or dump2disk) at the end of the process, both to ensure that you have a backup of the database which you could restore if necessary, and to ensure that trandumps will work correctly once users start using the system again.

  16. Michaela Says:

    Could I please just clarify the process? I intend to update the zebra indexing rules and load the updated Usemarcon rules before upgrading to 5.4.1

    1. Follow instructions from Alto 5.4.1 release notice 4.2 through to 4.3 for the zebra indexing rules. But if I am not upgrading Alto at the same time where do I get the new file usmarc.abs.264 from?

    2. Follow instructions in Bespoke Usemarcon for RDA

    I need to update the Usemarcon during normal office hours (most probably Fri 25th) just in case I run into permission problems with AD on my PC (I’d then be able to call on IT support) .

    I’m then upgrading to 5.4.1 on Saturday 26th (the following day) so could I just do the Usemarcon for RDA on the Friday, and the rest, including the zebra indexing rule on the Saturday?

    You advice would be very much appreciated.


  17. Anne Stacey Says:

    If you need to do the zebra update before running the server upgrade for Alto 5.4.1, you will need to edit your existing usmarc.abs file manually, following the instructions in section 4.2.5 of the release notice.

    However, I’m not clear why you would want to do this – it would be easier to do it after you’ve run the 5.4.1 upgrade on Saturday, as you will then have the new usmarc.abs.264 file on your server.

    You can do your Usemarcon update on the Friday, and do the rest on Saturday, as you’ve suggested.

  18. Michaela Says:

    Thanks Anne. That’s exactly what I need to know. I will do the Usemarcon update Friday and the rest Saturday.

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