Alto Blog

Alto Release 5.5.1 available

We are pleased to announce that Alto 5.5.1 is now available on general release to all customers.

You will find the Release Notices and supporting documentation for this release on the MySupport Portal or on our web site at

Please ensure that you download and read the relevant documentation for your operating system prior to downloading the installation wraps.

Key features within Alto 5.5.1 are:

  • Obsolete borrower types, item types and item formats can now be suppressed, so they are not visible within Alto.
  • A number of defects have been fixed
  • Authority and bibliographic MARC description files have been amended to include the latest MARC format updates.
  • A new environment variable  is included for the use of libraries experiencing a problem with reservation charges not being generated when a reserved item is collected.
  • Ad hoc emails can now be sent via LDS, if the Alto client PC is not able to communicate directly with the SMTP server.

There have been some changes to the MarcService to prevent it stopping unexpectedly. If you have had problems with this service please raise a case and we will supply you with the latest version.

To minimise end user disruption, if you haven’t already upgraded to Alto 5.5 we recommend that you upgrade straight to Alto 5.5.1.  You must still load each server upgrade in turn, including 5.4.1, but you need to load only the latest (5.5.1) version of the client software.

Don’t forget that for the main Alto 5.5 you need to schedule your upgrade with Capita Support, so that the files can be released to you and LDS can be upgraded.

Alto Release 5.5 Available

We are pleased to announce that Alto 5.5 is now available on general release to all customers.

You will find the Release Notices and supporting documentation for this release on our web site at

Please ensure that you download and read the documentation prior to downloading the installation wraps.

Key features within Alto 5.5 are:

  • New ‘borrower notifications’ for messages such as overdue items or reservations awaiting collection and more
  • Faster user login to satisfy audit requirements
  • Ability to send ad hoc notifications by email
  • Bulk payment of invoice lines for part received orders

In order to gain access to the installation wraps, please raise a support case with the support team via indicating when you will be performing your LMS upgrade, as this will allow us to schedule your LDS upgrade.

Alto 5.5 requires LDS in order to provide access to the new Notifications functionality. In order to benefit from the new Notifications system through Alto, please ensure your desktop environment has access to ports 8083 and 25 on your Main LMS server.

The new borrower notifications can be implemented over a period of time. The old notification Perl scripts will continue to work, and will be supported by Capita until support for Alto 5.5 ends. You can set up a new rule and test it with a small set of borrowers before allowing it to run for all borrowers and switching off the old Perl script that it replaces.


Alto 5.4.1: frequently asked questions

The list of FAQs below has been put together from questions raised by customers re the Alto 5.4.1 release.

Q. Can we upgrade straight from Alto 5.3 to Alto 5.4.1?

A. No, you must be on Alto 5.4 to upgrade to Alto 5.4.1.

Q. We are running a version of Alto earlier than Alto 5.2; will following the steps for the new  Usemarcon rules and Zebra amendment work?

A. We have tested the amendments on the supported versions of Alto (Alto 5.2 and above) and we fully expect them to work with earlier versions. If you are running an earlier version we recommend that you perform the full Alto 5.4.1 upgrade prior to 28th January.  If this is not possible you should load the updates and raise a case if any problems arise.

Q. What will happen if we don’t load these files?

A. You will find that if you use an RDA record, publication details from the 264 field will not appear in the Work field that is widely used in Alto to display brief bibliographic details.

Q. Can the new Usemarcon rules be loaded into the database at any time i.e. while users are logged on to Alto?

A. Yes but it’s best to do this when it’s unlikely that a user will be in the process of logging on and thus trying to read the file.

Q. Does the Deployment Assistant which loads the Usemarcon rules need to be installed on the PC that runs the MARC conversion process?

A. No, it can be installed on any PC that can access the database.

Q. I’m using the MarcService but not the Cataloguing Service. Do I need to update the Usemarcon files on the server that has the MarcService installed?

A. It’s not essential but we recommend keeping the Usemarcon files on this server up to date.

Q. Is it necessary to stop Zebra before updating the indexing rules?

A. No, the change will be picked up next time Zebra runs.

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.

Implementing RDA: Resource Description and Access

RDA: Resource Description and Access is the name of the new cataloguing rules that are superseding AACR2. RDA logo

The Library of Congress has announced their target RDA Implementation Day One: March 31, 2013. LC’s partner national libraries (U.S.: National Agricultural Library and National Library of Medicine; and non-U.S.: British Library, Library & Archives Canada, and National Library of Australia) have all planned for a similar implementation date. Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB) is planning for mid-2013.

In each release of Alto we ensure that the MARC validation in Alto Cataloguing is up to date with changes to MARC 21. This means that you will be able to create and edit MARC records in accordance with RDA.

We are assessing the priority of a few potential developments in Alto Cataloguing that could help to streamline cataloguing in RDA, and we are also reviewing whether RDA cataloguing might have impacts elsewhere in Alto.

In Prism, new MARC data elements will be accommodated as part of continuing development of the Prism data model.

More details, with links to numerous resources, have been published in the Capita Library management System forum.

Investigating possible inclusions for Alto 5.3 – Reservations

As you will have seen from the roadmap, Alto 5.3 will include some development on Reservations. Last week we held a webinar with 25 customers to discuss which aspects of Reservations we might include. We looked at the most popular remaining issues that were raised at the last Reservations workshop, and asked the customers to vote on which of them is now their top priority, or to tell us about anything that is now more important to them.

The recording of the webinar is now available for everyone to view at

The results of the voting from the webinar attendees were as follows (adjusted to give one overall vote per institution):

Option number 


Description Votes


Ability to cancel a reservation in more places 2.25 



Disallow reservation of not on loan copies at the borrowers home site or collection site 4.83 



Make it easier to access borrower details when dealing with reservations



Real-time addition of new items to existing reservations 3.08 



Allow reservation of particular copy/copies 2.25 



Make messages consistent when satisfying via discharge and via reservation 0.33 



Make it easier to identify in stock/on order copies in bib search results



Improve Item Request – supply item



Allow reservation of on-order copies




Clear the recall flag when a reservation has been satisfied 0.25 




None of the above


Please let us know what your top priority would be. You can also raise issues via Alto Ideas, so other customers can vote and influence our development decisions.

[podcast format=”video”][/podcast]


Alto 4.3 – End-of-Service-Life

We would like to remind you that Alto 4.3 has now been end-of-lifed. This means that Alto 4.3 is now no longer supported. Any upgrade that has been scheduled will continue to be supported until the work is completed. Those customers still using this version are encouraged to schedule their upgrade to 5.0 or straight to 5.1 now by emailing

Ideas Forum for Alto

We now have 32 customers registered, and a few new ideas have been raised this month. We will be focussing on priorities determined by customers in Ideas for part of each Alto release from now on, so we would encourage you to use this opportunity to let us know what developments are most important to you. We are particularly interested to find out which aspects of Reservations you would most like to see changed in Alto 5.3. You can use Ideas to raise completely new issues, or to let us know which of the existing PERs and Defects you would most like us to work on. See the previous Alto blog for more details on how to access and use Ideas for Alto.

Interloan (ILL) training

One of the things that has emerged from a number of Process Reviews that we have done in the last year is that the ILL module in Talis Alto is frequently under-used. It actually has a lot of depth and sophistication (for examples in the way that it handles interaction with the British Library Document Supply Centre – BLDSC). In particular there are options for separating initial requests for ILLs from back office processing without having to ship paper forms or request cards about the place.

Whilst Interloans are a declining proportion of library activity, some users tell us that they represent a disproportionate amount of effort, so we are offering an updated one-day course on Interloans: the next one at the time of writing is 3rd March. This will be aimed largely at end-users i.e. library rather than technical staff who are looking to make the best use of the capabilities of the Talis Alto Interloan module.

MARC records for Welsh publications available in Talis Base

With thanks to our partner BDS a new database has been added to Talis Base containing MARC records from BDS for items published in Wales. BDS receives data from the Welsh Book Council for trade distribution and has kindly converted them to MARC and allowed us to make the records available to Talis customers at no charge. These records have been converted to MARC from the source data and as such do not adhere to BDS’s usual library quality standards.

The name of the database is BDSWelshM21. Currently it has 12,766 records. It will be updated weekly. It is not included in BDSAllM21 because it is not a normal BDS offering. You can configure access to BDSWelshM21 in Talis Alto Configuration Setup under the Target/Attributes tab. The simplest way to do it is to copy an existing Talis Base target and fill in the Name, the Sort code, and the Description, and change the database name part of the Connection.

If you have any problems please raise a support case.