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Alma Fulfillment Resource Guide

This guide covers all aspects of the fulfillment process. This includes maintaining all patron records, loaning materials, returning/renewing loaned materials, managing lost items dealing with fines and fees as well as course reserves.

Alma Search

Searching in Alma - Overview

In Alma, search is often the first step in any activity. You find a record then act on it - whether it's to update a bib record's cataloging, edit an item record, work with an order or invoice record, loan to a user record, etc.

There are three types of search in Alma:

  • Basic search with the persistent search bar
  • Advanced search with the persistent search bar
  • Page- or list-search using an on-page search box

Each type of search works in a similar way, but with different options and possibly a different scope. This guide introduces you to all three, and offers tips and tricks for each.

Navigation in Alma is when you use the menus, buttons/icons, on-screen links, and drop-down options to navigate from record to record or results list to record. The Alma interface is a website, and these all work as you'd expect them to on a website.

Alma Navigation (Where I Do I Find It???)

Navigating in Alma is the same as navigating on any website - use side and menu navigation to get to pages, and follow links on the page to get to related information.

Alma persistent menu bar


Persistent (Main) Menu

The menu across the top of every page in Alma allows you to quick shift from one function to another. The menu is organized by functional areas:

Acquisitions - Everything related to orders, invoices, funds and ledgers, vendors, and electronic resource licenses.

Resources - Cataloging and inventory management for all materials, regardless of format. Includes import and publishing functions.

Fulfillment - Any function that fulfills a patron or library request: circulation, resource sharing, course reserves, temporary moves and deposits, and more.

Admin - Most staff will use this for Managing Sets and Managing Jobs, but it also includes system/functional area administrator functionality.

Analytics - Use to run or subscribe to existing reports and dashboards, or access Alma Analytics to create analyses.

Quick Links

On the main menu, you can identify Quick Links for a few functions that you use often or use so infrequently you can never find them.

To set your Quick Links:

  1. Hover over the menu heading you want, and find the function you want to turn into a Quick Link
  2. Hover over that function until you see a star outline to the left of it
  3. Click on the star (not the name of the function) to turn the star blue. Now, it's a Quick Link.

To remove a Quick Link, click the blue star to turn it grey again.

To see your Quick Links:

  1. On the main menu bar, click the star near the left end
  2. This will replace the main menu bar with your Quick Links.
  3. The first five or so links will appear in the menu bar; the rest are visible under the ellipsis (three dots) icon

You can't rearrange your Quick Links, so you may want to click them in the order you want them to appear on the menu.

Side Navigation and Facets

In Alma, there are two kinds of navigation available on the left side of a page:

Facets are available on search results pages and monitoring lists to limit to the records by type, status, or other information.

Left navigation is available in the Metadata Editor, Alma Analytics, and Alma Configuration to guide you to specific locations to work on or in.

Linked Information in Records

Many records contain links to related information, identified by blue text instead of black. Click on the link to go to the related information or records.

barcode linkSome examples:

Item records - click on the Barcode to edit the item record or view its history; click on other links for the Title record, related requests, course reserve lists, and orders.

Related Record linkOrder records - click on Invoice, Vendor, Fund, or Title information to see those records

Fund and Vendor records - click through to see related fund, transaction, invoice, and vendor records

The Search Bar

Regardless of where you are in Alma, there is a persistent search available near the top of the screen.

Alma persistent search bar

The persistent search bar has up to six parts:

Search Type (blue drop-down): This sets the kinds of records you want to find.

Criteria (white drop-down): This chooses the field you want to search in those records. This changes depending on the Search Type you choose.

Search term (blank box): Enter the search term(s). This will almost always be a keyword search, and Alma will suggest non-exact matches if possible.

Zone (icon drop-down): Choose whether you want to search the Institution Zone (house), Network Zone (hierarchy boxes), or Community Zone (people)

Search button: click this to search or hit the Enter key

Advanced search: If an advanced search is available for that search type, click here to open the Advanced Search box. Not all Search Types have advanced search.

The Search String in Basic Search

Tips on using the search string in a basic search:

  • Articles (such as the, a, an) in your search are ignored.
  • The asterisk ( * ) wildcard character may be used at the end of the search string only. You cannot use the asterisk wildcard if your search string contains any other special characters, including dashes/hyphens and quotes.
  • Alma finds characters with diacritics when you search using standard English characters. Your institution can turn on diacritic-sensitive searching - contact Ex Libris for support.
  • Alma saves the last 10 searches in search history for title or inventory entity searches. This list is saved indefinitely. There is currently no way to clear the list (other than to perform new searches).
  • Special characters, such as hyphen, dash, slash, and so forth, finds strings both with and without the special characters. For example, searching for a-b finds records that include either a-b or ab. Spaces separate search terms, so searching for a<space>b finds records that include both a and b anywhere (not as an exact phrase), but does not return ab.

Advanced Search

Building on everything in Basic Search, Advanced search adds power, flexibility, and granularity through:

  • Additional search criteria for each search type
  • Operators for each criteria, including "is empty" and "contains"
  • The ability to search for more than one term for the same criteria in the same row
  • The ability to search on multiple criteria at the same time

To conduct an advanced search, choose a search type and click on Advanced Search on the far right.

Not every search type has advanced search. Search types with Advanced Search are:

  • Titles – All, Physical, Electronic
  • Physical Items
  • Electronic Collections & Portfolios
  • Order Lines (POLs)
  • Licenses
  • Reading Lists
  • Authorities


How Do I Perform an Advanced Search?

To perform and advanced search in Alma:

  • Click on Advanced on the persistent search bar
  • Choose the zone (IZ, NZ, CZ) you want to search in
  • Add additional rows as needed by clicking the the plus sign or duplicate row icons
  • Use the drop-down menus to refine your search
  • Type in the search term for each search string
  • AND or OR are used in the additional search criteria
    • And means the search criteria MUST match
    • Or means other than the search string prior to it
  • Click search


Additional Criteria

To keep Basic Search basic, it includes a limited number of criteria. Advanced Search provides access to all the available criteria for each Search Type.

The best way to explore the additional criteria is to choose a Search Type, click Advanced search, then scroll through the list of criteria.

For materials searches (Physical or Electronic), these criteria will include fields from all three levels of related records:

  • Physical Titles and Physical Items searches include criteria from the Title, Holdings, and Item record
  • Electronic Titles, Electronic Collection, and Electronic Portfolios searches include criteria from the Title, Collection, and Portfolio records


Working with Alma Search Operators

In Basic Search, the default operator on the criteria is "keywords" or "includes." One reason to use Advanced Search is to get access to additional operators.

Is Empty - One of the most useful of these additional criteria may be Is Empty. By choosing Is Empty, you can search for records in which that field is empty/contains no information. For example, empty barcodes, call numbers, order numbers, URLs, proxy information, etc. Read the Ex Libris documentation on Searching for Items Without Specific Information for more.

Starts With - To conduct a more precise Title search, use the Starts With operator.

Additional number-related operators - If you're searching by publication or other dates, Advanced Search gives you access to "greater than (>)," "less than (<)," "greater than or equal to (>=)," "less than or equal to (<<=)," "Before," "After," and more.

Date picker calendars - For some number entries (such as Activation date), you can choose from a calendar

Date ranges - Include one row with a Before date and one with an After date to search within a date range

Multiple Terms and Rows

Multiple Terms in One Row

Some criteria - such as Permanent Physical Location (Holdings) - allow you to add more than one search term to the same row, usually from a drop-down list. To do this:

  1. Choose the criteria
  2. Choose the operator
  3. In the search term box, choose the first term you want to add (such as the Circulating collection at a library). Find the term, then click on it to add it.
  4. To add another term for the same criteria, find the second term in the list and click on it.
  5. Repeat for all the terms you want to add.

Click the X next to any term to remove it from the list.

Multiple Rows of Criteria & Terms

To add another row, click on the plus at the end of the first row.

To delete a row, click on the X at the end of that row. Note that you can only delete the first row after you add a second row.

You cannot re-arrange the rows, but you can insert rows by clicking on the plus sign for the row above where you want to add one.

To duplicate a row, click the "copy page" icon at the end of that row. Do this to add multiple subjects to a search, or other criteria that don't allow you to enter multiple terms in the same row.

And/Or Operator for Rows

The default setting for Advanced Search is to link all the rows by AND. (Subject AND Item status AND Location AND Publication Year)

You can change the row operator to OR between two rows, but you need to organize the search query to make sure your OR is in the right place. If the search doesn't work, delete and re-add rows to get the OR into a better place in the query.

In these three screenshots, look closely at the search fields and then at the query logic below them.

Using On-Page Searching

In addition to the persistent search bar at the top of every page, many lists offer a search box or filters to narrow down the records listed on the page. 

These on-page options either use a single index or a small number of indices you choose in a drop-down menu. The options will change depending on the list you're searching.

The Manage Sets page has both a search box and filters.

In the search box, you can search by the set Name or who it was created by (if you were searching Public Sets).

In the filters, you can choose from the drop-down options to limit the list by Content Type or Content Origin.

Training Videos

There are several great training videos on how to Search Alma, both from Ex Libris and several other organizations and institutions. Here are a few good ones:

  1. Search Basics and Widgets (Harvard Library)
    Training video from Harvard Library on Basic & Advanced Search. (Created by Jennifer Koerber, 2018)
  2. Alma Search Training Videos (Harvard Library)
    Sequence of five extended training videos on Search in Alma, including Introduction and Basic Search, the Search Results List, Options in the Results List, Customizing Search Results Display, Advanced Search, and functional area search examples. (Created for Harvard Library by Jennifer Koerber, 2018)
  3. Intro to Alma and Searching (FLVC)
    This is a recording of the Introduction Session of the Alma Spring Workshops (2021) for FLVC members given by Jenny Draeger from Ex Libris. It includes the basics of getting around Alma and searching.