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  • Search and Sets Training Materials

Spring 2019 Update

The scripts and training materials in this section were used by Alma peer trainers & facilitators during the active Implementation project phase (April 2018 - June 2019).

These materials are now archived and may contain outdated information/past practice - do not use as-is. This content was last updated March 2019.

For current Alma training, please visit the Learning Alma - for Staff and Managers page.

Search and Sets Examples and Handouts

Search and Sets Examples

Search and Sets Handout

Class Script


  • Introduction and “A Note on HOLLIS Classic”
  • Basic Search
    • Search Type
    • Search Criteria
    • Search Box/Terms
    • Institution vs. Community Zones
  • The Results List
    • Facets
    • Sorting
    • Row Action Items
    • Exporting Results
    • Customizing Views
  • Advanced Search
  • Sets
    • Logical sets – saved queries
    • Itemized sets – created item by item
    • Itemizing a Logical Set
    • (If time – Combining Sets)
  • Closing



Today, we’re going to explore Search in Alma. Searching for the record you want to work on is the beginning of many functions in Alma, and you can use the results of your searches to answer questions that used to require a Cognos report.

In this class, we’ll go through basic search and discuss the difference between the Institution and Community zones, then we’ll review the results list and how you can customize the display. Next, we’ll practice with advanced searches, and finally we’ll learn how to save sets of records either as a saved search or as an itemized list.

First, a few notes:

  • Alma went live on July 3rd and, as expected, we're learning new things about it as staff work with real data in the system. Everyone is continuing to learn Alma, and will have the support they need to do so.

  • We are training on the tool of Alma, and while there is usually more than one way to do anything in Alma, we will show you one verified or preferred way to do tasks. Once you've learned the best practice, we encourage staff to discuss local procedures and workflows in your units.

  • We also encourage everyone to come together in Learning Circles - either cross-functional within units or on the same functions across units - to discuss how the implementation is going and how the new features and workflows in Alma might change work at Harvard.

  • Please continue to use the LTS Alma Support form to ask questions and report issues with Alma data, workflows, or roles & permissions. Asking these questions, and working groups providing answers, is an important part of everyone learning more about Alma. You can find the link in the Notifications widget in Alma, along with the link to Alma documentation on the LTS wiki.

  • You have a 1-page handout that contains a link to the Alma sandbox, the wiki page for this class, and a few other useful links. (If there are other handouts, describe them.) The script and all materials for this class are available to review on the wiki, and will continue to be updated with any changes in procedures.

Some quick logistics information: 

  • The nearest bathrooms & water supply are:
    • Lamont rooms: Restrooms are gendered by floor. Lamont 310 is on a men's room floor, Lamont B-30 is on a women's room floor.
    • 90 Mt Auburn: Two restrooms are on the opposite side of the building on the basement level, water is in the kitchenette and in a fountain by the restrooms
    • 625 Mass Ave: Restrooms are at the opposite end of the building on the 3rd floor, by the water fountain
  • Please ask questions when they come up; I will also pause between sections for questions and to make sure things are clear.

Let's start by introducing ourselves. (Go around the room and ask everyone to share their name, library/unit, and how this class relates to their work.)

Now, if you haven't already, please log in to Alma.


Basic Search

In Introduction to Alma, we reviewed the systems that Alma is replacing: Aleph, SFX, Verde, and some functions of Cognos. There’s actually one more tool that it replaces: HOLLIS Classic for staff use.

HOLLIS Classic was retired along with Aleph this July because HOLLIS Classic was tailor-made for working with Aleph. With the switch to Alma, Classic would no longer work. That said, if you relied on the HOLLIS Classic search, today we’ll see how Alma can replace that functionality in the staff client.

As we mentioned in Introduction to Alma, the persistent search bar appears at the top of every page in Alma (hence, "persistent search bar"). The options change depending on what you're looking for and what location you're at (they’re “context-dependent), but there is always a search bar.

Before we start practicing, let’s review the elements of the persistent search bar:

The Search Type: The first drop-down box contains the search type options. This tells Alma what kinds of records you want to search for. Most options are self-explanatory – Invoices, Users. The ones to pay close attention to are Physical and Electronic materials searches.

To review, there are three levels of records for materials in Alma: Titles (or bibliographic) records, Item-level records, and a middle level (Holdings or Collections). The materials search types identify which level of records in what format you’re looking for:

All Titles = bibliographic records for all materials, shows both physical and electronic

Physical Titles = bibliographic records for physical materials, only shows records that have holdings or holdings/items attached. Bibs without holdings will only be found using an All Titles search. Note: this includes NET holdings/networked resources.

Physical Items = item records for physical materials

Electronic Titles = bibliographic records for electronic materials, including both ebooks and online journals

Electronic Portfolios = item-level records for electronic materials, like instances of an ebook or issues of an online journal

Electronic Collections = the service through which we have access to an electronic item, such as EBSCO full-text

Note: Harvard is not using the Digital features of Alma, but since all Alma customers use the same interface, we cannot remove these from the list.

Does everyone understand this distinction? This is one of the things that can get confusing while searching in Alma – that you can search for either bibliographic/title records or individual item records and that which one you search for depends on what you're trying to do or the information you need. I'll demonstrate and talk more about this in a moment.


The Search Criteria: In the white drop-down box, you’ll choose what criteria or field you want to search for. Again, this is context-dependent – when you tell Alma what kinds of records you want to find, it will let you choose from the criteria available for those records.

TRAINER: Demonstrate that when you choose Physical Titles, the information displayed in the results list is very different.

Also, I’ll point out that Alma will remember and highlight the last criteria that you searched on for that type of record at the top of the list. In this case, the last time I looked for Physical Titles, I searched on [whatever your most recent criteria was]. This makes it easy if you usually search using the same kinds of information, like invoice numbers or ISBNs.


The Search Box/Terms: The big white box is where you type or paste in what you’re searching for. Again, once you click in the box, Alma will suggest the most recent searches you’ve made, even the next morning when you first log in. This can be helpful if you need to go back and work on something that you worked on late the day before.

Regarding the Search String

  • You may either include or omit words that are articles (such as the, a, an) in your search content.
  • All ISBNs are in ISBN-13 format.
  • Special characters, such as hyphen, dash, slash, and so forth, are ignored. For additional special characters, see Searching for Special Characters.
  • The asterisk ( * ) wildcard character may be used in your search string if the asterisk is placed at the end of the search string.
    • Wildcards are not supported when the string contains a dash, for example: $a (Aleph)003858461UCD01-Aleph.
    • The question mark (?) is not supported as a wildcard character.
  • Alma finds characters with diacritics when you search using standard English characters.

The Magnifying Glass: Just like most search bars, the magnifying glass is what you click to start your search. You can also hit the Enter key on the keyboard.

Start Searching!

Let’s practice some basic searches.

TRAINER: Demonstrate an example search, narrating as you choose options:

  1. Choose the search type from the first drop-down menu to determine what kind of records you get as your results.
  2. Choose the specific criteria you want to search on from the second drop-down menu.
  3. Enter your search terms.
  4. Click search or hit enter

TRAINER: Now, ask participants to perform a simple search – the first search in their examples or one of their own.

The Institution vs. Community Zones

There's one more drop-down box in the search bar and while it’s important to know what it is, you’ll usually only be using one option. This is place where you choose whether you're going to search the Institution Zone (that's Harvard) or Community Zone.

Alma is used by hundreds of libraries around the world. One thing that makes it a powerful platform is that some of the information in common between those institutions can be shared, particularly eResources and Authority record information. These records are located in what’s called the Community Zone: a shared space for the community of Alma users.

These two icons will tell you whether you’re searching just Harvard’s records, or records that are in this shared space:

  • The house icon = the Institution Zone = Harvard's records
  • The people icon = the Community Zone = All Alma institutions

If you don’t work with either eResources or Authority records, you’ll rarely search the Community Zone. However, if you accidentally switch to the Community Zone, you might be confused when your search comes up with no results! This happens to everyone – it happened to the Alma Training Manager when she was demonstrating Alma in front of a crowd!

As we've seen before, this option is context-dependent – if I switch to an Invoice search, it disappears, because invoices would never be in the Community Zone.

For more on searching, please see the Ex Libris Knowledge Center:

The Results List

Snapshots of Records

Now that you've searched for a few things, let's go through the results lists in detail. To do this, I'm going to perform two versions of the same search - looking for a book by its title - but in one I'll look for Title or bib records, and then I'll look for individual Item records. This will let me compare what kind of records and information you get from each search.

  1. First, I'll choose Physical Titles as my search type, so I get bib records as my results.
  2. Next, I'll choose Title as my criteria.
  3. I'm looking for bib records for The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, so I type that in. You can type all of this or just up to 'breakdown' for the search to be limited enough.
  4. Click search or hit enter


As with many modern searches, you can use the facets/limits on the left to limit results. On your screens, choose 2 or 3 facets for your example search by clicking on them.

Remove any facet by clicking on the X. What’s great is that you can add three facets and then remove the first without affecting #2 & 3, which saves a lot of time.



  • Rank = relevancy. It's the system trying to guess what you want based on what you've searched for. It will bring up direct matches first, then add other results with the same terms in a different order or only some of the search terms.
  • Other options depend on what search type you've chosen
  • Some results list have one sort, and others have two levels of sorting. For instance, in Physical Titles, you can sort first by Title or Author and then by Publication Date to get a roughly chronological list of work.
  • Sort is "sticky" – Alma will remember and reuse the last sort you used


The Search Results

The main content of your results list are the records your search has found. In the results list, you get a snapshot of information about that record, related information, and a list of actions you can perform on that record right from the results list.

The snapshot and related information will differ depending on the search type you've chosen.

In this list of bib records, I see:

  • Brief publishing information
  • Language, subjects, series, editions, ISBNs or ISSNs, and other bibliographic information
  • Any orders or requests placed for that title/bib record
  • The MMSID or system number for this record
  • A snapshot of Holdings and Items and their availability. You can click on the double caret to expand the list of holdings and items if it's not already expanded.
    • Look to see if all the holdings and items are displayed. If not, you can click on where it says Holdings or Items below the snapshot to see a full list of these records.
  • Other Details: This will show related records, including any Course Reserves lists that contain this title

Now, if I do the same search for item records, I'll get different results. I'll just change my search type to Physical Items and keep the title criteria and terms. (TRAINER: If you need to, after you've chosen Physical Items, select Title and re-enter your search terms. Alma will remember whatever your last criteria was for that search type; narrate this as a teaching moment if it happens.)

Instead of bib records, now I have item records in front of me, and the information has changed to match:

  • Brief publishing information
  • Barcode, call number, and owning library information
  • Due date or hold information
  • Status and Process Type
    • Status is a base status for items: is it in place on the shelf or not in place? If it's in place, that's it. If it's not in place, then the Process Type tells you why.
    • Process Type is a note on any process an item is in the middle of. It might be on Loan, In Transit, or in some kind of Acquisitions or Collections Care/Preservation workflow. For some process types like Loan, the word is a blue link, and if you click on it, you'll see additional information about that Loan including the patron.
  • Other Details: For Item records, the other details include related records and very basic circulation statistics (last loan date and total number of circulations for that item).


Color Coding and Icons

Alma uses color coding and icons extensively. In the search results lists, you might see the following:

  • Blue text or numbers: These are links to related records. Click on them to see lists of orders, requests, reading lists, and more.
  • Blue icons or gray icons: Blue icons indicate an active status or that an item is owned by/available to Harvard; gray icons indicate inactive status or that an item is not owned by/available to Harvard.
  • Green dots or gray dots: green indicates at least one item is available to users; gray indicates there are no available items.
  • The Suppressed record icon: A small eye with a red line through it () indicates a suppressed bib, holdings, or item record. These records are not visible in Primo/HOLLIS.


The Row Action Item List

Once you have a list of results, you can act on the records you’ve found. For instance, you might have search for a list of items to edit the item record, or to request them for someone. In both cases, you conduct a Physical Items search, then when you find the particular item you want to edit or request, you choose that option from the Row Action Item List.

The first two buttons on the right are the “hot buttons” – they always appear on the row itself. For other choices, use the ellipsis icon to see more actions. You can also right click in any blank space in the row to see all of the action items, then highlight and click again to choose one.

If an option isn't available to you due to permissions or location, that button or action will not display in the row action item list. If it was one of your hot buttons, the next action in the list will move up into that button spot.

You will learn much more about all of these actions in your functional training, but this is one way to start working on a record in Alma – find it with a search and then choose an action.


Exporting Results

If you want to save a list of results and use them outside of Alma, you can export the records in the results to an Excel file. You can then manipulate the spreadsheet for weeding lists, budget information, checklists, or any other use.

To download the Excel file:

  1. Click on the download icon (page with sideways arrow)
  2. Choose Excel
  3. If you Open it, it will automatically open in an Excel document. We recommend immediately Saving As to the location you want it.
  4. If you Save it, it will save to your Downloads folder (unless you’ve changed the default in your browser). Again, we recommend moving it to where you want it to be, so you can find it easily.

Now, you have an Excel file that you can add to, sort and filter, or do anything else you want to.

In a few minutes, we’ll learn a different way to save a list of results inside Alma to use again.


Customizing Your Results Lists

Now, let’s look more closely at how you can tailor your search results displays to what’s most important to you and your work needs.

When you customize a search results view, these changes will apply every time you search for that type of record moving forward. So, you can search for a list of Physical Titles records, then customize the view to have it display that way from then on. Then you can customize the list of Physical Items records, and so on through each kind of search you do.

Expand: If you’ve searched for Titles records, you might see the word Expand:

  • In an All Titles search, clicking Expand will display either Physical or Electronic items information
  • In a Physical Titles search, clicking Expand will display holdings & items information
  • In an Electronic Titles search, clicking Expand will display the interface, collection, and availability information


Customize View: Next to the Download icon is a gear, the Manage Column Display. This lets you customize the view & actions of your results list. You don’t need to do this, but after you’ve used Alma for a while, changing these options can make it easier to see the information that’s important to you, and faster to do your work.

Click on the gear to begin. You can choose how many columns to display and what information to display in each column, in what order. You’re not deleting anything, just removing it from your display. You can always add it back by clicking in the box next to it.

You can change the order that fields display in by dragging the labels around. For instance, if I’ve searched for item records, and to me, the barcode is the most important piece of information, I can drag it to the top of the first column, followed by the Permanent Physical Location and Status.

A recommendation for staff who work with physical materials: it can be very helpful to have Status and Process Type next to each other, since together they tell you where an item is and what's going on with it. Drag Process Type under Status.

On the right are the action items we mentioned earlier. You can choose which two actions appear as those “hot buttons” and which are under the ellipsis menu. Drag the actions up and down to move them, according to the work you tend to do.

When you’re done customizing your results view, click Save. Again, these settings will be used any time you search for that record type (Physical Items, Invoices, etc.).


Time to Practice!

Let’s take a few minutes to practice basic searching. Pick an area of interest to you – Titles, Items, Invoices, Vendors, or Requests – and try a few searches. Try the same search as a Title and an Item search and see how the list of results is different. Then, customize your view for that list of results.

TRAINER: Depending on the class size, skills, and amount of time left, you can guide them through the example searches or let them work on their own.

Important Search Note

Now, we’re going to start playing with Advanced Search. Note that not all searches have Advanced Search options: For instance, Invoices and Vendors just have Basic Search because there are only a few fields you can search on.

Advanced Search

Advanced searches are the powerhouses of Alma.

  1. Choose the search type you want, then click on Advanced Search to the right of the search bar. This will expand the persistent search bar into the advanced search box, with the search type at the top.
  2. As with most advanced searches, you construct the search using rows of criteria. For each row, do the following:
    1. Choose the field you want to search on. Alma may provide a single list or offer focus areas that relate to the kind of search you want to do.
      • One of the ways that the search in Alma is powerful for materials searches is that you can use criteria in the Title, Holding, and Physical Items-level records in the same search. This means that you can search by the Subject (Title/Bib-level criteria), by a Location (Holdings information), and by a Call Number (Item-level information) at once.
        TRAINER: Demonstrate this during a Physical Titles search.
    1. Choose the operator for that field (e.g., Contains, Keywords, Is Empty, Starts With, etc.)
    2. Choose or enter the value for the field. Some criteria are text entry, some offer a drop-down menu to select from, and dates will provide a calendar to pick from.
  3. You can search with just one variable, or multiple variables on sequential rows.
    1. The order of the search is determined by the order of the rows, so plan your query with this in mind.
    2. You cannot reorganize rows once you've entered them, though can delete and re-add rows.
  4. Use the icons at the end of a row to:
    • Add additional rows of search terms by clicking on the plus sign
    • Duplicate a row by clicking on the duplicate icon
    • Delete a row by clicking on the X
  5. For additional rows, choose AND/OR as the initial operator.
  6. Clear the form at any time by clicking Clear Form to start over from scratch
  7. Once your query is set, click Search or hit enter
  8. Use filters, sort, and other features on the results as with a basic search

As an example of an advanced search, let's answer the question: What materials are available on the subject of democracy in Spanish at Widener Library?

  1. Choose the search type Physical Items, because we want to see what materials are available on the shelf right now, and the Item record gives us that information.
  2. For the first row:
    1. Choose the criteria Subjects (LC). You can start typing the word "subjects" into the selector box to quickly find all the criteria about subjects.
    2. Next choose the operator Contains Keywords
    3. Type in the word democracy.
  3. For the second row:
    1. Choose Permanent Physical Location, which is in the Holdings record criteria list.
    2. Choose the operator Equals.
    3. For this criteria, you'll get to choose from a drop-down list of locations.
      • You can choose more than one location in this same row, you don't need to add a separate row for each location.
      • You can start typing a word in the location name to find it more quickly.
      • Scroll down and click on the location you want. You can choose Select All to search an entire library, or choose specific collections one by one.
  4. For the third row:
    1. Choose Language as the criteria
    2. Choose Equals as the operator
    3. Again, you'll get to choose from a drop-down list of options. Start typing to get close, then click on the language you want.
      • For Language, you can only have one language per row. Add another row to search more than one language, but be careful of how the Boolean operators will connect them.
  5. For the fourth row:
    1. Choose Publication Year
    2. For dates and numbers, you get very different operators. In this case, choose the greater than or equal to symbol.
    3. Type in 2000
  6. Now, click on Search or hit the Enter key
  7. Take a look at how the query is described in blue underneath the search fields. This can teach you more about the logic Alma uses in advanced searches, so you can construct effective queries more quickly.


Practice Time!

TRAINER: Depending on the class size, skills, and amount of time left, you can guide them through the example searches or let them work on their own.
Describe the next paragraph about Save Query as they're practicing.


Saving Queries and Results – short version

If you haven't already noticed, I'd like to point out the Save Query button on the search results page. You can save any query to re-run again. When you save a query, you automatically create a Set of results that you can use in a variety of ways. We'll cover that in a moment, but first:

Any questions about searching before we switch to talking about Sets?



About Sets

  • Sets are collections of records saved in Alma to be used as reference lists, collection development aids, acquisitions tracking aids, or resource management tools for batch updating.
  • Sets can be created manually, record by record, or dynamically as the result of a saved search query.
  • In addition to just being a list of things, sets are used to manipulate a number of records at the same time (e.g., publish metadata in bulk, move a group of records, or run jobs/processes).
  • Sets do not have a size limit, though the export to Excel limit is still 50,000 records.

There are two types of sets, in four basic categories:

Types of Sets

  • Logical sets contain the results of a saved search query, and are created dynamically each time the search is run
  • Itemized sets are manually created, static sets of individual records called members

Categories and Record Types

You can create sets of the following record types:

  • Acquisitions sets: PO Line and Vendor records
  • User sets: User records
  • Reading list sets: Reading List records
  • Resource Management sets: All Titles, Physical Items, Physical Titles, Electronic Collections, Electronic Portfolios, Electronic Titles, and Authorities records


Once you’ve saved a set, you can get to it from the Admin menu, under Manage Sets:

  • My Sets: all of your private sets
  • Public Sets: all public sets, from all users (including you)


Logical Sets (dynamic)

  • Any time you save a search query in Alma, you create a logical set. Logical sets can also be created directly from the Manage Sets page.
  • Logical sets are repopulated dynamically every time you re-run the query.
  • Note: You cannot save individual items to a logical set, but you can turn the results of a logical set into an itemized set (we’ll get to this in a few minutes) and then add individual items to that. You can change a logical set to an itemized set, but you cannot turn an itemized set into a logical set.

Create a Logical Set

  1. Go to Admin >> Manage Sets and Jobs and click on Manage Sets
  2. Click on the My Sets tab
  3. Click on Add Sets, then choose Logical Set
  4. Add General Information for your set:
    1. Set Name (REQUIRED) must be unique and useful for finding your set in a list
    2. Description does not display in the lists of sets, but is searchable to help find your set later
    3. Note does not display and is not searchable; use for information that will help if you need to edit your set later
    4. Set Content Type (REQUIRED) is the type of records that will be in your set; this will limit what can be done with the set and determine the search bar you see when you want to add items to your set 
      Note: A set can only contain one content type
    5. Private - Sets default to Yes when created; toggle a set to No to share it with other Harvard users
    6. Active - Defaults to Active; you cannot edit the query in an Inactive set
  5. Click Next
  6. Perform a repository search to populate the set.
    1. Simple search: Search with the primary and secondary search fields, then limit by the facets on the left and sort your results list.
    2. Advanced search: Use an advanced search for more precise searching, then limit and sort as needed.
  7. When your search is exactly the way you want it, click Save. You can update a saved search, but not save-as-you-go; you have to re-run the saved search each time from Manage Sets.


View Results

To view the current results of a logical set, go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list (the ellipsis) for the set you want to see. Click on Results, and Alma will display the contents of that set.

Note: Clicking on the title of the set or choosing Edit from the row action item list will only let you edit the Set Details, not run or edit the search query. To edit the query, see Changing a Logical Set Query below.


Editing Item Set Details

You can change any of the details in the General Information of your set at any time, including the set name. Click on the row action items list for the set you want to edit, then choose Edit and make your changes. Click Save when done.

To share your set with other Harvard Library users, change the Private setting from Yes to No.


Changing a Logical Set Query

If you want to change your query after you've saved it:

  1. Go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list for the set you want to add to
  2. Click on Results to re-run the query
  3. Change the elements of the query that you want to change using the advanced search form at the top of the results list, the facets, or the sort options.
  4. Click on Search to re-run your search with the new criteria.
  5. Repeat as necessary to refine your search.
  6. When you're happy with your search, click on Save Query
  7. If needed, change the title, description, or note for the updated query on the Set Details screen
  8. Click Save to save your changes

If you change the query on your set, it overwrites the previous version. If you want to keep the first query and create a new set with a slightly different version of that query, go to Manage Sets and choose Duplicate from the row actions item list. That creates a copy of the first logical set, which you can update with different criteria or search terms.


Itemized Sets (static)

  • Itemized sets are collections of individual items (called members) created manually.
  • Note: Itemized sets may include references to deleted records to perform operations on those records, such as republishing them to Primo.

Create an Itemized Set

  1. Go to Admin >> Manage Sets and Jobs and click on Manage Sets
  2. Click on the My Sets tab
  3. Click on Add Sets, then choose Itemized Set
  4. Add General Information for your set:
    1. Set Name (REQUIRED) must be unique and useful for finding your set in a list
    2. Description does not display in the lists of sets, but is searchable to help find your set later
    3. Note does not display and is not searchable; use for information that will help if you need to edit your set later
    4. Set Content Type (REQUIRED) is the type of records that will be in your set; this will limit what can be done with the set and determine the search bar you see when you want to add items to your set 
      A set can only contain one content type
    5. Private - Sets default to Yes when created; toggle a set to No to share it with other Harvard users
    6. Active - This doesn't seem to affect much, but leave it set to Active
  5. You can either add members to your set before saving it or just save your set (without adding contents first) by clicking Save. When you click on Save, you'll return to the Manage Sets page.

Adding Records to an Itemized Set

There are two ways to add members to an itemized set:

  1. Add Members to Set: One advantage of an itemized set is the ability to add specific records one by one, rather than rely on a single search to find everything you want.
    1. From the Manage Sets page, find the set you want to work on and click on Members in the row action item list to open the set (with no members if it's new, or with existing members).
    2. Click on Add Members (near the top of the list of records)
    3. Use either a basic or advanced search to find the record(s) you want to add. Search for individual records by barcode or PO line number, or do larger searches by creator, subject, or vendor.
    4. Select items by clicking in the tickybox to the left of the title.
    5. Once you've selected the items you want from a page of results, click Add Selected. Do not go to the next page of results until you've added items from that page – Alma can't add from multiple search results pages at once.
    6. When you're done adding members to the set, click on Done. This saves your set and returns you to the Manage Sets page.
  2. Add Contents from File to Set: When you're creating an itemized set, you have the option to upload a file containing unique identifiers to populate the set. Files must be text (.txt) or Excel (.xls or .xlsx), and should contain one column with the correct header at the top. You can only upload a file to create a set once - after that, you can add individual items to the set, or create a second set with a file and combine the sets (see instructions below). See the Ex Libris Knowledge Base for a complete set of content types and headers for files to upload.


Viewing, Removing, or Adding Members to a Set

To view members of a set, go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list (the ellipsis) for the set you want to see. Click on Members, and Alma will display the contents of that set.

To remove members of a set:

  1. View the contents of the set (see above)
  2. Click on the tickybox to the left of each item you want to remove
  3. Click on Remove Selected at the top OR
    If you only want to remove a single item, just choose Remove from the row action items list for that item
  4. Click on Done to save your changes

To add members to a set after you've saved it:

  1. Go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list for the set you want to add to
  2. Click on Edit
  3. Click on Add Members to Set
  4. Search the repository and add items to the set
  5. Click Done to save your changes


Tip: If you’ve been working on a set for a while and you’re ready to start something else entirely, click on the Harvard shield to get back to the home page. We’ve found that if you’re adding members to an itemized set, in particular, you’ll start forgetting that you’re maintaining your set and then start a whole other search but still see the Remove Selected box.


Editing Item Set Details

You can change any of the details in the General Information of your set at any time, including the set name. Click on the row action items list for the set you want to edit, then choose Edit and make your changes. Click Save when done.

To share your set with other Harvard Library users, change the Private setting from Yes to No.


Converting Logical Sets to Itemized Sets

One last way to create a new set is to convert a logical set into an itemized set. This is effectively a "Save As" function - it will retain your original logical set and save the current results as a new itemized set.

"Itemizing" a logical set is helpful to:

  • take a snapshot of the current set of results of a query, to compare with results at a later date (for collection development or monitoring orders for a particular vendor or fund)
  • use a query to find most of what you would want in a set, and then itemize it to be able to add individual records that they query wouldn't find or remove unwanted records in the results
  • create a public version of a snapshot of the results of a saved query, by itemizing it and saving as public

If you do not already have a logical set ready to itemize, create a logical set using the instructions above. Once your logical set is ready:

  1. Go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list for the set you want to itemize
  2. Click on Itemize
  3. The system adds the word "itemized" and the date to the Set Name. If you want to customize the set name further, do that on the Set Details screen
  4. Click Submit, then Confirm to submit an itemization job to convert your set. It will give you a count of the number of records in the new set, which is a useful double-check that it contains what you expect it to contain.
  5. A small set will appear in the Manage Sets list almost immediately. A large set will take time for the itemization job to run, and then will appear.


TRAINER: Everyone please take one of the searches you used earlier and run it again, this time saving the query into a logical set. Then, go to Manage Sets and create an itemized set, and practice adding items to it. If you’re feeling comfortable, trying changing your logical set to an itemized set.



Today, we’ve practiced many ways you can search and save lists of records in Alma. Between now and your next training, please practice to become comfortable with this – you’ll be using search throughout your functional area training.

On that note, these trainings are being scheduled as we speak and will be posted beginning this week. We will continue to offer functional area trainings – as well as more sessions of both Introduction to Alma and Search and Sets – throughout June and July.

Once again, if you have any questions about Alma, please use the LTS Support Question Form in the Notifications widget to send them to the Support team. This will get your question answered and will add to the LTS Support knowledgebase about Alma.

Any last questions?

Thank you for coming. After today, you’ll receive an email with a link to an evaluation form. Please take a few minutes to fill it out; your feedback will be invaluable in helping the Training Working Group refine these trainings for the remainder of these early sessions and for the long-term training to come.



(If there’s time)

Combining Sets

You can combine two sets of the same Content Type into a single set. Again, this is a "Save As" type of function: the process will create a new set that is some combination of both sets.

  1. Go to Manage Sets and click on the row action items list for the set you want to itemize
  2. Click on Combine
  3. The system adds the word "combined" and the date to the Set Name. If you want to customize the set name further, do that on the Set Details screen.
  4. The set you start with is called the parent set. At the bottom of the screen, choose the set you want to combine the parent set with, and how.
    1. AND creates a new set that includes only the members in common between the two sets (In Set 1 AND in Set 2)
    2. NOT creates a set that includes members that are in the parent set and not in the second set (In Set 1 and NOT in Set 2)
    3. OR creates a set that includes all of the members of both sets (In either Set 1 OR in Set 2)
  5. When you click on the list of sets to combine with, it will only display sets of the same content type, both yours and any public sets. Search for the second set by name or by your Alma user ID.
  6. Click Submit, then Confirm to submit an itemization job to convert your set
  7. A small set will appear in the Manage Sets list almost immediately. A large set will take time for the itemization job to run, and then will appear.


Filtering Sets

Sets can be filtered by using Alma indication rules. Indication rules do not modify data. They are solely used to read MARC bibliographic records that are part of a set and filter records out based on conditions. 

  • Indication rules can be written by any staff member with the Cataloger role.
  • Before you write a new rule, review existing Indication Rules.
    1. Go to Admin > Manage Sets.
    2. Choose any Titles set you've created. (You're not going to actually filter it, just use it to get to the next screen.)
    3. From the row action item list icon, choose Filter set.
    4. On the next screen, scroll down to the Indication rules drop-down and click to see all existing rules.
      1. If the rule you want to use is there, use it.
      2. If the rule you want to use doesn't exist yet, you'll need to write it following the Ex Libris directions.
    5. Click Cancel in the upper right to cancel this action.
  • For instructions on how to write indication rules, please visit the Ex Libris documentation on Working with Indication Rules.
  • Best practice is to name the rule with your unit's 3-char abbreviation followed by a title summarizing what the rule does. 

For information on how to filter a set once an indication rule has been written, please visit the Ex Libris documentation on Filtering Sets

Best practice is to refine the original set as much as possible before applying the filter, so that the original set is not larger than it needs to be. This helps the filtering job run faster and keeps the jobs queue clear.


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