As a member of MnPALS, you join library staff members at 57 libraries throughout the state of Minnesota. We gather in person and virtually to share knowledge and network with colleagues, primarily around the use of our shared integrated library system (ILS), Ex Libris’s Alma/Primo VE. 

This guide is intended to serve as a resource for you, not only now as you get familiar with MnPALS and the PALS office, but also as you get more comfortable in your role and are looking to expand your understanding. Please refer to the Table of Contents on the left to navigate to a particular topic.

Information and dates for 2020-2021

PALS Office

PALS (Program for Automated Library Systems) is the 13-member library technology support and training team for MnPALS. Organizationally, we are a part of the system of Minnesota State colleges and universities, but we support all our members equally. Our office is a member of the Consortium and the team that manages the ILS contract and provides ILS support and training.  

Support Center account

PALS uses customer relationship management (CRM) software called the PALS Support Center to track support requests, host documentation, and publish answers in a knowledge base. The CRM software has both a web-based end-user interface for our customers as well as a web-based agent interface for the PALS staff. The software allows us to efficiently route your support requests (incidents) to the appropriate PALS staff and to publish answers to frequently asked support questions. 

Request an account for the Support Center

If you have questions about this guide or anything related to it, please either submit a Support Center ticket or email Johnna Horton.
  • PALS- Program for Automated Library Systems
  • DDC – Deans, Directors, and Coordinators
  • RS – Resource Sharing
  • IPEDS – The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
  • UC – User Council
  • EC – Executive Committee
  • PCI – Primo Central Index
  • CDI – Central Discovery Index
  • ILS – Integrated Library System (MnPALS uses Alma)
  • ELUNA – Ex Libris Users of North America
  • UMWUG – Upper Midwest User Group
  • MnPALS – aka The Consortium of MnPALS Libraries, a network of academic and state agency libraries who use a shared ILS
  • PALS – The Minnesota State System Office organization that supports the MnPALS libraries and is also a member of the Consortium
  • Support Center – The help desk system used by PALS Office to support the MnPALS libraries
    • PALS uses customer relationship management (CRM) software to track support requests, host documentation and publish answers in a knowledge base. The CRM software has both a web-based end user interface for our customers as well as a web-based agent interface for the PALS staff. The software allows us to efficiently route your support requests (incidents) to the appropriate PALS staff and to publish answers to frequently asked support questions.
    • Answers – PALS published documentation. Sometimes a login is required.
    • Incidents – Also referred to as “tickets”, these are requests for help or information.
  • Forum – A place for discussion, information sharing, and feedback. https://forums.mnpals.org/
  • Courier codes – Three letter codes used by Minitex and other libraries to designate interlibrary loan shipping and delivery locations. Also OCLC codes.
  • OCLC – OCLC is a global library cooperative that provides shared technology services, original research and community programs for its membership and the library community at large. Most libraries catalog materials using OCLC Connexion or CatExpress.
  • Minitex – Our resource sharing provider; manages deliveries of ILL materials within the consortium and to outside borrowers
  • Mailing Lists – Electronic mailing lists maintained by the PALS Office.
    • MnPALS Discuss List – General mailing list for everyone in the consortium. Examples of content include job postings, changes to ILL service, questions re: best practices, etc.
    • Alma Community – Discuss questions and concerns about Alma with fellow librarians
    • Islandora – For users of Islandora for topics specific to Islandora implementation and use
    • Minnesota State Library Advisory Council – Used by members of Minnesota State libraries to discuss and share information that pertains to Minnesota State.
  • Governance bodies
    • User council – Made up of representatives based on functionality, each group has two representatives on the User Council.
      • Representative groups:
        • Acquisitions/Serials
        • Circulation
        • Cataloging
        • Interlibrary Loan
        • Reference and Instruction
        • Systems
      • User Council usually meets 3 times a year, in conjunction with the Executive Committee
      • The User Council assesses and prioritizes the recommendations of the User Groups and Task Forces and communicates these to the Executive Committee and PALS.
    • Executive committee – Representation based on library types; each library type has two representatives
      • Library types represented
        • State Universities (Minnesota State)
        • Community and Consolidated Colleges (Minnesota State)
        • Technical Colleges (Minnesota State)
        • Private Colleges and Universities
        • State Government Agencies
      • The Executive Committee directs the creation of Task Forces and guides the strategic direction of the consortium.
    • Working group – Short term volunteer group working to achieve a specific goal (e.g. developing reports)
    • User group – Functional groupings of everyone in MnPALS; you’re automatically added based on the work you do in your library
    • User group meetings – Yearly opportunity for functional groups and managerial groups to have business meetings
    • Steering committee – Leadership of User Groups who make recommendations on behalf of their functional area
    • Deans, Directors, and Coordinators (DDC) – Made up of one leader from each library. This person is generally the “responsible party” for the functioning of the member library.
    • Minnesota State Library Advisory Council – This body advises the System Director for Student Success Technologies and the Educational Innovations department at the Minnesota State System Office.
    • Interest Groups – An informal gathering of MnPALS members who are interested in a particular topic.


– For a complete Alma glossary, see Ex Libris’ Online Help- Alma Glossary

  • Alma – Our ILS platform; MnPALS went live January 2019
  • Ex Libris – Company that produces the ILS platform we use
  • Fulfillment – Umbrella term for circulation and ILL (resource sharing) in Alma
  • Resource Sharing – Alma’s term for ILL
  • Fulfillment network – An agreement or relationship between two or more Alma institutions that agree to provide fulfillment services (circulate) to each other's patrons
  • Network Zone (NZ) – An administrative tool to manage and distribute information to member institutions. Most MnPALS libraries participate in the NZ
  • Community Zone (CZ) – A shared repository for all Alma users maintained by Ex Libris. It includes authority records, bibliographic metadata, and an electronic materials knowledge base
  • Institution Zone (IZ) – Contains data specific to your institution, such as item-specific information and local note fields
  • Primo VE – An Ex Libris discovery tool used by most MnPALS libraries
  • Analytics – Reporting tool that updates nightly from Alma/Primo; uses Oracle; can save reports individually, share with others at your institution, or share with the consortium
  • Roles – Titles applied to Alma users which give them different privileges (e.g. the fulfillment manager can do more than the circulation desk operator); controls access to pages and functions in Alma
  • Booking – Request for a physical item at a specific point in time; can use the MnPALS booking module or Alma/Primo to manage booking requests
  • Acquisitions/Serials – The Alma module for managing acquisitions; not all libraries use this
  • Certification for Alma and Primo VE – Video course and test which provide in-depth knowledge for administration of Alma and Primo
  • Sandbox – Test environments to experiment with functions and configurations of Alma; MnPALS has three premium sandboxes, one each of small, medium, and large institutions

Primo VE

– For a complete Primo VE glossary, see Ex Libris’ Online Help – Primo VE Glossary

  • Primo VE – Discovery product from Ex Libris (updated from Primo – these are not the same thing)
  • Views – Settings that are related to what end users see in the UI (such as search scopes, look-and-feel, and services); can create multiple views based on institution, library, campus, and user group
  • Scopes (search scopes, search profile slots) – The various pre-filtered lists of search options that appear when you start typing a search (e.g. library catalog; online resources; articles)
Other Tech
  • Link resolver – The technology that converts a logical address or metadata into the physical URL of the target data. Most often used in discovery layers to find full-text articles
  • Proxy server – Magic. Allows patrons off-campus access to licensed resources
  • Minnesota State – State-wide system of 37 colleges and universities; all Minnesota State campus libraries are members of MnPALS (but not all MnPALS libraries are members of Minnesota State)
  • System Office – The central office of the Minnesota State system
  • ELM – AKA eLibrary Minnesota; gives Minnesota residents access to magazine, journal, newspaper and encyclopedia articles, media, including images, videos, and audio files, and other information resources through IP authentication
  • ELUNA – AKA "Ex Libris Users of North America"; group for North American users of Ex Libris products. PALS is a consortium-level member. Other member libraries can choose to be individual members.
  • UMWUG – This is the regional user group that feeds into ELUNA. UMWUG usually holds a conference every other year.
  • NERS – The process by which users have input into product development.
Structure of MnPALS
Explanation of MnPALS Governance Structure
The graphic linked in the left panel represents the MnPALS governance structure. Created when PALS first started developing its own software (circa 1979), this model is a true participation model where voices are heard at several levels before making modifications and enhancements to the integrated library system (ILS). Over the years, we've moved to a vendor-supplied ILS that doesn't require the level of member guidance of software development represented by this structure. Recently, the discussion has begun about what a new governance model might look like. Conversations are currently underway and changes may be coming soon.
  • The structure is largely hierarchical.
  • Every library has one representative from their leadership on the Deans, Directors, and Coordinators (DDC).
  • The Executive Committee is made up of a representative body of DDC members and is the active governing body of MnPALS.These positions are weighted by the number of libraries in a particular category (state universities, private colleges/universities, state agencies, 2-year colleges).
  • The User Council is made up of the chairs of the steering committees for the user groups listed in the graphic. One representative of the User Council serves on the Executive Committee.
  • The User Groups are made up of interested users of different ILS and library functions. Each User Group has a steering committee that ideally is representative of each library type. In recent years, some User Groups have decided to waive that requirement and elect at-large members when a representative of a certain library type can't be found.
Not represented on the graphic are Task Forces (appointed by the Executive Committee), Working Groups (informal bodies that come together around a particular project and are limited to that one project), and Interest Groups (informal bodies that come together to explore topics of interest for professional development purposes.)

Graphical representation of the connections MnPALS has to other organizations

Venn diagram of MnPALS and other organizations
Alma/Primo VE
Alma/Primo VE Key Resources: documentation created and maintained by PALS support and training specialists

Don't know where to start?  Book a session with someone on the PALS staff:
Electronic Resource Management

Resource Management

Questions about Booking, Resource Sharing, Discovery, or Analytics? Send us a support ticket.

Alma Knowledge Center (Ex Libris)
Primo VE Knowledge Center (Ex Libris)
Islandora product page 
    Opendora is an example of an Islandora implementation designed and managed by PALS

Islandora knowledge base (PALS)
Note: You may need to log in to access some of the documentation.
EZproxy (OCLC)
     PALS hosts and supports EZproxy servers for 30+ libraries in Minnesota

Documentation created by PALS for EZproxy

SubjectsPlus, an open-source application for research guides
    This guide is an example of a SubjectsPlus implementation designed and managed by PALS

Documentation provided and maintained by the community
MnPALS Mailing Lists
Connect with your colleagues more casually using Slack.
  • Create an account using the link emailed to you
  • Join channels
  • Start chatting!
Channels that may be of interest: 
  • antiracism-resources
  • library-projects
  • remoteinstruction
  • new-to-pals
  • pets
Getting started in MnPALS work
How do you get involved in MnPALS? 

In a consortium the size of MnPALS, communication is important and always a work in progress. The consortium currently relies almost entirely on email, so the two main ways of getting involved are as follows:

1) If you are comfortable, you can sign up for the MnPALS Discuss list (links on the Connecting tab of this guide) and post an email to that list asking for someone to contact you about your area of interest.

2) If you'd prefer a less public way to signal your interest, you can go to the MnPALS Repository and look at the various lists under Steering Committees. These are the official representatives for the MnPALS User Groups. You can choose to email the convener, another member who may be familiar to you, or you can email the whole group.

Note: The consortium members are currently in the planning phases of changing the governance model. These changes will likely affect the User Group structure.

If none of the Steering Committees seem to apply to your area of interest, email Johnna Horton (johnna.horton@mnsu.edu) and she'll get you connected with someone in the consortium that shares your interest.
User Groups

The User Groups assess, enhance, and advance the software and services shared by the Consortium.

The User Groups and the system functions on which their membership is based are:

  • Acquisitions/Serials (Acquisitions and serials, ERM)
  • Cataloging (Cataloging)
  • Circulation (Circulation)
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
  • Reference and Instruction (Discovery)
  • Systems (Admin, EZproxy)
Each User Group may have a Steering Committee, which is responsible for organizing and conducting the meetings of the User Group. The Steering Committee comprises up to six members selected by and from the User Group. Each User Group determines the method of selecting its Steering Committee members.

The Steering Committee selects one of its members as the Convener of the User Group for a two-year term. The Steering Committee is responsible for designating someone to act as Secretary of the User Group and of the Steering Committee.

Only Consortium members currently subscribing to the ILS may vote in the respective User Group meeting(s); each Consortium member institution has one vote.
*Only representatives from Consortium libraries may hold office. Each User Group includes a staff member liaison from PALS.

The User Groups meet once a year in the fall. Steering Committees meet at least twice a year, either in person or virtually.

The User Groups are responsible for providing organized opportunities to:
  • Communicate the needs and expertise of User Group members to the Executive Committee, Executive Director of PALS, and PALS staff
  • Communicate policy-related information and recommendations from User Group members to the Executive Committee, Executive Director of PALS, and staff
  • Communicate policy-related information and decisions from the Executive Committee, Executive Director of PALS, and staff to User Group members
  • Facilitate training for Consortium libraries
  • Identify, assess and communicate to the Executive Committee ILS-related needs and enhancements

The Steering Committee is responsible for selecting a minute-taker and making minutes available to the Consortium.

Interest Groups
Interest groups (also called communities of practice) are informal bodies that assemble around a topic or area of interest. These are convened by anyone and can be attended by anyone. An example of a recently active interest group is the Futures Interest Group who gathered to discuss technology and future-looking practices coming to libraries.
Working Groups
Occasionally, members will identify work that needs to be done around a particular topic. The project is limited in scope and sometimes has an endpoint, but not always. These are informal groups that operate separately from the governance structure of the consortium. An example of a working group is the Reports Working Group who identified existing processes to pull IPEDS data.