Application Planning

Blackfoot Digital Library – new and improved

The long and auspicious journey of the Blackfoot Digital Library (BDL) has met yet another major milestone. The newest iteration of it went live last week, after almost two years of planning and work.


“The first version of the BDL in 2009 was ground-breaking work,” says IT Services’ Web Manager Michael Warf. “It pushed boundaries with the technologies but, because it was so customized, upgrades became a huge barrier. The other huge shift that happened since the first version was developed was the evolution of mobile devices,” Warf says. “The previous BDL site didn’t have any support for these devices, which created a significant barrier with the growth in mobile usage.”

As a result, and with the assistance of a grant, the University Library commissioned Hybrid Forge, an Edmonton company that specializes in design and development for the web and mobile. IT Services was brought in to assist with the RFP, vendor selection, and to act as a consultant on the project. “It’s one thing to have an idea and it’s quite another to understand what’s within the realm of the possible. It’s not unlike doing a complete renovation on your existing home. You and the contractor have to communicate in order to manage what can be changed or rebuilt and what the associated costs are,” says Warf.

IT Services’ ongoing commitment to supporting this important and significant resource is to be commended.”

Once Hybrid Forge completed the development of the new BDL site, the ITS Web team deployed it on campus. The system now can be secured, updated and maintained appropriately. “The longevity of the system is now there and can easily upgraded and secured. And it also works well on mobile devices. One of the great features is that anyone can use a mobile device to record interviews and the files can be immediately uploaded to the Blackfoot Digital Library. It removes all the extra steps that are often involved.”

Wendy Merkley, Associate University Librarian says the new BDL is the result of a successful collaborative effort on the part of the Library, IT Services and Red Crow College. “While the process encountered difficulties, the relationships established early on by the members of the core project team served to ensure that we did not lose momentum or direction. IT Services’ ongoing commitment to supporting this important and significant resource is to be commended.”

For more information, please contact Michael Warf at, or 403-332-4584.

Systems critical for University operations


For the past 10 years, more than 50 U of L Facilities’ employees have depended on obtaining their daily work schedules and tasks through TMA, a computerized maintenance management system. And all U of L employees and students have relied on Facilities’ staff to deliver the University’s needs: power, air flow, plumbing, building maintenance, event setups, and cleanliness.webTMA

Users of Facilities’ work request system are blissfully unaware of the many months, weeks, days and hours spent planning, collaborating, testing and finally rolling out the new webTMA in December last year. But ask anyone from the Systems, Applications or Telecom teams in IT Services, or the Facilities’ teams, and they’ll tell you.

“The original TMA work order system had been in place for more than 10 years,” says Wim Chalmet, Facility Operations and Maintenance Director. “As with any software product, desktop versions are costly and require regular upgrades and maintenance. IT Systems has been moving away from desktop installations to web-based solutions for some time now. TMA was able to provide a solution, technical support and the flexibility we needed.”

The hard work of planning, upgrading the database server, applications server and the web component began in earnest. “We needed to know how we were going to move away from the desktop application and how to implement the web-based system quickly and cleanly. If it didn’t work correctly when we switched over, it could jeopardize all of the work orders waiting to be fulfilled. IT Services recommended that a test server be built so that we could play with it and fix any glitches. So we had to stagger all of the work.”

Once the Facilities and IT Services teams were confident it would operate as required, TMA converted the database to the new platform, sent it back to ITS for uploading, and the system went live.

“We had to stop all work at 3:30 pm one day and it was up and running by 9:30 am the next day. Advanced planning with ITS Systems was critical to ensure resources were available. Everything worked really well. We were very happy with all the guidance from the ITS Systems and Telecom teams. It was well planned and executed,” says Chalmet. “Excellent cooperation and collaboration meant that the Facilities’ work order system was up and running without significant downtime, not to mention those waiting for their work orders to be completed.”

The new webTMA interface can be viewed here.

For more information, contact Wim Chalmet at 403-380-1837 or

Health Sciences manikins going mobile

If you see human-like beings laying around campus, breathing heavily, sweating, and generally looking unwell, don’t worry, it’s not an episode of the Walking Dead. The Simulation Health Centre in the Faculty of Health Sciences has purchased new manikins and, unlike the old ones, students and instructors will soon be able to move this newest generation of ‘patients’ around campus.

“Sharon Dersch, an instructor in the Nursing Programs, approached us about a year ago to assist the Faculty with the RFP and vendor selection to replace two of their training manikins,” says Daryle Niedermayer, Application Design and Planning Manager in IT Services. “They were aware of the technology challenges and needed to select a product that would work within the University’s environment. Any sort of complex equipment like this is far from plug-and-play, and the costs warrant intense collaboration with all stakeholders. Between our Telecom and Applications teams, we were able to help them choose the best option for their needs.”Manikin1

Dersch says the older manikins had limitations with some of their technologies. “We had experienced problems with wireless connections between the manikins and A/V systems within the University environment that could not be resolved. The problems required the manikins to be hardwired which limited the amount of information that could be transmitted through the A/V system. We did not want to encounter similar problems with the new equipment.”

The mobility characteristic of the two manikins represents only one of many complex requirements for the new medical training tools for students. The undertaking required assurance the manikins and audio-visual equipment would work seamlessly within the University’s network and could be supported by IT Services in the future.

“The amount of information about the patient’s, or manikin’s, condition was extremely limited in that it could not be transmitted between the manikin and visual displays without wireless connections,” says Dersch. “With the new equipment, students and instructors observing the simulation remotely will be able to see the ‘patient’s’ heart monitor, blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as the names and dosages of medications that are given.”

Niedermayer adds that the new manikins’ ability to use the University’s wireless network means that it will be much easier for instructors to wander the room with an iPad, for example, and test their students’ skills with simulated symptoms, and to monitor their progress.

Working together, the Health Sciences and IT Services teams were able to select a vendor that met the requirements. “By reaching out to us early in their investigation, we were able to ask the right questions and help Health Sciences choose the right vendor. Three different companies responded to the RFP but only one, Laerdal Medical Canada, Ltd., addressed the networking issues involved with a product like this,” Niedermayer says.

Dersch concurs. “Daryle and the IT team met with us on numerous occasions over the last year to help with all stages of the purchase, from wording the technical requirements on the RFP, to helping with the final selection of products. During the selection process IT Services managed all the technical correspondence, and also met with vendor technicians to test equipment. Daryle and his team were invaluable in helping to ensure the manikins have the necessary functions and functionality–not something that the SHC team could have done alone. Another huge advantage to including IT Services in the selection process is their knowledge of the selected product, enabling them to more easily provide support in the future.”

The new manikins are expected early this summer.

U of L art collection data – gathered and accessible

When the University Art Gallery decided it needed a way to better manage its art collection data, it took advantage of a Canadian Heritage grant and consulted IT Services to assist with the implementation of The Museum System (TMS).

“TMS is a robust software product that is used by museums and galleries around the world to manage their cultural and scientific collections,” says Wim Chalmet, ITS Applications Support Analyst. “The grant covered the cost of the software, but the Gallery sought an in-kind donation of resources from us to implement the system.”data collection

IT Services looked at different available software packages, vetted the business requirements against the specifications, and validated that TMS would be a good choice.

Once the decision was made, IT assisted with how it would be implemented by setting up the infrastructure, network and services to ensure the environment would be appropriate. Then came the conversion.

“The implementation process involved converting data from the entire collection of approximately 17,000 pieces, which proved to be challenging,” says Chalmet. The data was in a variety of locations and programs, and it all needed to be amalgamated and put into one source. Much of the process to convert all the data was automated with the direction of the TMS vendor, and Gallery staff were heavily involved in fine tuning it.

“TMS staff have tons of experience helping clients convert data from a cat’s breakfast of sources, but at the U of L Gallery we were doing this for the first time,” says Gallery Manager Jon Oxley. “Data came from Banner, from our in-house Filemaker files from years back, and from a variety of image folders. TMS created the data-mapping template for us to review prior to the conversion. U of L Collection Registrar Juliet Graham had to carefully review over 100 source columns and target fields. Getting any one of them wrong would create considerable grief in the near future.”

The success of the project can be attributed to keeping Gallery staff fully involved with issues and concerns as they arose, says Chalmet. “It was really a collaborative effort between ITS, the vendor and the Gallery.”

Oxley agrees: “Before the pixels were drying on the contract last fall, Wim brought the Gallery staff together to explain how the project would proceed technically. Up until then we were completely absorbed with design and financial issues. There was a fair bit of educating Gallery staff, on Wim’s part, on the architecture of secure data in a public access world,” says Oxley. “The TMS technical staff were great, and extremely patient with the Gallery, but Wim always followed up conference call meetings to clear up the many things we were fuzzy on.”

The Gallery’s main impetus in using TMS was the quality of its eMuseum web portal into the Collection.emuseum

“While TMS is the application, eMuseum is the web front, or online presence of our art collection,” says Chalmet. “Anyone can go to the site and search the collection for pieces they may want to borrow for their own exhibitions, or cite in research. The public can view most pieces in the collection, subject to the artist’s copyrights, and any information the Gallery has about the pieces.”

Oxley says Gallery staff have been using the TMS database in-house for two months already, and are adding research data and images that have been accumulating in files over the years. “We use the database on a daily basis,” said Oxley. “It has already helped develop several coming exhibitions – it allows for incredibly quick theme searches, assists with planning for the resource power to move art, creates text copy and allows quick communication about artworks between Gallery staff.”

Over the summer, staff will be formatting the public collection database to gear it for the many students, faculty and curators – both on campus and around the globe – who will be using it for art and exhibition research.

Although the graphic design work has not yet been completed, the nuts and bolts of the U of L Art Gallery’s collection can be viewed at: