It is surprising to me that there is not more discussion in the library community about the structure of the industry which supports it. Sure, there are complaints about ILS vendors, and some discussion about publishers, but very little about broader structural issues, especially as see change all around. Andrew Pace is somebody who is interested in these issues, and he has just provided a cryptic view of possible futures in the ILS space:

Let’s look at another example, the ILS industry:

  • Single monolithic system (one of the ILS vendors left standing)
  • Vertically integrated system (e.g., with financial, HR, course management, and campus or community portal systems)
  • Open Source system (e.g., Evergreen, Koha, the University of Rochester's eXtensible catalog)
  • Suite of dis-integrated or interoperable systems
  • OCLC custom service suite

These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive options (at least after the first one), but which system will you have? Which system do you want?

Does your library have a continuation strategy for content and systems? An exit strategy? [Hectic Pace]

Some interesting stuff here, about which one could say a lot. Here are some brief random remarks.
  • We are certainly seeing consolidation in the ILS market and will see more. It will be interesting to see what Francisco Partners does after their Ex-Libris acquisition.
  • What about outside interest from 'complementary' system providers? One would think that libraries are too much of a niche market to attract the acquisition attention of a SAP or an Oracle, but what about a Blackboard?
  • What about migrating library processes to more generic solutions? The use of PeopleSoft, say, for acquisitions is something that you see discussed, especially in the academic environment where library data has to be reconciled with institutional financial data. Recently, I have heard mention of the use of a customer relationship management system for patron records in a public library setting, interesting because of the additional functionality it offers.
  • How much interest is there for on-demand systems support? SalesForce.com for libraries?
  • Libraries developed a shared model for cataloging, but other data-oriented activities tend to be locally based. How will libraries manage ERM and knowledge-base data, for example, in the future?
  • There has been quite a bit of interest in the 'disintegrated' library system, but not a lot of movement. Library system vendors have added additional systems alongside the ILS (metasearch and ERM for example) but have not done so much to split apart the classical ILS. We are seeing some discussion about the Catalog migrating to other environments, but the implications of this for the ILS are not clear. The burden of migrating from one system to another is an incentive to librarians to work towards a more modular arrangement; however, this may also be an incentive to vendors not to go in this direction.
I think that we will have an interesting few years ahead of us, and, maybe, some major shifts.

Related entries:

Comments: 3

Nov 14, 2006
Debbie

One library which has attempted to disentangle library system components is the State Library of Tasmania in Australia. It has produced an exemplar which other Australian libraries are looking at closely.

Lloyd Sokvitne of the SLT describes TALIS in both a paper and a presentation available via the Australian Committee On Cataloguing web site: http://www.nla.gov.au/lis/stndrds/grps/acoc/papers2006.html

Nov 16, 2006
Richard Wallis

Yes an interesting addition to the ongoing is the ILS dead debate. There has been some talk but very little action from the vendors around disaggregating monolithic ILSs.

Recalling the remark from SirsiDynix’s Pat Sommers, as reported by Alane back in Februrary, when asked why ILS vendors don’t innovate more quickly; he apparently responded that "his company spends $10 million a year tweaking their systems to respond to requests from customers, and that left scant time and resources to make big changes."

In that environment is it surprising that there has been little action from the traditional vendors applying a traditional approach, other that surrounding the ILS with other bits and pieces such as Resolvers, Metasearch etc.

But as you indicate there will be major shifts, and they will come from many directions both inside and outside what is currently the current supplier community. There will be a place for both Open and Commercial models for both Source and Data in a mixed economy. No one organization could, or should, supply all the answers for our community, in the same way that one single software configuration could or should provide the ideal solution for every user of a library.

We are in the early stages of an interesting few years in which there will be major shifts.

Richard – from the non-Tasmanian Talis.

Nov 22, 2006
George D

Regarding "$10 million a year tweaking their systems to respond to requests from customers..." remark.

No doubt, a pumped figure IMHO. But assuming it is accurate, the usual 2 comments apply: 1) they have to spend that much because of their commitment to closed, proprietary systems; and 2) system users could have many times that value of investment in R&D if their systems were open and permitted greater community development (i.e. steps towards opens source model).

Example product from our vendor - read this description from III:

"Scoping for Millennium - This product allows users to confine their searches to a subset of the database (e.g., the location from which they are searching, a particular material type, or locations and materials types in combination)"

What's this? A product to allow me to query my database in a trivial manner?? I'll buy it!!! [sold to another sucker]

So since they won't let us query our database in any open API manner, they can sell us a query against our data, and charge us close to $10K for this remarkable innovation!!! (more $$ for larger institutions). Same for III's idiotic Feedbuilder product.

This is the kind of R&D that $10M buys with these fools... (and we're fools to put up with it..) My guess is that that the $10M figures includes some marketing as well.