Next Generation Library Automation: Its Impact on the Serials Community

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Tasmania]On: 03 September 2014, At: 03:25Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Serials Librarian: From the PrintedPage to the Digital AgePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wser20

    Next Generation Library Automation: ItsImpact on the Serials CommunityMarshall Breeding aa Presenter ,Published online: 13 Mar 2009.

    To cite this article: Marshall Breeding (2009) Next Generation Library Automation: Its Impact on theSerials Community, The Serials Librarian: From the Printed Page to the Digital Age, 56:1-4, 55-64, DOI:10.1080/03615260802679028

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    The Serials Librarian, 56:5564, 2009Copyright The North American Serials Interest Group, Inc. ISSN: 0361-526X print/1541-1095 onlineDOI: 10.1080/03615260802679028

    WSER0361-526X1541-1095The Serials Librarian, Vol. 56, No. 1-2, Jan 2009: pp. 00The Serials Librarian

    Next Generation Library Automation: Its Impact on the Serials Community

    Next Generation Library AutomationVision Sessions

    MARSHALL BREEDINGPresenter

    In the upcoming years, we anticipate major changes in the realmof library automation. The upheavals have begun, with manydifferent movements challenging the models of library automationthat have prevailed for decades. The monolithic integrated librarysystem (ILS) continues to diminish in importance as libraries movetoward a transition to a loosely coupled suite of applications.While the ILS continues to play a role, though ever smaller, librariesare making investments in a new generation of automation prod-ucts, especially next generation interfaces more comprehensive inscope and better equipped to handle full-text electronic content.Electronic resource management (ERM) systems struggle as agenre of automation products designed to handle the specializedtask of helping libraries make sense of their explosively growingcollections of subscribed electronic content. Sparked by recentindustry events, libraries demand openness at a higher level thanever before, expressed through a tsunami of activity in the adoptionof open source library automation software and in demands foropen access to library data to enable better local control and inte-gration with third party products. Specialists in serials need to beaware of, and provide input into, the emerging visions of libraryautomation.

    KEYWORDS library automation trends, integrated librarysystems, service oriented architecture, serials automation

    INTRODUCTION

    The realm of library automation has followed an evolutionary developmentpath of incremental change for several decades. The software used in librariestoday carries much of the same basic organization and design from the inte-grated library systems created more than three decades ago. Yet, libraries

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  • 56 Vision Sessions

    have changed drastically since that time. Although it seems that the main-stream of library automation will continue along this path of gradualchange, there might also be a great opportunity in exploring some divergentpaths that involve creating a next generation of library automation softwareless tied to concepts and assumptions that have long since changed.

    This essay describes some of the main features and trends of the currentlibrary automation scene. It highlights some of the business, technology,and product trends. The observations made in this essay are broadlyinformed by the authors ongoing research that has been the basis of the lastseven editions of the Automation System Marketplace feature publishedannually in Library Journal, the data gathered and organized in LibraryTechnology Guides, and many other projects related to documenting andinterpreting the events, technologies, and products in the field of libraryautomation.

    These trends should hold interest beyond systems librarians andadministrators involved with allocating resources related to technology. Itshelpful also for non-technical professionals and practitioners, such as thosespecializing in serials, to gain insight into and understanding of the largertrends playing out in library technology in order to ensure that their nichewithin the operations of libraries receives adequate attention as the automa-tion tools upon which they rely evolve or take new forms altogether.

    THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LIBRARY AUTOMATION INDUSTRY

    We live in a time of rapid change in the library automation arena.Although change has been a given throughout the history of libraryautomation, the shifts taking place now seem especially dramatic andtumultuous. Some of the dynamics currently taking place involve an accel-eration of the mergers and acquisitions that have resulted in fewer, butlarger, companies involved in library automation. The consolidation ofcompanies has resulted in the elimination of some of the available automa-tion products. This narrowing of options from the traditional vendors hasopened the door for open source alternatives and a new breed of compa-nies that base their business on the promotion, support, and developmentof these products.

    Libraries find themselves today intertwined with an automation industryundergoing considerable transition and turmoil. Libraries have becomereliant on integrated library systems produced by a clique of specializedvendors. The standard approach for acquiring these products involves sub-stantial up-front license fees, annual payments for software updates andsupport. The licensed software includes only the executable files; theunderlying source code remains the proprietary property of the vendor andis kept safely from competitors and customers.

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  • Next Generation Library Automation 57

    This model, although still well established, is no longer the only alter-native. Over the last few years, open source versions of library automationsystems have begun to find a following. The initial wave of interestemerged mostly from public libraries, but in recent months some academicand special libraries have also been choosing open source ILS products.The open source movement has forever changed the dynamics of thelibrary automation industry.

    Three different open source library automation systems have become partof the competitive landscape: Koha, Evergreen, and OPALS (OPen-sourceAutomated Library System). Some other open source systems have beendeveloped in other parts of the world, but have not seen significant levelsof adoption in North America. Koha was originally developed in NewZealand beginning about 1999. One of the first libraries in North America toimplement it was the Nelsonville Public Library serving Athens County,Ohio. Some of the staff involved in implementing Koha in this library even-tually founded LibLime as a company to provide support, hosting, anddevelopment services surrounding open source library automation software.Evergreen was created by the Georgia Public Library System (GPLS) to sup-port the 152 libraries involved in the PINES consortium. This system wentinto production on September 5, 2006. Evergreen has also been adopted byother libraries and its original developers from GPLS formed Equinox Softwareas a company to provide support and development services surroundingthis product. OPALS was developed in the open source model by MediaFlex, targeting primarily K12 school and special libraries. This system hasbeen implemented by many school districts and consortia of school districts.Most of these installations lie within the state of New York, but the softwarehas begun its spread to other geographic regions.

    Some of the events over the last few years have diminished manylibraries confidence in the incumbent set of companies involved in producingcore automation software products. We have experienced a number ofmergers and acquisitions that have ultimately resulted in an uncomfortablenarrowing of the products available to libraries. In some cases libraries thathad recently invested in the purchase and implementation of a new automationsystem found themselves facing the need to migrate. Whether it was out oftheir own experience or in observing the plight of their peers, many librar-ies have acquired a sense of skepticism toward the incumbent companies.

    Financial entities from outside the industry have bought their way intoa strategic role in shaping the direction of the companies that produce soft-ware for libraries. In an earlier phase, many companies sought investmentsfrom venture capitalists to help finance research and development efforts.Todays library automation industry includes involvement from large privateequity firms capable of acquiring one or more entire companies. Transitionsthat in previous phases were carried out with a more gentle hand towardthe libraries involved have taken place recently with harsh expediency.

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    Yet, its important to look at the corporate behavior and business strategiesof each of the companies individually. Although some have demonstratedsome fairly harsh business plans that have had negative consequences onlibraries, others have expanded their development efforts and have beenable to attract new library customers.

    Despite the momentum that open source library automation has gainedrecently, it still represents a minority of the overall industry. The traditionalvendors continue to sell their products and services at levels that maintaintheir dominance in the market.

    PRODUCT AND TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

    The pressures that libraries face in meeting the expectations of their usershave never been greater. Libraries continue to provide access to their physicalcollections and provide services in person while their involvement in elec-tronic content and services to remote users has seen enormous growth. Thedevelopment and deployment of automation products over the last fewyears reflect these trends.

    Sales of integrated library systems (ILS) represent a smaller portion ofrevenues in the library automation industry than in previous times. Amongthe major libraries in North America, most libraries have purchased an ILS.Fewer libraries find compelling reasons to shift from the ILS product of onevendor to that of another. Most ILS sales continue to involve replacingsystems that have slipped into legacy status, where they are no longer beingdeveloped. Despite these challenges, some companies continue to see salesof new ILS products, although at lower levels than in previous years.

    Dissatisfaction with the current slate of ILS products runs high. Theareas of concern lie in their inability to manage electronic content and withtheir user interfaces that do not fare well against contemporary expectationsof the Web. As the operations of libraries become more complex, many feelthat they are not well served by the automation systems in which they haveinvested. The concept of the integrated library system emerged when librar-ies dealt primarily with print materials. Extending these library automationsystems to manage electronic content has proven to be difficult.

    Rather than redesign these systems from the ground up, we have seena proliferation of add-on modules to provide functionality for managingmany aspects of electronic content. In addition to the core integrated librarysystem, libraries routinely purchase OpenURL link resolvers, federatedsearch platforms, and electronic resource management systems.

    Libraries have shown a strong interest in a new generation of discovery-layer interfaces that work more like some of the popular destinations on theWeb such as Amazon, moving away from the older style of Web-basedcatalogs. These new interfaces allow libraries to offer a greatly improved

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  • Next Generation Library Automation 59

    environment for their users while maintaining their current core libraryautomation systems.

    Web 2.0 concepts have become a major influence in libraries. Thisapproach to the Web focuses on collaborative and social interactions andworks toward increased user involvement. Libraries have taken to Web 2.0enthusiastically; blogs and wikis have become commonplace on librarywebsites, library resources have been opened up to input from library usersto allow tagging, rating, and reviewing content, and librarians have becomeactive participants in online social networking sites. An important compo-nent of the new discovery-layer interfaces involves the adoption of Web 2.0concepts.

    EXTENDING THE CURRENT MODEL OF LIBRARY AUTOMATION

    The current model of library automation as seen in the integrated librarysystem has been evolving for several decades. This model of the ILS wasdeveloped at a time when libraries dealt primarily with physical collections.The classic model of the ILS has been fairly constant since the earliest daysof library automation: cataloging, circulation, serials control, acquisitions,and an online catalog. Although each of these modules has evolved signifi-cantly over time and gained sophisticated and nuanced functionality, theyremain fairly sharply focused on the physical col...

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