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Library Automation News at ALA Midwinter
Posted On January 18, 2011
The 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego was not one characterized by major announcements by the field of library automation vendors. Rather, most of the companies reported incremental progress on existing products or projects previously announced. Developments seen at the conference boil down into themes of a shift toward cloud computing, increasing interest in and development in discovery services, and emerging products that embrace new models of library automation.

The twenty-first annual “RMG Presidents Seminar: the view from the top” included the presidents from each of the major library automation companies and focused primarily on the theme of the ILS shifting to a model of implementation through software-as-a-service. While each of the companies offers some flavor of SaaS, the discussion revealed many different interpretations of cloud computing and relative advantages and disadvantages of deploying an ILS as a service. The panel reinforced the trend, as seen throughout the technology and automation products represented at the conference, that a major shift is underway from local implementations to cloud-based services.

Ex Libris has been working toward its major development initiative to produce a new automation framework, which it has described as following a model of Unified Resource Management. At this conference the company revealed its new name for the product—Alma. The result of an internal company contest, Alma now enters the lexicon of product names that will soon be familiar to those that follow the industry. Alma, expected for initial production release in early 2012, offers a unified approach to managing library resources and will be deployed through cloud-based software-as-a-service. A number of development partner libraries have been working with Ex Libris toward the development of Alma including those at Princeton University, Boston College, Purdue University, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Ex Libris also announced a new offering, VoyagerPlus, a cloud-based library automation service based on the Voyager ILS, designed to be paired with Primo as its front-end. The company reported that more than 2,000 sites now use its SFX Open-URL linking product and that Primo has now been selected by 750 libraries in 33 countries. Ex Libris continues expansion of Primo Central, its consolidated index of scholarly content, with new publishers agreeing to contribute. EBSCO, now a competitor in the discovery front with its EBSCO Discovery Service, recently withdrew its content from direct indexing in Primo Central. Ex Libris will work around this change by indexing the primary materials aggregated in the EBSCOhost products and through API access to the EBSCO products.

At least so far, OCLC has stuck with its descriptive name for its new library automation platform, Web-scale Management Services. OCLC has completed the development of the early version of WMS and it is now being implemented in a handful of libraries that have subscribed as early adopters. Libraries using WMS in production now include Pepperdine University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the 10 libraries of Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library System in North Carolina, and the Start-Kilgour Memorial Library at Simpson University. OCLC has also extended relationships with other organizations to help it provide support services surrounding WMS. Amigos Library Services, for example, has entered into a partnership with OCLC to provide project management, implementation services, and training for WMS to its members. Amigos, based in Dallas, TX, serves more than 600 members, primarily in Texas and other parts of the southwest U.S. OCLC, as always came to the conference with a strong presence, promoting its vision of cloud-based services.

EBSCO Discovery Service, or EDS, continues to see sales momentum, with selection announcements including Deakin University in Australia and a deal with Research Libraries UK. Recent content acquisitions for EDS include metadata from JSTOR representing more than 1,000 academic journals.

A new product announced by EBSCO Publishing allows libraries to adopt EBSCOhost as their local online catalog. Targeting public libraries that already use EBSCOhost, this new service allows the library to include content from their ILS through that interface. This service does not include the third-party content indexed by EDS, but rather provides access to the library’s local holdings along with any EBSCOhost subscriptions they license. This new offering does not have a new product name, but is an extension of the EBSCOhost platform. This new service strengthens the appeal of EBSCOhost for public libraries while EDS reaches out more to academic libraries that have extensive holdings of electronic scholarly content beyond those provided by EBSCO.

Serials Solutions’ conference announcements included a new deal with Credo Reference to provide access to its General Reference, Publisher, and Subject collections through Summon. Through this arrangement, Summon gains more of an online reference capability in addition to its role in broader discovery. ProQuest, parent company of Serials Solutions, made major conference news with its acquisition of ebrary, a provider of ebooks to libraries. This acquisition has implications for Summon, providing the opportunity to add significant new ebook content to its discovery scope.

On the open source front, Equinox came to the conference with recent news of some major new implementations including the massive King County Library System in the area surrounding Seattle, WA and that of the Sage Library System in eastern Oregon, both migrating from Millennium systems provided by Innovative Interfaces. The KCLS migration generated a lot of buzz at the conference as the first high-volume municipal library adopting Evergreen. This library went into production with Evergreen the first week of October 2010, though not without some difficulties. We observe that the performance of the online catalog continues to show sluggish response times and some of the key features have been disabled, such as the ability to use facets to narrow search results. A “we’re working on it” message on the catalog acknowledges the difficulties and their persistence in solving remaining issues.

SkyRiver Technology Solutions, the new bibliographic services company, continues to see new libraries adopt its service, including the Lakeshores Library System in Wisconsin and The Library Network in Michigan. Together these two consortia bring 146 new libraries into SkyRiver’s service. Nancy Fleck, librarian from Michigan State University, an early adopter of SkyRiver participated in the ALCTS Cataloging and Classification Section Executive Committee Forum, recounting the experience of moving from OCLC to SkyRiver for cataloging services. The anti-trust lawsuit initiated by SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces, Inc. against OCLC continues to work its way through the court system. Jerry Kline owns both SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces.

Marshall Breeding is a library technology officer at Vanderbilt University and a columnist for Computers in Libraries.

Email Marshall Breeding

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