|What I Like, Who Has It and Can I Have It? An Update on Integrated Library Systems||
The moderator, Tim Knight, began the program with an informal count of who was there and why. He estimated that about 25 librarians were from libraries without an automated system, and "a goodly number" were from libraries intending to replace their current system within a year. In my opinion, these librarians, and others who attended to keep current with trends and developments, all benefited from this program.
The first speaker, Rob McGee of RMG Consultants, Inc. began by stating that he would speak about current technology changes and trends, broadly. He does not recommend system solutions to clients but helps them make objective decisions about what are often subjective questions.
The library automation industry is currently going through a period of merger and consolidation, often with the support of outside capital. Dynix and Horizon are now part of epixtech, which received capital from Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, Inc., enabling it to become independent of former owner Ameritech; Sirsi received capital from CPA, N.Y.; TLC purchased CARL very recently; and Reed Elsevier purchased Endeavor.
A major challenge to integrated library systems will be the incorporation of access to digitized content, and access to the Web. Mr. McGee cited a study by CAVAL (Cooperative Action by Victorian [Australia] Academic Libraries), which predicted that the percentage of records for print items in library catalogs, currently about 75%, will decrease by 70% over the next ten years. Dynamic access to the Web, now accounting for about 5% of items in library catalogs, will increase by 1000%.
Costs to libraries are a continuing challenge. One answer may be a new model, a variation on outsourcing known as "application service provider" (ASP). With ASPs, servers and software, including the database, are located at a centralized location and leased to libraries. This model has the potential to benefit small and medium-size libraries, typically those that have benefited from turnkey systems in the past. DRA and epixtech are exploring ASPs.
The speaker then quickly covered other developing or desired features that will be important ILS features over the coming decade. They include the ability to create a user profile for personalized services; the adoption of UNI-CODE to support all languages in one catalog; a systemís ability to authenticate users; document delivery; improved Z39.50 capability to create a virtual union catalog for users; much improved interlibrary loan products; relevance ranking of received sets of information from a search; an affordable self-check function in circulation; "rights management" to allow automatic copyright clearance and payment; the ability to search full-text databases; the use of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) in library systems; ebooks and the challenge of using them to advantage in libraries; and the need for standards for ebook readers.
The second speaker was Richard W. Boss, Senior Consultant, Information Systems Consultants, Inc. He first gave suggestions for ways to make sure an ILS vendor is financially viable. He referred attendees to a very helpful handout, "Vendor Viability Statistics" distributed at the session. He also supplied and referred to the combined February/March 2000 issue of Library Systems Newsletter, which is their annual survey of automated library system vendors. There was a long and interesting question session after the program, where he and Mr. McGee gave detailed answers concerning features and systems.
Mr. Boss follows 65 "integrated, multi-user, multi-function" systems worldwide. Of these, about 10% have more than two-thirds of the world market, and 85% of the American market. His first two guidelines for identifying financially viable companies include at least $5 million in sales per year, and at least 20 "new-name" sales per year. The sales to new customers are important because this is where capital is accrued. The third guideline is a minimum of 100 installed systems, since this minimum gives the company a broad enough base to survive a bad year, and also makes the company big enough to attract a takeover. The fourth guideline is breadth of functionality. At a minimum, the basic functional modules for cataloging, acquisitions, serials, circulation, and the OPAC should all be mature and used by most client libraries, giving the company the ability to focus on future products. The last two guidelines concern staff ratios: at least 1:12 for customer support, and at least 1:15 for product development. Mr. Boss suggested sending RFPs to all companies that satisfy or come close to satisfying these guidelines.
Next, Mr. Boss went through the list of companies on the "Vendor Viability Statistics" chart, pointing out which had strong market shares for different kinds of libraries Ė law, academic, corporate, special. He also broke down the companies that had a large share of the market for different kinds of law libraries Ė court libraries, academic, private, corporate. He suggested that a library would do well to choose a vendor that has as clients many similar libraries, judged by size and type. The libraryís needs for new features and future development are more likely to be addressed if they are typical of many of the vendorís other clients.
Much interesting information was given during the question and answer session. In answer to a question about how ILS vendors are developing XML in library systems, Mr. McGee did give some examples of developments from different vendors. He referred librarians to Dick Millerís article, "XML: Librariesí Strategic Opportunity", at http://www.libraryjournal.com/xml.asp for a view of the future of XML and libraries.
One suggestion during the question and answer session was to find out from a vendor if/when the system would conform to the Bath Protocol (which enables international or extranational search and retrieval for Z39.50), and at what level they will conform to this protocol.
Both the program and the question and answer period included a lot of detail. I recommend the purchase of the tape from this session to anyone who is interested in doing groundwork for purchasing a new system. One warning: the session really did not satisfy either of the "learning outcomes" listed in the meeting program. However, I do think that this was an interesting and informative session, well worth attending, for its overview of the industry, future developments, help with evaluating systems, and some references to specific features of individual systems.