2020 Library Systems Report [American Libraries]

Spread the love
Photo illustration: © Dariusz Jarzabek/Adobe Stock (library); © nongkran_ch/Adobe Stock (circles)
Photo illustration: © Dariusz Jarzabek/Adobe Stock (library); © nongkran_ch/Adobe Stock (circles)

The library technology industry took some significant turns in 2019. Ex Libris, a ProQuest company, acquired Innovative Interfaces and shifted the balance of power, strengthening Ex Libris’s position in technology for academic libraries and propelling it as a major player in public libraries. This move narrows the slate of competitors in an industry already offering few viable options for many libraries.

Technology for public library automation has been mired in stagnation. It takes a substantial level of development to both maintain existing products and build next-generation technologies for the emerging realities of a given library sector. Will Ex Libris opt to invent a new platform for public libraries, as it did for academics? How it responds may shape whether we see ongoing stasis or a new phase of innovation.

Consolidation can also accelerate the development of alternatives. Concern about the lack of options for academic libraries was a factor in the launch of the open source FOLIO project. This year FOLIO became more real when a library moved it into production for the first time; a cadre of major libraries is poised for implementation. Success among these early sites will shape whatever position FOLIO might hold in the next phase of academic library technologies.

New product categories have begun to emerge. Many companies look beyond the library as their sole audience for development and create products targeting their parent institutions or communities. Recent efforts include tech products that support teaching, such as reading-list applications, discovery services for open educational resources, and support for application program interfaces (APIs) and protocols that connect the library with student information systems. Interest in support services for higher-education research has increased. Research information systems have been available for quite some time, but this new wave of products positions libraries as research stakeholders.

Major events

The library technology industry has steadily consolidated over the last two decades, with the number of vendors narrowing at each round of acquisition. Consolidation has been remarkably gentle, with very few products discontinued. Many legacy systems receive ongoing support even as their associated companies fall prey to business transitions.

New investors for ProQuest

We saw a transition in the minority ownership of ProQuest in 2019, when Goldman Sachs concluded its investment and was replaced by Atairos, a major private investment firm, through transactions announced in June. Following this investment, ProQuest made acquisitions that have substantially altered the balance of power in the library technology industry. Each of its previous investments in Ex Libris was followed by major product development initiatives or business acquisitions. Events in 2019 are consistent with that pattern. ProQuest’s acquisition of Innovative Interfaces, which closed in January, represents a seismic shift in the library technology industry. Innovative’s products and services will complement those in ProQuest’s Ex Libris portfolio.

Ex Libris acquires RapidILL

In 2019 Ex Libris turned its attention to resource-sharing technologies. It acquired the well-regarded RapidILL service from Colorado State University in June. Ex Libris had previously begun development of functionality on top of its Alma platform to support patron request interfaces and the management of interlibrary loans. This initiative was launched as its new Rapido resource-sharing product in January along with a slate of development partners in the US and Australia. The INN-Reach platform, gained through the acquisition of Innovative, further expands its product portfolio for resource sharing.

New ownership for BiblioCommons

BiblioCommons was acquired by Constellation Software in 2020. Constellation differs from private equity investors in that it acquires and operates companies perpetually and has not sold them. Constellation earns annual revenues exceeding $3 billion and has acquired more than 400 companies. BiblioCommons is now part of Volaris Group, one of six operating companies within Constellation, and resides in the library management vertical market along with Softlink and Prima Informática. This change of ownership is not expected to disrupt the libraries using its products.

OCLC sells QuestionPoint

This year OCLC divested its QuestionPoint reference service through a sale to Springshare in a deal valued at $2.6 million. Springshare will integrate QuestionPoint into its existing LibAnswers platform, allowing reference questions to be addressed by a team of professional librarians.

Axiell acquires Bibits

This year Axiell acquired Bibliotekenes IT-senter, better known as Bibits, and its Mikromarc automation system used by public, school, and special libraries in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. This move expands Axiell’s position in Scandinavia and provides an opportunity to attract another large set of libraries for eventual migration to Quria. Axiell reported 1,434 installations of MikroMarc and 10 new sales this year. Bibits also developed the Sage web portal used in 54 libraries.

Diverse challenges

The competition for academic library business has gone beyond core resource management systems and discovery services. Ex Libris extended its reach into academic libraries by developing new products that allow a wider involvement within their institutions. Core technology developed for Alma provides the foundation for new products such as Leganto for course reading lists and Esploro to support a university’s research activities. EBSCO has likewise addressed this expansion via partnerships and new products.

Ex Libris Alma and OCLC WorldShare Management Services represent the narrow slate of options for academic libraries interested in library services platforms (LSPs). Concern over limited options heightened with Ex Libris’s acquisition of Innovative, which has a major presence in the sector and intends to create its own next-generation platform. The open source FOLIO has neared the completion of its initial version and is poised to enter this competition.

The opportunities for companies oriented to school libraries reach beyond collection management systems. Success now depends on a broader set of services for classroom teachers and district administrators. Follett has acquired companies, curated content, and developed services that support this broader vision. The scale of Follett’s resources enables it to address these needs better than smaller companies. In this sector, companies are morphing into educational technology specialists rather than remaining vendors of library automation products.

The top tier

Consolidation has led to an industry dominated by a handful of large companies, each of which has different product focuses and business strategies.

Ex Libris, a wholly owned subsidiary of ProQuest since December 2015, is the leading technology provider for academic and research libraries. Its parent company ProQuest provides a broad range of content products and services for all types of libraries. Ex Libris has steadily grown, prior to and following its acquisition by ProQuest. Last year it reported a total of 980 employees, with 283 devoted to product development and 464 involved in support. Its increases in customer support personnel have generally kept pace with its growing customer base. These figures do not include the personnel that will join the company from Innovative or other divisions of ProQuest.

On the academic front, Ex Libris has had success with its Alma LSP. As academic libraries move to platforms that can manage vast collections of electronic resources, Alma has been the leading contender. In 2019 Ex Libris made an additional 102 contracts for Alma, increasing total installations to 1,769. Many of these contracts are for large-scale library systems and consortia. The year’s wins include a system-wide agreement for the entire University of California, spanning 100 libraries and including multiple Association of Research Libraries members. California State University and California Community College systems also selected Alma, as did the City University of New York for libraries on its 21 campuses.

Ex Libris continues to support 797 sites using its Aleph integrated library system (ILS). It also made three new sales to libraries that needed a traditional ILS rather than an LSP. Another 216 libraries continue to receive support for Voyager. Ex Libris’s ongoing support for these two legacy ILS products validates the company’s policy of not abandoning products that are still used.

Ex Libris is further developing and deploying its Esploro platform for managing research processes in higher education. Current capabilities include a repository to store and manage all research results, including scholarly articles and underlying data sets, researcher profiles, automated harvesting of research content from the central discovery index (CDI) at a given institution, and analytics to measure impact. Twenty-three institutions have committed to Esploro, including 13 new agreements signed in 2019.

Leganto, which manages course reading lists, has been purchased by 166 institutions, and Ex Libris signed contracts with 39 new libraries.

Ex Libris continues development for its Rosetta digital preservation platform. The two new sales made in 2019 increased its total installations to 258.

Ex Libris saw strong sales for its Primo discovery service, mostly as part of new commitments for Alma. The 115 new contracts in 2019 increase its total installations to 2,637. The current version of Primo VE is more tightly integrated with Alma and managed through Alma’s back-office tools. More than 500 libraries now use Primo VE, both through transitions from existing installations of Primo or as part of new Alma implementations. The Summon discovery service continues to be developed, supported, and marketed to new libraries. Ex Libris made 50 new sales for Summon, increasing its customer base to 810. The company has also launched its new CDI, deployed on new technology infrastructure and based on the combined content of the indexes created for Summon and Alma. Implementation of the CDI will be phased in for libraries using Summon and Primo.

The acquisition of Innovative also has implications for discovery. To make up for the lack of an index-based discovery service of its own, Innovative partnered with EBSCO for Encore Duet, which combined EBSCO’s discovery index with Encore’s interface. This arrangement served as an additional sales channel for EBSCO Discovery Service and was a popular strategy for academic libraries using Sierra or Millennium. Once Innovative launched its own discovery product, Inspire Discovery, the partnership was terminated. We anticipate that under ProQuest, libraries that had previously subscribed to Encore Duet will be enticed to use the Ex Libris CDI instead.

Several products from Innovative will strengthen Ex Libris’s presence among academic libraries. Sierra, the latest in Innovative’s internally developed ILSes, has been implemented by all types of libraries across the globe. In its early phases, Sierra was implemented by the majority of academic libraries, but that has diminished to about 25% of them. The success of Alma came at the expense of Innovative’s academic library business.

Innovative products are a major force in the public library sector. The Polaris ILS is used almost exclusively by public libraries. About 60% of them use Sierra. Although the Virtua ILS was originally developed primarily for academic libraries, it is also deployed in some major public libraries, such as Queens (N.Y.) Public Library.

Polaris was developed for public libraries and has been implemented primarily in the US and Canada. Sierra has established a broad global presence, and about 60% of its customers are public libraries. Both Sierra and Polaris are longstanding ILS products with aging internal architectures.

In the academic and research library sector, Ex Libris created a technology platform that meets needs unfulfilled by previous ILSes. Immediately following its entry into the public library sector, Ex Libris did not announce new products. But history suggests the company has ambitions beyond maintaining legacy systems. Ex Libris comes with the resources and technical prowess to transform public libraries. These possibilities will come only in the longer term: New product cycles do not emerge overnight but play out over the course of a decade. Ex Libris will not stand alone in this next phase of public library technologies. Axiell, for example, has already launched Quria as a new product with digital-first design. OCLC’s Wise, though based on evolved technology, brings a strong focus on community engagement. SirsiDynix, once it completes the development of its BLUEcloud Suite, will be well positioned for new rounds of development less constrained by the limitations of its legacy ILS products. Open source options will be part of the next phase. One can imagine an initiative to create products for public libraries based on FOLIO. Traditional ILS products will remain an important factor indefinitely, especially when integrated with revitalized patron-facing interfaces.

Innovative Interfaces specializes in library management, discovery, and resource-sharing technologies for all types of libraries. In 2013 the company was acquired by a partnership between JMI Equity and HGGC. These private equity firms exited when Innovative was acquired by ProQuest in January.

The acquisition of Innovative follows a period where sales of Sierra ILS declined and Virtua was no longer marketed. Innovative continued to sell VTLS’s VITAL digital asset management (DAM) system. Sales for Sierra have slowed dramatically since 2014, and many academic libraries have switched to Ex Libris Alma.

Of the products in Innovative’s portfolio, Polaris fared the best. It continues to sell, but not as frequently as before its acquisition by Innovative. Innovative reported 17 new contracts for Polaris. Some of the libraries that selected Polaris in 2019 include Fairfax County (Va.) Public Library, Indianapolis Public Library, San Diego Public Library, and public and school libraries of the Online Dakota Information Network.

EBSCO Information Services, a large family-owned company, offers a variety of technology products and services in addition to its subject databases. The company provides an extensive menu of software as a service (SaaS) products headed by EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS). A key SaaS offering involves the company’s services surrounding the OpenAthens authentication product, used as a single sign-on mechanism by 2,600 libraries worldwide. Based on Security Assertion Markup Language authentication protocols rather than IP recognition, OpenAthens represents an alternative to OCLC’s EZproxy service for providing access to subscription-restricted resources.

EDS saw a number of key enhancements, including improvements to its user experience. EBSCO has partnered with the Carroll Center for the Blind to ensure optimal accessibility for its products.

Integrations between GOBI Library Solutions and ILSes enable efficient workflows as libraries order new materials for their collections. GOBI currently supports all major ILS products and more than 20 supplier platforms. Integration between GOBI and FOLIO has been completed, enabling two-way transfer of data as needed, including purchase orders, bibliographic records, and items.

In the face of major competition from its key rival Ex Libris, EBSCO follows a strategy based on partnerships, community development, and open source software to curb Alma and Primo’s increasing encroachment on its opportunities for EDS. Rather than develop or acquire its own LSP, EBSCO placed its full backing behind FOLIO through financial investment, direct development, and marketing.

EBSCO has entered the open science arena through another series of partnerships. This year it invested in the Code Ocean platform, which allows researchers to share and reuse computational code for scientific projects. In a similar arrangement, EBSCO entered a partnership involving financial investment and community support for Protocols.io. This platform enables researchers to store and openly share detailed research protocols and methods.

To add a comprehensive library website management portal to its portfolio, EBSCO acquired Stacks, expanding its earlier partnership to full ownership. Stacks falls within the category of library-specific web content management products along with BiblioCommons BiblioWeb, Axiell Arena, and Infor Iguana.

EBSCO has expanded its services to include digital preservation by partnering with Arkivum. The Arkivum Perpetua platform includes open source components for long-term data storage and preservation, records management compliance, and data extraction. This partnership also involves integration with EDS for discovery and access in the repository. Types of content preserved with Arkivum Perpetua include scholarly articles, special collections, archives, institutional records, and research data.

EBSCO also introduced Faculty Select, which lets library staff or instructors choose open educational resources (OERs) or ebooks for courses via a single interface.

Overall, EBSCO holds a strong position in the library industry. At about twice the size of rival ProQuest, EBSCO earns more revenue from its content products than its technology offerings. Its partnership strategies and development efforts have strengthened its position in library technology, a critical factor as technology and content products become intertwined. Under CEO Tim Collins, EBSCO employs 3,250 personnel and its annual revenue exceeds $2 billion.

The library technology industry has reached a new level of maturity headed by companies with considerable development capacity.

Follett School Solutions provides a variety of technology products, services, and content for PreK–12 schools and districts. It operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Follett Corporation, a $3.2 billion family-owned company.

In 2019 the company launched MyDestiny, a learning platform for schools that provides access to more than 40,000 ebooks and 750,000 OERs using technology developed by Fishtree, which it acquired in 2018. MyDestiny uses machine learning to help identify relevant resources for classroom lessons.

For the last decade, schools have automated their libraries using district-wide rather than school-wide services. District implementations can involve hundreds of schools. Follett has been a leader in this trend.

Follett’s Destiny Library Manager holds the dominant market share for library management products aimed at US school libraries. It saw strong sales in 2019 with new contracts representing 5,057 school libraries, increasing the total number of libraries to 75,032. In 2019 Follett released Destiny 17.0 with new interface themes, additional measures to protect patron privacy during self-checkout, and improvements to the acquisitions process for requests from a district warehouse.

In the school library sector, no company prevails globally. Instead, unique market patterns occur in each country or region. In the US, Follett holds a commanding lead among public and private PreK–12 schools.

OCLC is the largest nonprofit organization in the library technology industry, developing and supporting many products in addition to its cataloging, resource-sharing, and other co­operative services. These include WorldShare Management Services (WMS), an LSP for academic libraries, and OCLC Wise for public libraries. It also supports several regional ILSes developed by businesses it acquired, including Bibliotheca+, currently with 2,968 implementations in public libraries, mostly in Germany; LBS (306 implementations, mostly in German and Dutch academic libraries); SISIS-SunRise (143 implementations in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland); Amlib (140 installations, mostly in public libraries in Australia); OLIB (62 implementations in diverse libraries and global regions); and bicatWise (201 implementations, mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands). Its CONTENTdm DAM system is used in 1,185 libraries. OCLC’s EZproxy tool is used by thousands of libraries to provide access to subscription-restricted resources.

Within this mix of resource management systems, OCLC positions WMS and Wise as strategic products backed with strong development and marketing activity. In 2011 it launched WMS, which was implemented mostly by academic libraries. This LSP enables libraries to use the massive WorldCat bibliographic database more efficiently by avoiding the need to download and maintain local records. OCLC has seen declining sales of WMS following its peak in 2011. The 56 new contracts signed in 2019 increase total installations to 604, and increase library subscriptions to WorldShare License Manager by 35. Though many of its new subscribers are midsized academic libraries, it has also seen recent implementations in some larger libraries such as McGill University, Université Laval, and the 17 members of the Bureau de Coopération Interuniversitaire consortium, all in Canada.

OCLC has begun to position bicatWise, rebranded as OCLC Wise, as its strategic offering for public libraries. Building on the success of the product in the Netherlands, OCLC launched Wise as its new offering for public libraries in the US. This follows a development phase to adjust the product to accommodate the needs of US libraries, which may be different from those in Europe. Wise includes standard ILS features as well as functionality to boost patron engagement, simplify event management, and support library marketing with messaging tools. OCLC positions Wise as a community engagement system. Its features provide a strong foundation for further development and introduction into global markets.

OCLC gained the Wise system through a 2013 acquisition of Huijsmans en Kuijpers Automatisering BV. The product was developed in 1983 and has seen multiple cycles of redevelopment in technology and scope of functionality. Wise is used by two-thirds of the public libraries in its home country of the Netherlands. Belgium has a phased implementation of Wise in progress that will include more than 300 libraries in Flanders.

Wise has spurred interest in the US, and several public library systems have signed on as early adopters. Allen County (Ind.) Public Library became the first when it implemented the product in November 2019. Others with commitments for implementation include Orange County (Fla.) Library System, Kokomo-Howard County (Ind.) Public Library, Chesapeake (Va.) Public Library, Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library, and Greensboro (N.C.) Public Library.

Resource-sharing services and technologies continue to be a major strength. OCLC’s WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (WIL), with more than 10,000 library subscribers, ranks as the dominant resource-sharing brokering service globally. OCLC reported 335 new WIL subscribers via new arrangements with the National Library of New Zealand and through the Nederlandse Centrale Catalogus. The costs and long fulfillment times associated with this service drive many libraries to also implement peer-to-peer resource sharing for rapid delivery of materials at lower costs per item. OCLC launched Tipasa, a web-based service for managing interlibrary loan transactions, in 2017. It has been implemented by 288 libraries. The Relais D2D discovery tool, acquired through the 2017 procurement of Relais International, complements OCLC’s other products with an option for those interested in resource sharing within a consortium.

OCLC employs a total of 1,272, an increase of 21 since 2018. It reported $222 million in total revenue in 2019. In 2018, it reported $52.5 million in revenue gained through its various management systems.

Open source

Open source software has been part of the library technology scene since 2006. In the US, 15.2% of ILS implementations are based on open source (Koha 6.9%, Evergreen 8.3%) and represent 7.6% of academic library implementations. Koha has been implemented globally, including widespread use in many developing countries; Evergreen—designed for public library consortia—is used mostly in the US and Canada.

Now entering early development, FOLIO’s LSP presents an alternative based on a contrasting set of foundational concepts: open source software, modular components, and a microservices-based technical infrastructure. Despite providing substantial backing for the project, EBSCO neither controls nor owns the software. The Open Library Foundation provides the governance.

Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden became the first library to use FOLIO. Additional institutions are poised for implementations in 2020 and 2021.

Commercial opportunities for FOLIO, like other open source projects, come from services rather than subscription fees or licenses. EBSCO, given its investment, launched a set of services for hosting and support. It has also formed partnerships with several companies to provide support in conjunction with its hosting services. Publicly announced partnerships include ByWater Solutions for libraries in the US, PTFS Europe for libraries in the UK and European countries, Via Appia in Brazil, and KnowledgeWare Technologies in the Middle East.

Other libraries contracting with EBSCO for direct support of FOLIO services include University of Alabama and Five College Consortium libraries in Massachusetts. Missouri State University libraries have announced they are working with EBSCO to redevelop technical infrastructure by implementing FOLIO, EDS, OpenAthens, and new electronic resource management (ERM) tools. Texas A&M University Libraries have been one of the leading institutions involved in the FOLIO community, with planned implementation for later in 2020.

EBSCO engaged Index Data, a small company specializing in open source software, to create the initial framework for FOLIO, and it still offers hosting and support services. Index Data has also been the primary developer for Project ReShare, a new resource-sharing environment based on the FOLIO architecture and codebase.

Although competition from Alma is formidable, FOLIO is positioned to gain at least some portion of the academic library sector. Its success will depend on meeting its development benchmarks and on good outcomes by early adopters.

ByWater Solutions marked its 10th year as a company providing services for open source library software. The company has steadily grown to 27 employees, adding new positions each year since its founding in 2009. Most of its efforts go toward supporting the Koha ILS. The company gained 38 new service contracts in 2019, representing 75 libraries and increasing its total number to 1,296. While most of its customers are public libraries (880), it also supports a substantial number of academic (151), school (166), and special (99) libraries. ByWater also supports the CORAL ERM system, which provides services for seven academic libraries. In 2019 the company acquired Turning Leaf Technologies, expanding its services to include Aspen Discovery, a variant of the VuFind discovery interface that has been optimized for public libraries. The three contracts for Aspen Discovery secured in 2019 encompass 128 libraries.

The Koha ILS itself continues to gain new capabilities in functionality and advancements in underlying technology. Search performance has been improved through the use of Elastic search.

In 2018 ByWater entered a partnership with EBSCO to support libraries implementing FOLIO. The company reported that it signed service agreements with two academic libraries in 2019.

The nonprofit Equinox Open Library Initiative provides support services for open source library software. Most of its efforts involve Evergreen ILS, which was developed for public libraries. It also supports Koha for standalone libraries and the FulfILLment resource-sharing system. Equinox signed support agreements with nine new libraries for Evergreen, all joining existing consortia. It made five new agreements with academic libraries for new Koha installations.

The Westchester (N.Y.) Library System, a consortium of 38 independent libraries, migrated from Symphony to Evergreen. The Missouri Evergreen consortium shifted its hosting and support services from Evergreen to Equinox. Individual libraries moving to Equinox for Koha support include the Eastern Cluster Lutheran Seminaries, John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.

Equinox, employing some of the original developers of Evergreen, continues to enhance the product. About 80% of the code for Evergreen was written by Equinox employees. In 2019 the company completed 25 development projects. It is currently working on a multiyear initiative to redesign the acquisitions module of Evergreen into a fully web-based interface using the Angular application framework. This development project has been funded by a group of six organizations within the Evergreen community. Equinox also continues to enhance the FulfILLment resource-sharing system. This product has been implemented by the Connecticut State Library for its findIT CT resource sharing service.

Evergreen has been implemented by around 1,000 libraries spanning about 1,800 branches, including those implementing the system independently as well as those using commercial support services.

Media Flex has developed the OPALS open source library automation system used by school and small libraries. It also offers furniture and barcode labels to libraries. Many school support organizations, such as New York’s Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, have partnerships with Media Flex to provide joint support for OPALS as an option for schools. OPALS has been implemented broadly throughout the US, Canada, and some other countries. This web-based system, for example, is used in dozens of libraries for refugees in Jordan.

PTFS Europe provides support for open source library products and is the European distributor for Knovation and other products produced by PTFS in North America. In 2019, nine libraries signed support agreements with PTFS Europe for Koha, increasing its total installations to 118. About half of its customers are academic libraries. The company also supports the CORAL ERM system for 16 academic libraries. One additional library purchased Knovation from PTFS Europe this year, increasing total clients for this product to six.

PTFS Europe has developed its own analytics portal called Metabase, which has been implemented in four libraries. Consistent with its expertise in providing support for open source library products, PTFS Europe entered into a partnership agreement with EBSCO Information Services for FOLIO services.

TIND offers versions of its eponymous platform across multiple categories of functionality including a full ILS, an institutional repository platform, a DAM system, and a research data repository. TIND products are based on the open source Invenio software originally developed at CERN. TIND was established in 2013 as an official spin-off of CERN to commercialize the software. It is a small company employing 11, with five dedicated to product development.

TIND’s products are used primarily by academic and scientific libraries. Installations currently total 44. In 2015, California Institute of Technology was the first major academic library to implement the TIND ILS. In 2019, Columbia Law School Library in New York City and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia signed contracts for TIND ILS, increasing total installations to 16. University of California, Berkeley School of Law has used TIND ILS since 2016, but migrated its institutional repository from Digital Commons to the TIND IR in 2019.

Consolidation has led to an industry dominated by a handful of large companies, each of which has different product focuses and business strategies.

Middle tier

The middle tier of library technology companies generally focuses on a more limited and less diverse set of products. Most of these companies specialize in ILS or discovery interfaces.

SirsiDynix

SirsiDynix is the largest standalone company in the industry specializing in these products and services. The company offers two systems, Symphony and Horizon, that serve as foundations for its new BLUEcloud platform. Its basic development strategy has been to create BLUEcloud applications with modern interfaces and workflows that interact with either Horizon or Symphony for underlying data management. This allows libraries to use their existing interfaces until the corresponding BLUEcloud applications reach needed functionality.

Symphony and Horizon have been implemented by all types of libraries, which presents challenges as needs diverge. Libraries’ pressing need for ERM systems and competition from specialized products by Ex Libris and OCLC have become major issues for SirsiDynix. While it continues to retain many academic libraries, others have defected to competing products. Successes with academic institutions have been modest in recent years, mostly encompassing smaller universities and community colleges. The proportion of academic libraries using Symphony has slipped to about 15%.

In contrast, SirsiDynix has strengthened its position among public libraries in recent years. About 60% of Symphony sites and 65% of Horizon implementations are in public libraries. In 2019, 75 of its 99 contracts were with public libraries.

SirsiDynix continues to have a strong presence in school libraries. The INFOhio project, encompassing almost all public schools in Ohio, relies on Symphony for one of the largest library automation initiatives in K–12 schools.

SirsiDynix asserts its commitment to ongoing support for both Horizon and Symphony, though almost all new sales are for Symphony. Many libraries are shifting from local installations to hosting services from SirsiDynix. Horizon continues to see a small number of new sales, usually through new additions to existing consortial implementations. The total number of Horizon implementations continues to decline, down last year to 826 libraries from a high watermark of 1,719 in 2004. Symphony still has strong sales, though total installations have dipped slightly from its zenith in 2016 of 2,573 libraries to 2,454 reported in 2019, due mostly to the defection of academics.

Several major library systems selected Symphony and BLUEcloud modules this year. These include the Barnsley Libraries in the UK, Broward County (Fla.) Library (37 branches, from Carl•X) and San Antonio Public Library (migrating from Millennium). New libraries joining the All Wales Library Management System Framework Agreement include Torfaen County, Carmarthenshire County, and Newport City, increasing the number of Welsh library authorities using Symphony to 18 out of a total of 22. The year saw continued implementations of Symphony in the London Libraries Consortium, the largest consortium using Symphony in Europe, now with 16 authorities in production.

In 2019 SirsiDynix launched its Community Engagement Platform to support library marketing initiatives through targeted email campaigns and other capabilities. The product will be available for general release in 2020. In 2019 the company also saw the development of DataControl, a new front-end interface for the web services layer to enable batch reporting and data manipulation for system administrators.

Axiell ranks as one of the larger global standalone companies in the library technology industry. Its library customers are concentrated in Scandinavia and the UK, though its museum archives are also used in North America. In its digital media business, Axiell was awarded a major contract to supply digital content to all 790 public libraries in Finland. The company, which continues to develop its Arena discovery and web portal, has made 15 new sales, totaling 207 installations.

Axiell continues development and marketing of the Quria LSP for public libraries. The product is currently used by a small number of libraries in Germany and Norway. The company signed five new contracts for Quria in 2019, and six installations are now in production. In a global public library sector entirely dominated by legacy ILS products, Quria stands out as a modern, web-based multitenant service with a digital-first design.

The Library Corporation (TLC) develops and supports technology products primarily for public libraries and centralized school district library systems. In addition to its software products, the company owns Tech Logic, a provider of automated material handling and self-service equipment. TLC reports a total of 117 employees, down from the 126 reported in 2018. Between 2005 and 2014 the company maintained a workforce of about 200.

TLC has two lines of automation software for libraries: Library•Solution and CARL•X. Library•Solution is used primarily by midsized public libraries, while Library•Solution for Schools was developed for libraries within a school district. Library•Solution has also been implemented in small academic libraries. The Library•Solution application was originally developed in a client-server architecture using a Windows-based client installed on each computer for staff use or computers at service desks. In recent years, the company has developed web-based interfaces, now branded as the LS2 Library Management Solution.

In 2019, TLC signed 10 contracts for Library•Solution, including renewals for the Dallas Independent School District and the Hawaii Department of Education, together supporting 950 schools. Fifty-nine libraries migrated from Library•Solution to LS2. Total installations now stand at 695, down from the 766 reported in 2018. The midsized libraries using Library•Solution have growing budget pressures that drive some toward open source alternatives or to join a shared consortial system rather than continue to operate their own ILS.

The most recent version of LS2 includes new features such as an improved borrower registration process, automated item renewals, and the ability to integrate with external marketing services.

The CARL•X family of products has been implemented primarily by large public libraries. CARL•Connect builds on the CARL•X system to provide web-based interfaces for staff modules, a new discovery interface, and self service. In 2019 the company enhanced the CARL•Connect discovery interface to support functional requirements for bibliographic records, grouping results to achieve improved relevancy.

In 2019, Outagamie Waupaca Library System in Wisconsin selected Carl•X for its 49 member libraries. The 16 total of Carl•X include more than 500 individual library branches.

Book Systems works primarily with schools, smaller public libraries, and church and other special libraries. Most of its customers are school libraries, with about 20% public libraries. The company employs 68 and has steadily added new positions since 2005.

Book Systems reported a strong sales year with 165 new contracts for its Atriuum ILS, increasing the total installations to 4,874 libraries. The company made 42 new sales of Atriuum ILS to public libraries representing 76 branches. Most new customers opt for the hosted version rather than installing it on a local server.

Book Systems has been successful in attracting midsized multibranch libraries. Examples include Northeast Regional Library in Mississippi and Manistee County (Mich.) Library. On the development front, the company created a new integration with RBdigital, enabling search and access to audiobooks using an API rather than having to load records into the local catalog.

Focused mostly on public libraries, Auto-Graphics offers the VERSO ILS, used mostly by smaller institutions, and the SHAREit resource-sharing service deployed for many statewide initiatives.

In 2019, Indiana State Library renewed its contract for SHAREit. SHAREit will power a new service for the New Hampshire State Library, which began production use in fall 2019. A project for the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium will include academic as well as public libraries.

On the development front, Auto-Graphics has created a new integration between its VERSO ILS and the MONTAGE DAM system to enhance access to digital collections.

The company also completed a new version of VERSO with a reengineered internal database that has been distributed to all libraries using the product. This new database infrastructure will ensure ongoing development and better support APIs needed for interoperability with external systems and services. Seven new sales of VERSO increased total installations to 534. The company reported five new contracts for SHAREit in 2019, representing services for 1,037 libraries. Currently more than 7,164 libraries participate in resource-sharing services powered by SHAREit.

BiblioCommons specializes in patron-facing interfaces for public libraries, delivered through SaaS. Its products address critical areas including discovery and access to library collections and websites, management of events, and support for marketing activities. BiblioCommons was founded in 2007. It employs 79 people, 45 of which are in product development—an extremely high proportion compared to other library technology companies.

Its original product, BiblioCore, replaces the online catalog of an ILS with a sleek discovery interface deployed with modern web design techniques, social network concepts, and other features to strengthen patron interest in a library’s print and digital collection. BiblioCore interoperates with the library’s ILS to harvest bibliographic and holdings data into its discovery index and provide patron account and request features. Connectors have been developed for the major ILS products used in public libraries, including Symphony, Sierra, Polaris, Horizon, Evergreen, and CARL•X. Twelve new sites implemented BiblioCore in 2019, including San Antonio Public Library,  Indianapolis Public Library, and Hillsborough County (Fla.) Public Library Cooperative, totaling 271 libraries now using it.

The company’s BiblioWeb product replaces a library’s entire website, providing an administrative interface that enables libraries to create, organize, and publish content with no technical knowledge of markup languages or programming tools. BiblioWeb has been implemented by 26 libraries.

Infor Library and Information Solutions develops and supports the V-smart ILS primarily used by public libraries, with smaller numbers of implementation in academic and school libraries. Other products include the Iguana discovery interface and web portal and the V-insight statistical portal.

Infor, a midsized company, operates as a small division within a large-scale global IT services company. The company reports a total of 63 employees, 14 devoted to software development. In February 2020 Infor was acquired by Koch Industries, and Golden Gate Capital exited as its major investor. Koch takes in about $110 billion in annual revenue. This transition is not expected to have a major impact on its Library and Information Solutions division.

Libraries in multiple global regions use Infor’s products, with the largest concentration in Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the UK. A small number of US libraries have implemented V-smart, and 145 libraries use Vubis Smart, the previous version of the system.

Developments last year include an initiative to create a cohesive look and feel across all products. The company released a single sign-on capability for V-smart in 2019, and the Iguana Digital Asset Management (DAM) system was enhanced to support the International Image Interoperability Framework, enabling interoperability between interface clients and image repositories.

Infor made 12 new sales for V-smart, increasing total installations to 402, of which 271 are in public libraries. Eight libraries contracted for Iguana, boosting installations to 532, and six libraries purchased the Iguana Library mobile app.

Baratz has been developing software for public libraries, schools, special libraries, museums, and archives for more than 30 years. Its customers are concentrated in Spain, but its products are also used in neighboring European countries and Latin America. The company’s flagship product, AbsysNet, has been implemented by many large networks or public libraries as well as individual institutions. In 2019 the company made 24 new sales of AbsysNet, which is now used in 2,995 libraries.

Baratz divides its development efforts between enhancing the current AbsysNet application and creating a next-generation version based on new technology architecture. AbsysNet 2.3, due to be released later this year, includes a fully responsive public interface and optimizations in cataloging to support research and description access. Work is underway on a new discovery layer for the next-generation platform as well as integrations for digital lending and video streaming. A new set of APIs will enable compatibility between the current version and next-generation systems as well as with external systems.

COMPanion Corporation specializes in technology products and services for schools and small libraries. Its Alexandria ILS ranks second in ILS implementations for school libraries in the US. In 2019 COMPanion made 133 new sales of Alexandria, representing 245 individual libraries, increasing the total number of installations to 10,117. Alexandria is also used in 243 small public libraries.

COMPanion was the first library automation company to implement the Global Grid for Learning framework for education data interoperability, enabling schools or districts to connect Alexandria or Textbook Tracker to their student information system.

In 2019, the company introduced a new activity tracker module to help libraries collect statistics on student activities that take place in the library beyond traditional circulation transactions. Consistent with the trend for school libraries to organize collections by genre instead of call numbers, Alexandria now provides tools to automate this transition.

Civica offers the Spydus library management system, used primarily in public and school libraries. Libraries using Spydus are concentrated in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the UK, with a small number of sites in North America. New libraries implementing Spydus include public libraries in the Australian Capital Territory, which migrated from Horizon.

Civica continues to develop versions of Spydus, which it offers to existing libraries for a new license fee. The latest version, Spydus10, includes new enhancements, with all staff functions now fully web-based, requiring no client software. Many of the library sales in 2019 were renewals of contracts and upgrades from previous versions to Spydus10, and the acquisition of new add-in modules. Recent modules include SpydusManager and SpydusCollections, providing new capabilities for assessment and analytics as well as a new set of API services.

Focus on special libraries

Each library in the special-libraries sector has its own needs. Products developed for their public, school, or academic counterparts do not necessarily address their requirements and specializations.

Keystone Systems, creators of the KLAS product designed primarily for libraries serving people with visual disabilities, continues to enhance and support its products within this niche. KLAS is used primarily by state library divisions for the blind. The company has a workforce of 16, a slight increase from 2018.

Keystone has implemented major enhancements as it finalizes KLAS version 7.7 and begins deployment to its customers. Libraries that use KLAS have unique workflows, since many of their loans take place by mail rather than in person.

KLAS also supports the specialized processes and equipment required to create copies of accessible materials. The talking-book community, for example, uses digital talking-book cartridges, and these special libraries routinely make copies for their patrons. The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress recently created the Gutenberg Cartridge Duplicator, open-source software that automates the duplication of talking books and that is supported by KLAS. Keystone has created its own product, Scribe, which loads titles onto cartridges, automatically checks them out to patrons, and returns them.

Lucidea offers a variety of products for legal, corporate, medical, and other special libraries. A consolidated company, it includes multiple antecedent businesses including SydneyPLUS, Inmagic, CuadraSTAR, and Eloquent Systems. Of the company’s 82 employees, 25 are devoted to product development.

The diverse product lines rely on LucideaCore as a common technical foundation. Enhancements to LucideaCore made in 2019 include new reporting options based on Crystal Reports, social media linking, and improvements to mail messaging associated with the request-management module that supports Microsoft Exchange Web Services. Lucidea also uses Watson artificial intelligence services from IBM for automatic resource categorization.

Soutron Global provides library and information management tools primarily to corporate, law, and other special libraries. Last year the company introduced AI capabilities into its products. It also enhanced Soutron Portal to improve security, increase connectivity with social media platforms, and create better search engine optimization and support for mobile devices.

In 2019 Soutron Global signed 33 new contracts, increasing the number of installations to 231. The company has seen steady sales since introducing its automation software to North America in 2012. Soutron also expanded sales via a pending partnership with businesses to represent its products in East Africa.

CyberTools for Libraries products have been implemented in libraries serving health care institutions as well as smaller academic libraries, corporate libraries, and US government agencies. The software relies on the Caché post-relational database. The CyberTools platform manages print and electronic materials and provides a single-search portal. Its electronic resource management functionality can automatically import holdings from major databases such as EBSCO, Ovid, and Elsevier ClinicalKey.

Focus on small libraries

Small, independent libraries represent an important industry niche, mostly served by smaller companies. Although many of these libraries gain access to core technology products via consortia or statewide initiatives, those without such opportunities must find products that fit their limited budgets and implementation capacities.

Biblionix offers the Apollo ILS for small public libraries. Last year the company made 68 new sales, increasing its overall customer base to 787. Biblionix directly manages the servers used to host Apollo customer libraries and explicitly avoids cloud infrastructure services such as Amazon Web Services. All services on its domain require HTTP Strict Transport Security, which ensures all communications are encrypted and provides strong patron privacy protections. Recent Apollo developments support libraries that have opted to move away from fines, including a tool that enables library staffers to remove fine balances from patron accounts in batches.

Apollo has been adopted mostly by standalone libraries, though some midsized and multibranch libraries have implemented it in recent years. Biblionix strives to offer small libraries the types of features appreciated by their larger peers, without the complexity. For example, the company’s VersaCard configuration enables libraries to cooperate and allow patrons to borrow materials within their library group without the overhead of a formal consortium.

LibraryWorld provides a fully web-based library automation system at a price affordable to small libraries with limited budgets. Last year 182 new libraries acquired subscriptions to LibraryWorld, increasing the total to 3,090 libraries; two-thirds are school libraries. LibraryWorld also finds use in small academic libraries (123); medical, law, and other special libraries (736); and small public libraries (219). In 2019 the US Department of Veterans Affairs selected LibraryWorld for libraries in its 116 hospital centers. New development included enhancements to its collection analysis tools and reports.

Looking ahead

The dramatic events of 2019 will take time to digest—and we have yet to see how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect markets and investments. But if trends hold, expect ProQuest to execute plans for the products and services it acquired from Innovative. It will be especially important to watch its public library strategies.

It is also unlikely that these events will go unanswered. It will take bold moves to compete against Ex Libris in academic libraries. The equilibrium in public libraries sector has been disrupted, and we can anticipate the formation of new partnerships or business acquisitions.

Despite the consolidation now in effect, the industry will see additional activity. The trend of standalone ILS companies merging into top-tier players is not over. Companies owned by private equity investors will eventually find new ownership. While it is possible that new investors may be attracted, it seems just as likely that these companies will find permanent arrangements via strategic acquisitions.

Regardless of the business changes that might lie ahead, the library technology industry has reached a new level of maturity headed by companies with considerable development capacity. Libraries rightly have high expectations for current and future products to continually improve. Failure to fulfill these expectations could disrupt the power plays now under way and take the industry in other directions.

Read More