FFR: Future of the ILS

/ 15 April 2008

Lorcan points to a UK report on the status and future of integrated library systems. A bit wordy, the report does gather together some useful information and observations. Examples below the fold.

2.3.2 Key trends influencing vendors

Vendors recognise that their products and services are now, more than ever, part of a much bigger environment, which raises high level challenges; for example

  • Standards – shifting in emphasis from the domain specific (like Z39.50) to globally recognised standards driven by such as W3C, with the potential to break down product and service boundaries
  • Web Services – providing robust yet agile mechanisms for developing interfaces both within the LMS product space, opening up opportunities for decoupling vendor modules, and also with the wider world of institutional systems and web applications; significantly, almost 25% of libraries reported some form of Web services development, often linked with IT services.
  • Consortia – a variety of shared services have been adopted in other geographies ranging from a common LMS to more dramatic changes in physical arrangements. One vendor cited the potential for library management systems delivered through SaaS(Software as a Service – on demand, web-based) to achieve a 40% reduction in overall cost.
  • Open Source – ranging from a means of adding value around a vendor LMS to the basis for complete and competing LMS solutions; however, current US experience indicates that Open Source does not mean a cheaper LMS, nor a more interoperable one. It is therefore not surprising that no survey respondents considered an Open Source LMS a likely possibility, whilst nearly 20% had no interest at all in Open Source.
  • Open Data – the openness of libraries and services to make their library catalogue metadata freely available would enable re-use (mashup) in new and low cost services, as exemplified by LibraryThing.

2.4.3 LMS Positioning

The integration of the LMS with other business systems was the most significant institutional issue identified by many survey respondents. Increasingly, libraries recognise this might involve the disaggregation of LMS services and integration with other corporate systems for learning and teaching, research and administration. A key issue is the extent to which the advantages of LMS functions, such as purchasing or borrower records, justify continued independence from other business systems in the increasingly integrated corporate environment.

The positioning of the Library Management System (covering traditional modules plus relatively recent add-ons such as Electronic Resource Management and Vertical Search) relative to the perceived landscape is therefore central to this study. A number of inferences can be logically drawn, which may have a domino effect:

  • The concept of a total solution or a forever expanding one stop integrated system from a single LMS vendor is anathema set against the trajectory of corporate systems and global services
  • Google represents ‘the gorilla in the room’, offering a ‘good enough’ free library service based on advertising, start with workflow and adding collections
  • The LMS should therefore be considered primarily as a back of house application, doing things that have to be done and that no one else does better, interoperating (or cooperating) with other corporate and external applications

Given this backcloth, three possibilities should be considered very seriously:

  • It may be unadvisable to engage in the procurement a new LMS in this climate
  • It may over time become more practicable and sustainable to have the option of Open Source LMS components
  • It may be the right time to review the value of consortia, not just for purchasing purposes but also with a view to the radical re-casting of some services on a shared or out-sourced basis
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