Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Library systems

  If you ask most pundits (and there are plenty who believe they know about libraries) they’ll tell you that the Library Management System market is beginning to undergo a shake-up and that several of the weaker companies will fail. After all they say, few libraries are automating for the first time, which is where the big bucks lie, and most are sticking quietly with their current suppliers generating only annual maintenance fees.  There’s evidence for this in recent mergers, firstly of Sirsi and Dynix, and more recently Ex Libris and Endeavour.

  But there are also opportunities here as well. VTLS got the University of Oxford contract last year to everybodys surprise, and now Civica have appeared in the south east.  Did you know that Civica’s Spydus system is in fact based on the old Urica system which more or less faded away in the UK years ago? No, the picture is in fact more complicated. Talis are making a big push on the Web2/ Library 2 front, which is important when some authorities are questioning whether they even need a library system any longer. And the mergers have themselves caused the companies involved to get bogged down into internal restructuring and infights over which products should continue to be developed, so there is little product development going on. Some of their customers are beginning to show frustration at this and they will be going out to tender, thus making the market more fluid again. With all this tension there also opportunities for more agile companies to leap in and get a toe-hold as well.

  Of course the next question arising from this is the definition of a library management system. I fully believe that the old set of catalogue, circulation, periodicals and acquisitions is going to be extended. Having been through trying to link up systems from different suppliers I would rather go to a single suite from a single supplier who can guarrantee that systems will work together. Everyone said that this would be done via ‘open standards’, but these call for an experienced techie with time allowed to do the knitting, and most libraries won’t pay for this.

  Yes, the LMS market is changing, and yes, the systems themselves are changing, but I don’t see a collapse anytime soon. Maybe a change to a more fluid market, with some of the older more static companies dropping out but also newer more opportunistic companies coming in to fill their places, less limited by the old ideas and more energised by the new opportunities.


February 7, 2007 - Posted by | Libraries

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