Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)


I’m quite impressed with the speed with which the JISC/ SCONUL LMS report has been published. It only seems the other day since I was filling in the survey along with our Head of Learning Support. I’ve not had chance to read it in the detail it deserves, but it does a good job of pointing out the pressures on HE libraries at the moment, and makes recommendations for where we should go next. As a JISC sponsored report it is noticeable that the role of JISC in the recommendations is prominent.

However there are contradictions: we are recommended to delay decisions on changing LMS, but we are also recommended to do all we can to integrate the LMS into the institutional IT infrastructure. I know that Talis have worked on this, but most LMS I’ve looked at would need considerable behind-the-scenes effort to integrate with VLEs, financial and student systems – it doesn’t come out of the box. A good Systems Librarian has those skills, but some smaller libraries can’t afford to pay anyone to do this work.

Although there’s an interview with Stephen Abrams of SirsiDynix, it also misses the point that those of us on Horizon don’t have the luxury of being able to sit back and wait for events to pan out. The future of our system seems even more limited in Europe than it is in the US, so most of us are being forced to migrate sometime in the next few years. SirsiDynix would like this to be to Symphony, but the report does a good job of pointing out the criteria we need to be using. Hence each institution will make its own choice whether Symphony is the best match for its needs in the future.

Nor am I convinced by the rush to SaaS (Software As A Service) which Stephen mentions, as it again restricts that integration which the report highlights. Possibly one of the things which comes out of the report is the nature of the UK HE LMS market, in that our needs are not the same as other market sectors. Suppliers who can cater for this are more likely to get what business comes out of the sector in the next few years.


April 29, 2008 - Posted by | Libraries |


  1. The ability to integrate is one of the major attractions that Evergreen offers to us and why we’ve chosen to build on it for Project Conifer. OpenSRF, the “open service request framework”, is one of the hidden strengths of Evergreen that make it incredibly easy to wrap other applications (integration into Evergreen) and serve data to other applications (integration of Evergreen into other applications). “Generations”, a recent blog post by one of the core developers of Evergreen, does a good job of explaining why Evergreen currently appears to be “just another ILS”, but actually packs an incredible set of muscles under that frumpy sweater vest (

    In the short term, we’re fleshing out the basic functionality that we expect from an academic library system, while looking forward to reaping the benefits of shared infrastructure and maintenance costs. In the longer term, we expect to build tighter integration with other core applications at our institutions. Once you have a system as open and capable as Evergreen, the main problems become political (getting past the gatekeepers of the student / financial / messaging / authentication / learning management systems) rather than technical. Assuming, of course, that your other systems are amenable to integration .

    Comment by Dan Scott | May 1, 2008

  2. On that subject: I am a bit cautious about exploring the open source options such as Evergreen and Koha due to the lack of support in the UK. In the US there are some companies which offer support if you hit a knotty problem you can’t solve yourself, whereas in the UK I’m not aware of anybody offering this service. Is there anybody in the UK offering this kind of help?

    Comment by Ian | May 1, 2008

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