Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Takeover day

In the space of a few hours yesterday I heard of 2 big takeovers which will affect both my own library and the UK HE library sector in a big way.

The first was Proquest’s takeover of Ex Libris. My jaw hit the carpet on this one. Ex Libris are to become ‘Ex Libris, a Proquest company’. The press releases emphasise a ‘steady as you go’ strategy with no sudden changes to product roadmaps or Ex Libris’ content neutrality, but in the long term product duplication would draw this into question. Way back in the past when we looking for a ‘ discovery’ system my library looked at both Primo and Summon. There is also duplication in link resolvers, ERMS, and, with the work Proquest has put into Intota, in the LMS itself. Perhaps Proquest will pursue the VAG strategy (avoiding diesel engines!) whereby convergence happens ‘under the hood’ while the surface level of the products remains different? My library is a strong customer of both companies so we will watching this very carefully.

The second takeover has been less publicised: I heard of it via Mick Fortune’s RFID email list. Bibliotheca have acquired 3M’s library systems business. I’ve heard nothing from 3M despite my library being a long-term customer (which perhaps doesn’t bode well?). Again, a ‘no change’ strategy is implied from the press release. Bibliotheca are one of the growing players in the UK HE market, and actively involved in developments like the new LCF Framework so it might be a good thing in the long run. However for my library with ageing security gates and self-service equipment I worry slightly whether 3M’s hitherto good maintenance standards will decline. There has been some discussion on the RFID list about the size of market share it will give to Bibliotheca, but with the UK’s small market size any convergence would be likely to give rise to this kind of worry.

These things tend to come in 3s: has anything else happened recently I’m not aware of?

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Ex Libris sold again

After about 4 years Leeds Equity Partners are selling Ex Libris. The new owners will be Golden Gate Capital, another very large private equity firm. Speaking as an outsider, Ex Libris seem to me to have done well during the Leeds Equity years, having released their new LMS Alma to a good reception. Hopefully they will do as well under their new owners.

November 19, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | | Leave a comment

I have seen a future and its name is Alma…..

Yesterday I went along to the Manchester venue of Ex Libris roadshow exhibiting their new LMS Alma. I came away very impressed. When Ex Libris merged with Endeavour way back in 2006 it was obvious that they needed to concentrate development on one system, but rather than choose one of the two they took the opportunity to rethink what is now needed from an LMS and what modern technology could do to help this.  Alma is therefore more representative of the term Library Management System (or indeed if you speak American, Integrated Library System) then anything else on the market that I’m aware of.

At the moment most libraries have multiple systems to manage resources: an LMS, a link resolver, a federated search system, a discovery system, an electronic resources system, a reading lists system….. etc, etc. This necessitates multiple workflows trying to bridge the gaps between them. However Ex Libris, as a system provider of many of these systems already, saw the opportunity to merge them together to produce a single Library Management System – in its early development phase it was known as the Unified Resource Management System, which I think puts it quite well. This was demonstrated by subscribing to and making available a database package, an activity which would probably previously have involved Metalib, Verde and Aleph (and possibly 3 different people to do this).

The other side of Alma is that it is provided from the ‘cloud’. It is a hosted application using a shared database, which makes maintenance easier for the institution and updates very simple to release. The only software needed is a browser (it was shown running on Chrome) which again makes deployment much easier for the institution. The boundary problems with local IT Services, firewall issues, server support issues, etc are all bypassed. I know this is the direction that OCLC are also heading with their new Web-Scale Management System. Other suppliers already host systems on virtual servers, but this approach doesn’t take advantage of things like a shared bibliographic database that Alma and OCLC can.

So, provided it delivers as planned (and there are already development partners and an early release programme to guarantee this), adoption of Alma seems like a no-brainer to libraries already on Aleph or Voyager.  For the rest of us it is another destabilising factor in the LMS market which was very stable for several years. Note that it needs to be compared with a library running the full suite of applications, so if you are just looking for a new LMS but want to stay with your current link resolver it isn’t what you’re searching for. The other LMS suppliers need to be worried, as we will be asking for the same thing from them.

An interesting comparison that was on my mind was with OS LMS. These are an emerging market sector, and there has been discussion recently on the LIS-OSS email list about their role. Alma clearly differentiates what a commercial supplier such as Ex Libris can provide compared with a community-developed system such as Koha or Evergreen. I don’t know whether OS is able to provide the ‘added value’ that a link resolver can give, for example. To provide something equivalent using OS where possible might therefore be to build a blended system using both OS and commercial elements. However in that case the library has to be the ringmaster tying the elements together, and many libraries no longer have the kind of skills in-house. Therefore Alma becomes an even more attractive way of outsourcing some difficult work. Perhaps there’s a facilitating role for a company to provide a ‘half-way’ house, or maybe that would just miss the benefits of both sides….?

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Libraries | , | 1 Comment

Google Scholar and metasearching

Interesting blog from Jonathan Rochkind this morning. Metalib currently has a target for including Google Scholar in metasearches, and as a popular resource I imagine most implementations use it. However some libraries have had problems with it, and when they pursued the problem with Google they found that Google doesn’t allow metasearching and so their controls were cutting off metasearch engines as suspected bots. Ex Libris has now put out an email to customers to make them aware of this, and so the target is now being de-activated. Presumably other metasearch suppliers will have to do the same.

Obviously Ex Libris have to take this course of action so we can’t criticise them, but it is sad that Google isn’t prepared to allow metasearching. Google Scholar has targeted education, but isn’t prepared to embrace the open-ness of the best educational resources.  I appreciate that Search is a competitive market and that metasearch is in a way a competitor, but where libraries are trying to make researchers lives simpler by cutting down the multiple resources they must consult, Google isn’t willing to help in this. Hopefully if enough people point this out they may reconsider their decision.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , | Leave a comment

Ex Libris announces Primo Central

Late to the party as usual, I’ve just come across Primo Central. According to Ex Libris press release this is “a centralized, hosted Primo® index that covers data harvested from primary and  secondary publishers and aggregators”. In other words, when your users do a Primo search they get to search not only all the resources you’ve added yourself, but also many more which are selected by Ex Libris, to give a merged de-duped results set of both local and remote materials of good quality.  Ex Libris are doing the job most libraries don’t have the staff to do, of harvesting remote resources. The effect of course is that your users then get better results, which benefits them and gains kudos for the library!

This is of course only an extension to what Ex Libris already do – the SFX and Metalib knowledge bases have long provided a set of free resources, but extending this to publishers like EBSCO, IOPP, etc and  tying it in with Primo is I think a big step in making information retrieval easier for our users. My library doesn’t have the funds to purchase federated or vertical search products at the moment, but if we did it makes us more likely to choose the Ex Libris offerings (which is of course Ex Libris ultimate aim!). There is an added cost of  course, and I haven’t seen any indicative prices in the literature I’ve seen, but little comes for free these days.

To some extent it seems like a library reaction to initiatives like Google Scholar: although Google Scholar is a great tool it has never involved the library community as fully as it might, while Primo Central brings things much more under library control and branding. I wonder if other suppliers will react to compete with it?

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , | Leave a comment

Ex Libris marketing

In his new blog, Carl Grant (President of Ex Libris North America) includes an image from Ex Libris new marketing campaign. Rather cheekily, the tagline is ‘Is your library trying to redefine what it means to be innovative?’  (note that is innovative with a small ‘i’).  Taking the reference further,  the illustration is a “depiction of a black-box ILS exploding into a rainbow of new and open-platform options that can be supplied by Ex Libris”.

It sounds rather like someone has been listening to one of those late-night Systems Librarians competitive grumbling events held normally on the last night of  system conferences….  This is targeted marketing aimed at building a potential customer group through being ‘in the know’, something I’ve not seen before in the Library world. Very clever, but when we all live in glass houses quite dangerous!

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 1 Comment