Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

So its off again….?

According to this statement on the Liblime website the PTFS- Liblime merger is off again. There’s a brief statement that they couldn’t agree upon financial terms. No equivalent confirmation on the PTFS website however. Cue mass speculation in the library world about the reasons……?

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , | Leave a comment

Perceptions 2009

The latest of Marshall Breeding’s invaluable Perceptions surveys has just been published.  As you’ll know if you’ve seen the previous 2 years surveys, this looks at the library automation market from the point of view of the library, and is a very useful source to counterbalance the regular announcements made by the LMS suppliers. The supplier which comes out the best is a fairly new company Biblionix, whose system Apollo is marketed at small US public libraries. Perhaps by targetting a customer base with ‘similar’ needs they avoid having to spread development and support work as widely as some other suppliers?

From a personal point of view I’m pleased to see Innovative come out as what Breeding calls a strong performer – their average customer satisfaction score comes out as 7.13%, significantly above the other companies which I’d call direct competitors in the UK HE market. In the anonymised comments some customers do mention their high costs and the ‘closed’ nature of the system however. I was sad to see that the low scores for SirsiDynix of the previous 2 years have continued however, and their customers don’t seem much more impressed by their newest system Symphony than they are by the older ‘legacy’ products such as Horizon and Dynix Classic. Unfortunately there weren’t enough replies from Talis libraries to allow direct comparison in the main tables, but the detailed information which Breeding gives shows that while average satisfaction seems relatively high the company still has its issues.

What did surprise me was the relatively low enthusiasm for Open Source. Those libraries which have gone that way themselves seem keen – Breeding describes this as ‘a minority of early adopters voicing strong support’ – but there seems less interest in Open Source than I’d expected, even from those libraries which express dissatisfaction with their current system. Sarah Bartlett on the Panlibus blog wonders if this represents waning interest in Open Source, although it may just be that now it is becoming a genuine alternative that librarians are taking a more realistic attitude? I don’t know how realistic Open Source is for a library with perhaps one Systems Manager unless they use a support company such as PTFS, Biblibre or TTLLP?. Liblime comes under some criticism in the survey, even though I think the responses were probably all in before the news of the recent merger came out(?).  Interestingly those libraries which have installed Koha themselves without Liblime’s assistance rated it better than those who used Liblime, which perhaps represents different attitudes to the system rather than differences in the system itself.  Evergreen, mainly supported by Equinox, came in the middle of the satisfaction ratings.

So what is the state of the market? I’m not sure that the ‘traditional’ LMS can continue in its basic form for much longer, certainly for the academic market, as eresources grow ever more important and our users change their demands, needs and learning styles. Some companies seem more aware of this than others, and it is those who know their customers better who will survive, possibly shown in the success of Biblionix. Hence Marshall Breeding’s survey should be required reading for all LMS suppliers.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , , | Leave a comment

PTFS to acquire Liblime

Just heard the news that PTFS is to acquire Liblime. This is quite big news, not just for libraries already using Open Source, but also for the whole LMS sector. Liblime have over 500 libraries in the US, and PTFS’ European office is gradually building up an Open Source LMS customer base in Europe. The established LMS companies have been accused of complacency in the past, but this ought to stir them!

On whether it is good news for the OS LMS sector I’m staying on the fence for the time being. On one hand if it increases the use of OS LMS that can only be a good thing from the point of view of bringing fresh insight and ways of doing things into an LMS market which has become a little stale in some areas. However on the other hand it means that the merged company has a lot of influence over Koha, perhaps more than some people are comfortable with. There was a disagreement last year in the Koha camp about the ownership of the extra work Liblime has put in to create Enterprise Koha, and there was also a little friction with PTFS at one time as well. Hopefully these issues will be managed and Koha will continue to be developed according to user priorities. There are a few more companies emerging to support Koha at the moment such as Bywater Solutions so perhaps the risk is diminishing already.

The other thing that could be interesting is that PTFS are also licensed to support Evergreen. Supporting either Koha and Evergreen need not be exclusive, indeed a bit of cross-fertilisation could be productive. However marketing one over the other might not be such a good thing – the user should be aided to select the system which best meets her/his needs. Hopefully the new company will take this attitude, and in this case I look forward to developments!

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | 7 Comments

Uncertainty in the Koha community

There seems to be some unfortunate discord in the Koha community.  As an outside observer I’m not familiar with all the detail, but it seems that Liblime, who support it in the US, have announced that they want to centralise on one development platform, to be called Liblime Enterprise Koha. Some parts of the Koha user community, already concerned about Liblime’s trademarking of the name ‘Koha’,  have expressed concern about this, seeing  it as a development fork. Liblime have said that all their code will remain open-source, but there seems to be some uncertainty about the nature of this.  Very sensibly, Marshall Breeding has proposed a review of the governance of the Koha project to focus more on the libraries than the developers.

As an outside observer it is interesting to watch this from outside. As Breeding points out, the scale of usage had outgrown the development community and needs review. A similar thing happened with Linux and Red Hat some years ago. Hopefully some solution will be found as similar problems are likely to occur with other other Open Source systems.

September 16, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 1 Comment

PTFS and Evergreen

Interesting announcement from PTFS overnight that they are now partners for Evergreen software in Europe. PTFS were already offering to set up and maintain Evergreen in Europe, as they could for any OS software, but this formalises it and gives it the ‘official seal of approval’ -a sort of Approved Reseller status in a way, which should boost confidence in potential customers. I’ve not heard anything for a while about the spat with Koha either, so hopefully that has been smoothed out.

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Open Source Conference

I don’t normally plug events unless I have some personal involvement in organising them, but this one deserves mention.  PTFS and Ken Chad Consulting are hosting the Breaking the Barriers conference at RIBA on 18th May. As far as I’m aware its the first national UK conference on the applications of Open Source in libraries, and will be looking at Evergreen and Koha, as well as a keynote address from Charles Leadbeater of ‘We think‘. To my mind this is quite significant in that it shows that things are changing even in the rather cautious UK library environment. I’ll be there and am looking forward to it!

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment