Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Here we go again……

In what I at first thought was an April Fool, Innovative yesterday announced the purchase of Polaris Library Systems. I believe this is their first purchase since SLS, way back in 1997, which led to them getting into the UK LMS market. As ever, the best analysis of this that I’ve come across so far is from Marshall Breeding. The takeover surely reflects the change of ownership of III from Jerry Kline to 2 private equity firms, Huntsman Gay Global Capital and JMI Equity, which took place a couple of years ago.

As an LMS Manager my first thought is what does it mean for users of Millennium, Sierra or indeed Polaris? I have to confess some cynicism, as I was managing a Horizon system at the time of the Sirsi-Dynix merger, which led to the combined company losing customers and the abandonment of development work on the Horizon-replacement Corinthian. However such mergers can work: as an outsider it looks to me as if the Ex Libris/ Voyager merger has led to the development of Alma, which looks like an excellent system (as I hope the British Library and Library of Congress would agree!).

In the past III and Polaris were never full competitors: although III does have public library customers its main focus was on the academic sector, and although Polaris has a few academic libraries its main focus was on public libraries. Nor does Polaris have many customers outside the North American continent. The combined company therefore has a stronger system to offer public libraries outside North America, which may help market penetration. Polaris also has a good reputation for customer service, while from personal experience  III’s seems good in the main, but with an irritating habit of charging extra for functionality that ‘ought’ to be in the standard product. Hopefully a greater stress on customer service might therefore benefit current III customers.

System-wise Polaris seems to be Microsoft-based, while III is moving towards Linux and Postgres, so there isn’t an obvious match there. However if you look at it in more detail both are also working on web-based functionality, and indeed Marshall Breeding suggests that Polaris might have technology which III could usefully employ. In the Press Release there is some mention of a “a shared vision of a cloud-based computing future” and a “next-generation unified platform”, which suggests an eventual merger of the 2 systems. Perhaps the database layer is of less importance that it once was.

The next EIUG conference in June is looking more and more important!


April 2, 2014 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment

Private Equity gets a foothold at III

According to Marshall Breeding’s highly respected ALA Techsource blog  two private equity companies have acquired holdings in Innovative Interfaces. Therefore the company is no longer controlled exclusively by Jerry Kline, who has run it since 2001 when he bought out the last of his co-investors. The reason why Kline has decided to do this aren’t stated, although he has taken a step back from active management in recent years, and the company’s new LMS Sierra must be taking considerable investment to bring to market.

As a customer of III I’m on the fence as yet whether it is good or bad news. The takeover of Dynix by Seaport and then Vista Equity Partners didn’t turn out well for Horizon users, but Ex Libris seems to be doing well after its purchase by Francisco Partners and then Leeds Equity. III has good relationships with most of its customers and it will have to reassure them that there is no threat, but if it means that Sierra turns out as good a product as promised that will go a long way to keeping them happy and retaining them. The Innovative Users Group Conference is coming up soon in Chicago, so no prizes for the main topic of discussion!

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment


So III have announced that they are developing a new LMS?????? It is a pity that this was announced only at IUG so all their other customers worldwide get to hear the news second-hand…… To use David Nobbs’ phraseology:  a bit of a cock-up on the publicity front, Innovative.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Libraries | , | 4 Comments

EIUG conference 2010

Delegates at Aston VillaI’ve not blogged for a long while – doesn’t real life has an irritating habit of interrupting the virtual? However I was at my first European Innovative Users Group conference last week and thought it might be worth recording some thoughts from that.

The first thing that struck me was how relaxed it felt. In contrast to the past few COSI/DUG/HUG conferences this felt very easygoing. That’s probably partly due not being an organiser so I could sit back and let someone else do the worrying, but there was a relaxed friendly vibe to the sessions and the other attendees.I was struck by how open the III representatives seemed.

There were no great product announcements at the conference (maybe those have been held back for ALA?) but on the other hand as a newcomer I don’t see any massive gaps in III’s product suite compared with other suppliers. The main thing I’d come to see was of course Encore Synergy, III’s version of the new crop of Discovery tools (see also Summon, Primo Central, Ebsco Discover, etc.). Synergy looked good, although I think I’d want to ask more questions about the range of data suppliers to which it will link before committing (not that my library will have the funds to do so anytime soon!). I like the fact that it doesn’t need the extra complexity of Link Resolvers or Federated Search tools (although it will of course work with them if already present) – one of the problems with federated search has always been the added layer of complexity it gives to the search experience which the new Discovery tools avoid. EIUG are planning an Exchange of Experience day on this area which I hope to attend.

Encore Reporter, a web-based reporting tool, was the other product which the company were pushing strongly. This is a bit of a misnomer – it doesn’t actually need Encore Discovery to run and pulls statistics from the Millennium database as well as Encore. Its interesting to see also that it doesn’t use either the Millennium proprietary database or Oracle to hold its data, but instead pulls it into an independent  database. Its ability to import external data and to export to the OPAC/Encore looked good, such that if I was doing a new implementation today I’d see it as an essential core product rather than another bolt-on module.

The other valuable part of a user group conference is of course the user sessions. These were very varied, and reflected the same sort of pressures that my own library is facing, such as streamlining and integrating acquisitions and providing more information to the user on a static staffing count.

Overall, a good conference, and thanks in particular to the EIUG committee who worked so hard to make it so.

P.S. The photo? The conference dinner was in the Directors Box at Aston Villa and we had a tour of the ground beforehand.

June 21, 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

Perceptions 2008

Marshall Breeding has updated his Perceptions survey,  that he originally took at the end of 2007 looking at the state of the LMS marketplace.  As with last year, I think it is of great value in showing to the suppliers what we as customers think of them – sometimes they get so caught up in their own publicity that I’m not sure they are hearing all of what we tell them.

Once again SirsiDynix doesn’t score too well, possibly due to the loss of confidence in them on the part of their Horizon customers who feel somewhat deserted. Interestingly Horizon itself and their support of it don’t score too badly, but the company does suffer on the question of whether they would be likely to buy the replacement system from them. Even Unicorn/ Symphony customers don’t score it much higher, which indicates the company has an issue it needs to deal with.

As a new Millenium user I’m relieved to see that III and Millenium do significantly better. Marshall Breeding notes the generally positive impression of the company, and indeed a month into the post my own experience supports this.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment


This is my last week in my current job, and I start my new post in January.  My new library runs Innovative Millenium, so I’m looking forward to getting my head around that over the next few months. In a way I’m sad to be leaving the Horizon community, as I’ve made so many friends over the last few years – even a few within SirsiDynix! I’m always surprised by the openness and generosity of other Horizon users.  Thanks in particular to the genial Dave Pattern, Liz Barton, Tim Fletcher, Chris Leach and other colleagues in the former Dynix Users Group UK.

However times change, so I’m looking forward to  new challenges and opportunities in the New Year. III be warned, I intend to be as open with my criticism and praise for your systems as I have been for SirsiDynix!

December 16, 2008 Posted by | General | , | Leave a comment