Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

SirsiDynix in court

As I’m no longer a SirsiDynix customer I’ve avoided thus far any comment on matters Horizon/Unicorn/Symphony. However a lawsuit has arisen in the US which could have interesting implications worldwide, so I’ve broken my own rule.

My reading of the situation is thus: the Queens Borough Public Library in New York needed a new ILS and after an exhaustive evaluation in 2005 of what was currently available and promised, they chose Horizon 8.0. Of course, as we all know Horizon 8.0 was aborted, and Sirsi ‘merged’ with Dynix to form SirsiDynix. They changed product direction, stopped development work on the Horizon platform and instead pushed a ‘new’ system called Symphony, based heavily on Sirsi Unicorn. For a number of reasons, Queens Borough has found Symphony unsuitable for their needs and so has chosen to go to the law courts as they felt the company wasn’t delivering what was promised.

A number of other libraries who were in the same position took other routes: some adopted Symphony and several others abandoned SirsiDynix entirely and went to other LMS vendors.  I believe there are other libraries who still haven’t made a decision. Full details of the complaint are on the invaluable LibraryTechnology site here.

The implications are interesting.

  • For it to get to court must mean that Queens Borough and SD were unable to come to agreement, which is serious in view of the expense of legal procedure.
  • PR-wise it extends the bad press that SD got from its development path volte-face and stops it becoming old news. This in turn hinders sales as potential customers might prefer not to buy from a company facing complaints from existing customers in court.
  • If successfull it also means that SD could face other similar claims from other customers.

Shareholders in SirsiDynix’s parent company will not be happy…..

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 5 Comments

Unicorn/Symphony and indexing

These rumours keep on coming out of the woodwork…….. It has emerged on the Horizon-L list that indexing in Symphony is inferior to that in Horizon.  I’ve even checked this with a contact in the US. From what I can tell, keyword indexing in Unicorn/Symphony is handled by a dynamic indexer but it seems that the browse/ alphabetical indexes are only updated by scheduled batch jobs run overnight. Horizon has updated both sets of indexes in real time ever since I’ve been involved with it (over 8 years now) and because of this I’d assumed that real-time indexing was standard in modern Library Management Systems. Maybe I was wrong?

Jim Wilson put out an email to dampen the story saying that there is dynamic indexing in Symphony, although he didn’t distinguish between the 2 sets of indexes. I hope he was right. If this isn’t correct it is another serious weakness to be aware of. It also means that we have another question to ask at any LMS demonstration!

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment

DUG/EUUG conference 2008

A few days later and I’ve had time to reflect on the conference – and also to read Dave and George’s views as well (BTW, great blog name George!). The high spot for me had to be the keynote speaker, Sue McKnight of Nottingham Trent. In the past our keynotes haven’t always been outstanding, but for me this was. Sue gave a good account of where UK HE libraries should be going. Better still, she did it with Keith Sturges and Talin Bingham listening. She said that our ‘customers’ (note the word) want ‘stuff’ – they want the information asap and aren’t bothered about where it comes from – and if libraries are to retain a role in the educational system or society in general they need to meet these needs. This means interfaces that will search all available resources – along the lines of SirsiDynix Enterprise, to give SD credit. And this interface needs to be demonstrably better for their needs than Google.

After a few days cogitation I think I can see more of SDs strategy. Of the 2 offerings they were pushing at the conference Enterprise was the one aimed at academic libraries and SaaS is more for public libraries or small colleges who have much lower needs of their LMS and very little technical resource. If I was running a low-funded public library with no IT staff I’d be tempted by SaaS. It takes away the need to worry about configuration, updates, backups and the like, and would suit my needs if I don’t need to be integating with other systems or produce multiple ad-hoc reports at frequent intervals. This doesn’t apply to me in a University – but on the other hand if Talin’s description of his plans for Enterprise work out, Enterprise is a contender with Primo, Encore and Aquabrowser (and maybe VuFind).

In our case it needs to be tied in with a decision on the LMS. The confirmation that there will be no further development of Horizon in the UK, combined with the limitations of HIP, strengthens the case for us making a decision on this. Whether we go for Symphony or another system is as yet undecided. I think the strength of feeling about this from many Horizon customers still takes SD by surprise. The LMS is so deeply embedded into a University Library that it would take hundreds of hours of training and practise to get the staff confident on a new system – ours still hark back to the character-based version of GEAC they had up until 1996. As a technical person I find it relatively easy to switch between applications and OSs, but other people who feel less confident with technology need to have the same buttons reacting in exactly the same way as they have done for years for them to be comfortable.  In my institution particularly there is so much uncertainty and change already being directed at the library staff that change management would be a particularly difficult challenge. But after the conference I don’t think that sitting still is an option – even if it does take 3 years or more to get a decision made and then see it through I think we have to start work on it now.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | Libraries | , , , , | Leave a comment

DUG/EUUG conference – Friday

I wasn’t able to blog from the conference as planned due to wireless problems in my hotel room, but Internet withdrawal symptoms have led to me finding alternative ways this afternoon…..

Overall, I think, it was a good conference in that the process of DUG and EUUG coming together as one group has continued (although there’s still some way to go), and the SD staff were friendly and good company. In particular I spent a while chatting to Talin Bingham over the conference dinner about the situation for UK Horizon users. Talin, as always, was very open and enthusiastic, putting the case that he has a limited number of developers and tries to allocate them to the most productive tasks for the long-term.

That long-term prognosis for UK Horizon people was not as rosy as I’d hoped on Monday. Axel Kaschte confirmed that the intention is to end Horizon development in the UK at our current 7.3.4. Although 7.4.1 will be available in the US it will not be available in the UK due to the extra cost of adding the UK enhancements. There was some limited good news in that there will be patches, for instance to ensure that 7.3.4 will work with XP service pack 3, and with MS Vista, but we won’t be getting things like EDI ordering that were only brought in with 7.4. Axel got rather a hard reception for this, understandably, and I pointed out to Talin that this abrupt halt to development doesn’t exactly endear SD to its Horizon customers. But this is of course a commercial world and in turn the seeming finality of the decision would make it easier for us to look elsewhere.

There was a lot of talk and previews of SD Enterprise. I didn’t see (maybe I missed?) the whizzy graphical concept map which Aquabrowser has although something of the kind was mentioned, but overall it looked good. The relevance ranking and fuzzy searching was nice. Although there were questions from the floor about a lack of boolean I think in the real world only Librarians use boolean in the OPAC! I’m still not convinced about it being a SaaS product, but this is only definite for version 1, so if my institution was to buy it, the chances are that we could continue to host locally.

More thoughts later when I’ve had chance to reflect on what I’ve heard and look at my scribbled notes…

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

DUG/ EUUG Conference

My second SirsiDynix- based conference in 6 months! I was at CODI in Pittsburgh last November and am  going to the equally-glamorous surroundings of Southampton Solent University for the DUG/ EUUG conference later this week.  Provided all works OK with the laptop (the website assures me that the hotel has wireless networking) I’m planning to blog from there.

That does, of course, partly depend on what SirsiDynix have in store for us. I’m hoping for an announcement that they are going to fall in with the US and give us a UK version of Horizon 7.4.2 with HIP 3.09. That may make us more likely to sign up for SirsiDynix Enterprise when it is released, and would be a more persuasive approach to getting their Horizon customers to consider Symphony…..

The other aspect of the conference will be the merger of DUG and EUUG to form a single user group for SD customers. I think everybody involved is a bit cautious about this due to the very different cultures of the 2 groups. But on the other hand it doesn’t make sense to stay separate as we’re dealing with the same company. All will become clearer by the end of the week – including the new name, always the most difficult thing to decide!

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Libraries | , , , , | 3 Comments