Interest in open source alternatives to the commercial offerings of integrated library system (ILS) vendors has been a dominant trend in the past year. Until now, the open source ILS implementations have taken place primarily in public libraries with no large academic libraries in the United States or Canada making the leap. That situation recently changed, with a consortium of U.S. academic libraries and a major Canadian academic library making official commitments to implement open source library automation systems.
Westchester Academic Library Directors Organization (WALDO), a New York based consortium, has contracted with LibLime to implement Koha ZOOM for 17 member libraries—thirteen of the libraries are now sharing a common consorital system, one other operates a standalone system, and the remaining three are Florida based libraries moving from yet another consortial system. WALDO’s associate and limited members, libraries of different types throughout New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Vermont, can also elect to use the contract negotiated with LibLime to gain access to the same pricing, discounts, terms, and conditions.
Key to WALDO’s approach to the open source environment is a preliminary pilot implementation during the Summer of 2008 at St John’s University, Queens, New York, the largest member of the group. This pilot is seen by WALDO as a replacement for the traditional RFP approach to vendor selection. The pilot will implement a number of enhancements to the current Koha ZOOM release that were identified in a scoping study performed jointly by LibLime and WALDO in the Spring of 2007. Successful completion of the pilot project will activate migration for the remaining New York libraries in the Summer of 2009.
The fourteen New York academic libraries that have signed contracts to implement Koha ZOOM through WALDO include libraries at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the College of Westchester, Concordia College in Bronxville, NY, the Manhattan College Libraries, Marymount Manhattan College, Mercy College, Monroe College, New York Academy of Medicine, Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary, Sarah Lawrence College, Saint John’s University, Saint Thomas Aquinas College, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, and Wagner College.
Thirteen of the libraries have been using their current system since 2005, implemented as a remotely hosted service by the vendor. Previously, the consortium libraries used PALS, a system created and maintained by libraries in Minnesota. In some ways, PALS can be considered a precursor to the current open source ILS movement in that it was software developed by libraries outside the ownership of a commercial company.
As WALDO passed the mid-point of its current five-year commercial system contract, it faced uncertainty regarding the state of the commercial library automation marketplace due to the spate of consolidations and private equity acquisitions. WALDO representatives could not discern significant differences among the offerings of the remaining commercial vendors. Rather than initiate a procurement process through an RFP, WALDO investigated the open source alternatives, eventually determining that Koha ZOOM with support from LibLime is their preferred alternative.
Koha has not been previously implemented in large academic libraries. As a result, it lacks essential functionality for an academic library, such as course reserves. The contract with LibLime includes custom development to provide the new functionality designed to meet WALDO’s specifications, which, consistent with the open source model, will be available to other libraries that use Koha ZOOM. The WALDO libraries will share an implementation of Koha hosted by LibLime, following the same Software as a Service model that they currently have in place with their vendor.
An Evergreen Grows in Canada
Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, announced that it intends to implement the Evergreen automation system, initially developed for the PINES consortium in Georgia. The press release confirms the University’s commitment to contribute to the development of Evergreen and that it intends to migrate from its current SirsiDynix Unicorn system to Evergreen at an unspecified time in the future.
The commitment of these academic libraries to implement open source automation systems warrants attention, because it appears to be the beginning of a trend. In the larger context, the companies offering proprietary systems continue to prosper and attract new library customers. Polaris Library Systems, for example, has recently been selected by both the Phoenix Public Library and the Dallas Public Library. While open source ILS seems to be gaining momentum, the majority of libraries continue to use commercially developed systems. The degree to which open source gains ground in the overall ILS landscape depends very much on the success of these early adopters.