The open source ILS movement reached a significant benchmark with the implementation of Evergreen in the King County Library System, the second busiest library system in the United States in terms of circulation activity. Located in the suburban areas surrounding Seattle, WA, KCLS includes 46 branches circulating over 21 million items annually. King County has been investing the possibility of implementing Evergreen for over three years. In March 2007 KCLS engaged Equinox Software (http://www.esilibrary.com) to perform a variety of services, including installation of an instance of Evergreen for testing and evaluation, data migration, customization, and other activities. To meet the requirements of KCLS, a number of new features were developed for Evergreen, which have been contributed back according to the principles of open source. Many of these features will appear in Evergreen Version 2.0, currently in Alpha release. Galecia Group (http://www.galecia.com) will also provide consulting services for the project.
The KCLS implementation of Evergreen included a customized end-user interface, or skin, that delivers a unique appearance and different aspects of functionality from the standard distribution of Evergreen. The user interface development was contracted to FGI, a consulting firm based in nearby Kirkland, WA (http://www.fgi.com) working closely with the library’s Web Services Department. The coding involved with the interface work will also be open source and available to other libraries that use Evergreen. One of the challenges of implementing Evergreen involved interfacing with the self-check and automated materials handling systems installed in many of the KCLS facilities. Provided by Lyngsoe Systems Inc. (http://www.lyngsoesystems.com), the AMH systems work with traditional barcodes rather than RFID tags, and communicate with the ILS via SIP2 protocol. KCLS also makes use of over 250 self-check stations throughout its 46 branches. The library designed and assembles its own self-check stations. An important part of the project involved creating open source self-check software for Evergreen.
Evergreen was phased into production between October 1st and 4th, 2010. The completion of this migration marks a milestone in the progression of open source ILS, demonstrating an ability to handle a large and busy suburban library system. Other Evergreen installations manage large numbers of smaller libraries, but have not yet been adopted by a library system with the more strenuous requirements of KCLS. The library is migrating from a Millennium ILS from Innovative Interfaces installed in 2004.
King County has also spearheaded initiatives to pave the way for the adoption of open source automation software by other libraries. As reported in the November 2009 issue of SLN, IMLS awarded KCLS a National Leadership Grant of $998,556 for the development of non-technical infrastructure, such as documentation and support channels, to facilitate libraries in adopting open source ILS. King County and other library partners committed in-kind resources of over $1 million as matching requirements to the grant.
According to Jed Moffitt, Director for Information Technology Services, the transition went as smoothly as could be expected. Library operations continued relatively normally after the transition to Evergreen without significant down time. The initial response times delivered by the new Evergreen system were a bit sluggish. Technical changes introduced in subsequent days brought improvements to around three seconds per transaction, with work underway to meet the target specifications of less than two seconds per transaction. Work continues to make further improvements in performance. Moffitt reported that initial customer reactions have been mixed, though with a slant toward the critical. Many of the comments submitted by patrons in the first days of the transition questioned when specific features to which they had been accustomed would return. Some comments praised the new look of the catalog; some complained of slowness. The prevailing approach in the implementation process was to launch the new system with all the basics in place and quickly address any issues that surface afterwards rather than attempting to anticipate all possible problems before going forward. Overall, Moffitt characterizes the migration as successful, though much work remains.
In the conservative automation arena where many libraries prefer to hold back until a given product or trend has been implemented successfully by others with similar or more complex circumstances, the implementation of Evergreen stands as an important catalyst to further momentum of open source ILS in general and Evergreen in particular.