Serials Solutions has announced that its project to develop a new platform to manage all types of library materials, spanning both electronic and print resources, is underway. This new product will extend the company's existing services that focus on electronic resources into a comprehensive platform that addresses all types of content. Serials Solutions has temporarily dubbed the new product Web-Scale Management Solution, but will ultimately coin a new product name. In the same way that Serials Solutions considers Summon a Web-Scale discovery service, this new product will apply the same characteristics to internal library management. These characteristics include a highly-scalable platform addressing a comprehensive view of library collections, delivered through software-as-a-service with Web-based interfaces.
Designed for Academic Libraries
This new product primarily will target the needs of academic and research libraries. These libraries have a much stronger emphasis on electronic resources than public libraries and need different types of automation tools. Serials Solutions approach addresses libraries facing the increased dominance of electronic resources and the diminishing proportions of print. While public libraries are increasingly involved with e-books and typically subscribe to a basic set of electronic resources, their priorities continue to be centered on physical materials, at least relative to those of academic libraries. From its founding, Serials Solutions has created products with academic libraries in mind. While some of its products find use in public libraries, such as the AquaBrowser discovery interface, Serials Solutions' primarily focuses on academic libraries.
Extends Electronic management models to Print
In the development of its Web-Scale Management Solution, Serials Solutions will apply the same strategies for handling print materials as it has embraced for electronic resources. The company bases its products supporting the management of electronic resources on the use of a knowledge base, called KnowledgeWorks. This knowledgebase tracks the contents of the products and packages to which libraries subscribe. The basic principal involves creating a comprehensive and accurate database of the relevant information to relieve libraries using its products of the need to track this information individually. Serials Solutions employs a combination of automated feeds from information providers, computerized processes for detecting and correcting errors and enhancing content, as well as manual oversight and intervention by its specialized personnel to ensure the completeness and accuracy of its knowledge base. The quality of this resource stands as one of the key assets of the company and is the foundation of its ever-expanding suite of products.
Until the announcement of this new Web-Scale Management Solution, Serials Solutions has focused solely on tools that support the management of electronic resources. Over the course of the company's eleven-year history, it has introduced a succession of products that address an increasingly complete range of capacities to aid a library with managing its electronic resources and providing access to its patrons. Serials Solutions line of products in this area includes KnowledgeWorks, it's knowledgebase of e-resources; 360 Link, an OpenURL compliant link resolver; 360 Search, a federated search service; 360 Core, a basic package for the management and access to electronic resources, and 360 Resource Manager, a complete electronic resource management environment. In January 2009 Serials Solutions announced its Summon discovery service, providing comprehensive access to the library's print, digital collections, and electronic resources through a massive aggregated index.
Serials Solutions positions Web-Scale Management Solution
to extend the company's existing capabilities for handling electronic resources into the print realm, offering libraries a unified approach to the way they manage and provide access to the totality of their collections. The company articulates a vision of a new platform to allow libraries to gain efficiencies by enabling print management based on an accurate centralized knowledge base, to simplify and automate many of the tasks related to the selection and acquisitions of new materials, and to offer tools for assessment and reporting, spanning all material types.
Strategy based on Centrally-managed knowledge bases
Web-Scale Management Solution will rely on a central knowledge base, extended to include bibliographic data for print materials, which will perform functions for print materials that are analogous to what KnowledgeWorks has accomplished for electronic resources. Serials Solutions will leverage the collections of bibliographic records that it has previously assembled as the basis of its 360 MARC Updates service, which delivers MARC records for libraries to load into their local systems for e-journal and eBook titles. These records derive from a variety of sources, including the Library of Congress and CONSER. Serials Solutions will also be able to tap into other key resources within its corporate family such as Books in Print from Bowker and catalog enrichment data from Syndetic Solutions. Serials Solutions is not starting from scratch in the development of its bibliographic database, but rather is able to build on an existing resource of several hundreds of millions of records.
The fundamental concept of Web-Scale Management Solution is that participating libraries share a single bibliographic database rather than each library having to maintain records independently within its local ILS. Tasks such as circulation and acquisitions will tap into records from the shared bibliographic database. The workflow of tasks associated with this centralized data model differs greatly from the traditional approach where bibliographic records are transferred from an external utility into local ILS. It is not yet clear how the central knowledge base of bibliographic records at the heart of Serials Solutions' Web-Scale Management Solution will relate to other bibliographic resources such as OCLC's WorldCat. At this early stage of development, no specific information is available on issues such as how libraries that use this product will make use of OCLC's cataloging and resource sharing services.
A single platform for Managing Electronic and Print
Prior to the vision embraced by Web-Scale Management Solution, libraries involved with Serials Solutions products for managing their electronic resources would rely on their integrated library system for automation activities related to their print collection. Tasks such as cataloging and acquisitions of print resources and circulation of physical items would be done through the ILS while all the activities related to the management of subscriptions to electronic content are automated through another set of tools.
As academic libraries increasingly take advantage of discovery services for access to their collections and as print resources represent a shrinking portion of the materials they acquire, the role of the integrated library system decreases in its strategic importance. Under the traditional model, the library would operate the integrated library system for dealing with print materials and another suite of products for managing electronic resources. The demands inherent in operating an integrated library system may result in a disproportionate number of library personnel involved in print relative to electronic.
By adding an incremental level of functionality to its existing products, Serials Solutions sees the opportunity to offer libraries a single platform that can be operated with much less effort and expense than the incumbent model of separate automation products for print and electronic.
Integration with other Systems
Serials Solutions' Web-Scale Management Solution will be designed to integrate with other types of systems in the library's environment. It will seamlessly operate with external systems such as YPB's Gobi environment for selecting and ordering library materials in ways that result in more efficient workflows in both the way that data flows between the systems and in how library personnel carry out their work. The system will also be built to interoperate with other components of the campus' technical infrastructure such as authentication services, financial applications, and student management systems. Delivered through Software-as-a-service
Serials Solutions will deliver Web-Scale Management Solution through multi-tenant software-as-a-service, as it does for all its strategic products. This model involves a single instance of the system that serves all the libraries that subscribe. All the hardware involved in supporting the service is managed by Serials Solutions with no need for libraries to operate local servers and deal with operating systems or software installation and configuration issues. Since the software is accessed by Web browsers over the Internet, libraries do not need to install, configure, or maintain special client software.
This approach contrasts with many of the library automation products promoted as software-as-a-service that actually involve separate instances of the software for each library, hosted by the vendor. Products designed specifically for deployment through software-as-a-service can offer more efficiencies than vendorhosting of legacy systems designed for local installations.
Serials Solutions' implementation of multi-tenant software-as-a-service allows libraries to gain access to shared resources such as the knowledge bases of bibliographic records and e-resource knowledge base, and other shared resources such as vendor information. This approach also results in a more efficient technical environment where all changes and improvements to the software can be deployed to all subscribers simultaneously. Web-Scale Management Solution will deliver all staff functions through a Webbased interface. Libraries will not have to install specialized desktop clients, obviating another burdensome task associated with many of the client/server legacy systems.
Goal to allow libraries to Unplug their ILS
Serials Solutions intends that libraries implementing its Web-Scale Management Solution will no longer need to operate their local integrated library system. All of the traditional functions such as circulation, cataloging, and acquisitions, will be subsumed into the new service, though not necessarily in the same way as in the legacy model. The company anticipates that this new approach will not only offer some significant new efficiencies in the way that library personnel carry out their work, but will also result in savings, as libraries will spend less of the funds dedicated to the maintenance of the integrated library system.
Enabling a library to discontinue the operation of its local integrated library system opens up the opportunity for libraries to reallocate resources dedicated to its operation and maintenance. Rather than devoting highly trained technology personnel to the routine and engaging them in the complex tasks involved in maintaining the servers and software associated with the local ILS, they can focus their attention on other activities of more direct benefit to the library's services.
Back-end Automation support optimized for Discovery
Web-Scale Management Solution will function as a tool for automating internal library operations and will not itself offer an interface for library patrons. Serials Solutions' intention is that Summon will serve as the ideal patron interface for Web-Scale Management Solution, with inherent interoperability baked in. These two products will connect seamlessly as a match set.
Libraries can instead choose to deploy other discovery services with the Web-Scale Management Solution. It will offer a complete set of application programming interfaces that will enable it to exchange data and communicate with any discovery product the library chooses to implement. It will be up to the library, however, to perform the integration tasks to connect Web-Scale Management Solution with discovery services other than Summon. Just as Summon operates with any of the major library automation systems, Web-Scale Management Solution will be developed to work with any discovery product, using the standard techniques for data exchange and real-time status displays. Serials Solutions plans to leverage the way that its 360 suite of products integrate into discovery services to simplify the integration process.
Cost and Availability
Serials Solutions anticipates that the first phase of its Web-Scale Management Solution will be available by the end of 2012. Under the current development schedule, this initial version will focus on resource management, offering a broad package of functions to manage electronic, print, and digital resources. It will include license management, acquisitions across all material types, fund accounting designed to accommodate patron-driven acquisitions, and license management. A second major release with a more complete array of functionality is planned for late 2013. Serials Solutions will offer Web-Scale Management Solution through a monthly or annual subscription, scaled according to the size and complexity of the library. The cost of the subscription will displace several categories of expense associated with the ILS that will no longer be required, such as any ongoing maintenance fees for the hardware and software, as well as the personnel costs associated with operating a local server.
Serials Solutions has long resisted getting involved with the domain of the traditional integrated library system or developing products for the ever-diminishing realm of print materials in academic libraries. Yet by extending their current products into the print realm, they may be able to seize an opportunity to deliver a comprehensive platform to libraries based on the principles championed in their current product suite. The company is well positioned for such a project. Jane Burke, for example, Vice President for ProQuest with responsibilities for Serials Solutions, led the development of the Voyager ILS for academic libraries in the mid- 1990's as President and CEO of Endeavor Information Systems. Several personnel at various levels of the company came from the ranks of the ILS vendors. The company can tap into deep expertise from these individuals as it addresses incorporating the management of print resources into its new platform.
Serials Solutions comes into the competition for new library systems fairly late. OCLC, for example, has developed its Web-Scale Management Services with libraries already in production. While the new offerings from OCLC and Serials Solutions bear many similarities on the surface, each brings a radically different perspective and background. Ex Libris, a major competitor with Serials Solutions on the academic library front, has completed much of the development of Alma, with delivery of the initial version anticipated in early 2012. Given the slowness with which libraries turn over their automation systems and the relatively small portion of libraries already committed to one of the other products, market opportunities for new products remains fairly wide open. Libraries appreciate wider range of options and Serials Solutions' approach has to date generated considerable appeal.
In developing its new Web-Scale Management Solution, Serials Solutions appeals to the reputation that it has established in the development and support of its existing products. To the extent that libraries have embraced its vision and execution of services for electronic resources, Serials Solutions anticipates that this new product will support its position in the marketplace as it takes on this much more ambitious endeavor.