The major players in the library automation industry have made public their plans regarding next generation product strategies. Alma from Ex Libris, Web-Scale Management Services from OCLC, Sierra from Innovative Interfaces, and Web-scale management solution from Serials Solutions are all in competition for development, testing, and deployment.
Innovative interfaces announced the development of its Sierra services platform, initially announced in April 2011. Sierra will bring the existing functionality of Millennium into a new technology platform based on characteristics including service-oriented architecture, an open source PostgreSQL database, and a full complement of APIs. Details regarding Innovative's vision for Sierra were covered in the May 2011 issue of SLN.
While development is underway, the company is working hard to line up libraries interested in making commitments to become early adopters of this new system. In July, the company announced that the first round of contracts for Sierra had been signed, including 25 academic and public libraries. An additional round of libraries was announced in September, bringing the total number of those engaged to be early adopters to 75 library organizations, representing over 300 individual libraries. The large number of libraries willing to sign contracts for this project at this early stage reflects a very strong level of confidence in the potential of Sierra as the Innovative's next generation technology platform. While most of the libraries opting for Sierra at this point already lie within the fold of Millennium sites, at least one, Utah State University, will be first-time Innovative customers. Utah State has signed to replace their current SirsiDynix Symphony ILS with Sierra and Encore. Innovative reports that the initial beta implementations are scheduled to begin toward the end of 2011.
Ex Libris announced that it delivered the fourth and penultimate partner release of Alma in September 2011. This release includes enhancements in fulfillment capabilities, advanced integration with Primo, enhancements to the resource editor, the tool for inventory management and cataloging, as well as other features and improvements based on prior feedback from the development partner libraries. The current slate of libraries engaged with Ex Libris as development partners includes Purdue University, Princeton University, Boston College, K.U. Leuven and the LIBIS network. Ex Libris also continues to sign libraries to commit as early adopters of Alma; recently the University of York joined this group.
As a cloud-based system that will involve knowledgebase component shared through its Community Zone concept, issues surrounding the content components of Alma will be critical. In June 2011, Ex Libris formed an Expert Advisory Group composed of a diverse group of individuals associated with leading national and international organizations with involvement in metadata issues. According to an announcement, this group will “provide guidance to Ex Libris on policies, standards, and procedures that should be used in the governance and stewardship of metadata records that reside in the Community Zone.” For the new cloud-based systems, content issues will present their own set of challenges along with those associated with software development. Ex Libris expects to deliver the fifth partner release in November 2011, filling out the functionality that will comprise the initial general release of Alma, expected to be made available in early 2012.
OCLC Web-scale Management Services
Among the slate of new-generation automation products, OCLC's Web-scale management service was the first to be put into production and to see general release. As previously reported, thirtytwo libraries were using WMS in production by July 1, 2011. In early October 2011 Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, GA went live with the product, displacing Library.Solution from The Library Corporation. Hope International University went live with WMS in June 2011, migrating from an Ex Libris Voyager ILS. Other libraries that OCLC has publicly announced as having signed on to implement WMS include Tilburg the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Spring Hill College in Alabama, and Mohave Community College in Arizona.
In a story in the October 2010 issue of SLN, we reported that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga anticipated being the first library to implement WMS. As of October 2011, the UTC library has not yet put the system into full production, due primarily to internal considerations.
Serials Solutions Web-scale Management Solution
Since making its major announcement of its intentions to develop a new Web-scale Management Solution, Serials Solutions has not issued additional progress updates on its development or adoption. Stay tuned for future information regarding this product.