In previous issues of Smart Libraries Newsletter, we reported on the partnership for the BIBSYS consortium, comprising more than 100 research and special libraries in Norway to implement OCLC's WorldShare Management Services (WMS). The BIBSYS project has been presented by OCLC as an example of a large-scale project based on WMS that uses it as a foundation to support applications and services created by libraries and other third parties, as is the vision for the WorldShare Platform. OCLC and BIBSYS have recently announced that the project has been discontinued.
BIBSYS provides an automation system and other services to a national consortium in Norway that includes National Library of Norway and all the major research and special libraries. The organization operates as a public administrative agency, reporting to the Ministry of Education and Research of the Norwegian government. The automation system currently in place was developed by BIBSYS. Beginning in about 2009, BIBSYS sought to acquire an externally provided platform as the basis of its new generation automation environment. This new system would need to offer a service-oriented architecture on which it could develop customized extensions and modules for the needs of its members. A tender was issued on September 1, 2009, which included a statement: The consortium may need special adaptations that will not be provided by the contractor's ILS. BIBSYS will be responsible for the implementation of these adaptations in parallel with the contractor's project. BIBSYS must therefore have access to standard services and interfaces at an early stage. [NTNU Tender Document: Negotiated Procedure in 2 steps over the EEC-threshold for the Purchase of Next Generation Integrated Library System.] In June 2010, following a year-long review process, BIBSYS announced to its members that: OCLC and Ex Libris had been identified as qualified vendors; what is now known as WorldShare Management Services OCLC had been selected as the basis for its next library management environment; and it would enter the next phase of contract terms. OCLC announced the selection of WMS by BIBSYS in November 2010.
Not only was BIBSYS the largest organization that had contracted for WMS, it was presented as the exemplar of the vision of its extensibility through the development of applications and services to meet local issues. The project did not grow to fruition. As early as March 2012, BIBSYS posted announcements on its website that there were issues in the delivery of functionality and then in May 2012 issued a more strongly worded statement that the BIBSYS board was not satisfied with the progress of the project. On August 14, 2012, OCLC and BIBSYS issued a joint statement indicating that the implementation project had been discontinued, “due to differences in timing and interpretation of what the solution would entail for BIBSYS, as a system integrator.”
Under the terms of an agreement between the organizations, no details were released regarding the specific problems or issues that led to the termination of implementation of WorldShare Management Services for BIBSYS. BIBSYS will continue to use its existing system as it begins a new tender process to select a vendor.
This event comes at a critical time when the competition among new-generation library services platforms is beginning to intensify. When a high-profile implementation project such as this one does not go forward as expected, initial thoughts may turn to problems with the technology. Organizational dynamics, however, seem to play a role, given the wording of the joint statement. As a software development organization in its own right, providing services to a national library consortium, BIBSYS' choice to become a very early adopter of a new platform still under development carried some risk.
Larger organizations interested in WorldShare Management Services will naturally take this aborted implementation into consideration, but should not necessarily jump to conclusions regarding its functionality, performance, or scalability once it has more fully matured. Provided that OCLC continues to build an ongoing track record of ever larger numbers of libraries implementing WorldShare Management Services successfully, the impact of this counter example will diminish accordingly. To date, 73 libraries, including some consortia, have implemented WorldShare Management Services successfully.