Polaris Library Systems traces its background through the venerable Gaylord Bros. company, a long-established (since 1896!) and major supplier of library furniture and supplies. One of the pioneers in commercially available circulation systems, Gaylord Library Systems was established in 1975 to develop and distribute library automation systems.
One of Gaylord's first ILS products, dubbed the Gaylord System 100, was a computerized circulation system that made use of both a computer housed in the library (for online transactions) and a remote-site computer housed at Gaylord's computing facilities (for overnight batch processing).
In 1975, the Queens Borough Public Library in New York, with its central library and fifty-four branch libraries, was an early adopter of the Gaylord System 100. The company's successor products included the GS 300 and GS 400.
In 1984, Gaylord introduced the GS-3000 Catalog Management System. This early online catalog system operated on DataPoint computer hardware. In that same year, the vendor debuted the Gaylord School Library Management System, which included an online catalog and circulation module for personal computers running CP/M and MS-DOS.
In June 1985, the company initiated its involvement in the bibliographic services arena with its acquisition of LSS. LSS distributed a stand-alone cataloging system called MiniMARC, which was based on storing MARC records on videodiscs. Gradually, this product evolved into the SuperCAT cataloging support system, which was introduced formally in July 1988. SuperCAT allowed libraries to perform copy cataloging using MARC records supplied on CD-ROM discs.
In 1989, Gaylord introduced its first fully integrated automation system, GALAXY, which ran on DEC minicomputers under the VMS operating system. The system was popular with small and mediumsized public libraries, but it was also adopted by a number of academic and medical libraries.
Throughout the 1990s, GALAXY prospered as a library automation system. But toward the end of the decade, the VAX/VMS computing platform (on which the GALAXY system ran) lost favor, which led GALAXY to the “legacy system ranks”—those that libraries eventually must replace. (Though some libraries continue to run GALAXY, by now, most have implemented replacement systems.) In January 1997, Gaylord Information Systems launched the Polaris Integrated Library System (still the flagship product of the company), which is a client/server system based on Microsoft Windows and is designed for public libraries of all sizes.
In 2003, the Croydon Company (the owner of Gaylord Bros.) sold most of Gaylord's assets—with the exception of its automation division—to its chief rival Demco. The sale, which did include the include the company's assets related to the manufacture of furniture and supplies for libraries and archives, also included the rights to the Gaylord Bros. name.
Shortly before the 2003 sale, president Katherine Blauer stepped down, and Bill Schickling, former VP for research and development, stepped up to the president and CEO post.
Because the “Gaylord” name was part of the sale to Demco, Croydon's remaining stand-alone automation company had to find a new identity. Beginning in May 2003, the company operated under the name “GIS Information Systems.”
Here in 2005, the company chose “Polaris Library Systems.” Since 2003, the company has determined the “Polaris” name is more recognized than “GIS” and, thus, has adopted it as its primary corporate identity.