The open source ILS movement takes another step forward as the province of British Columbia in Canada launches an initiative to implement Evergreen. The Georgia Public Library System developed Evergreen as an open source library automation system to serve the 252 libraries in the PINES consortium. The PINES libraries migrated from SirsiDynix Unicorn to Evergreen on September 5, 2006 following a twenty-six month development process. While many other libraries have expressed interest in Evergreen, the British Columbia libraries are the first, following PINES, to formally approve and fund an implementation effort.
At its April 17, 2007 meeting, the Association of British Columbia Library Directors and the Public Library Services Branch (PLSB), an agency of the provincial government, agreed to begin the implementation of the Evergreen ILS that can be shared by all the libraries in the province. PLSB will contribute $1 million in seed money towards the project, which will ultimately be governed by the British Columbia public library community.
British Columbia includes 241 individual libraries (including branches) representing 75 autonomous library authorities. This group resembles those involved in the Georgia PINES implementation of Evergreen both in terms of the number of libraries involved and the demographics of rural and urban areas represented.
Unlike the PINES consortium in Georgia, the British Columbia libraries will follow a more gradual process in moving to Evergreen. British Columbia will follow an opt-in model, where libraries will migrate to Evergreen on their own schedules. An initial group of three libraries plans to migrate to Evergreen by October 2007. This group will include Prince Rupert Public Library, which currently runs Dynix Classic, Powell River Public Library (Eloquent), and Fort Nelson Public Library (Mandarin M3). Following this initial group, another twenty libraries, including some multi-branch libraries, have committed to moving to Evergreen in the first year.
As libraries throughout the province reach the expiration dates of the contracts with their existing automation vendors, they will have the option of shifting to the Evergreen system. Over the next three to five year period, we can expect a high percentage of the British Columbia libraries to participate. The decision to follow a strategy based on a single shared province-wide ILS came about, at least indirectly, as a result of the SirsiDynix decision to discontinue the development of Horizon 8.0. As part of efforts related to the strategic planning effort, PLSB was in the process of guiding six library federations, pre-federations, or quasifederations in the province toward the procurement of state-of-the-art, standards-compliant, modern integrated library automation systems.
High on the list of requirements for the new ILS included the ability to accommodate the needs of multitype consortia. Each of the federations included at least one non-public library member. Some of these federations were newly formed, with member libraries possessing minimal automation programs; others member libraries had legacy systems in need of replacement. Most of the federations were on track toward the selection of Horizon 8.0 when SirsiDynix announced that product's demise in March 2007. The North Coast Library Federation, for example, was about a week away from formalizing its selection of Horizon 8.0. This event caused PLSB to reconsider the available ILS options.
The SirsiDynix announcement changed the landscape of the ILS marketplace; the traditional ILS market is no longer a haven for the risk adverse. (BC Pines Talking Points http://pines.bclibrary .ca/resources/talking-points)
According to Ben Hyman, Manager of Technology & Policy at PLSB, the move to the province-wide shared ILS falls in the context of the province's strategic plan for its libraries: “Libraries without walls: the world within your reach.” In addition to the shared database, this strategic plan provides the impetus for a number of other activities, including a single province-wide library card, the AskAway virtual reference service, a common authentication service, the procurement of electronic content products, and other activities to improve library services. The work done to guide the federations toward the procurement of shared automated systems that would serve each group of libraries engendered a sense of collaboration and cooperation among the libraries. This effort paved the way toward a single provincial solution. For larger libraries in the province, the development and installation of Evergreen in British Columbia will serve as insurance against the vagaries of the vendor market, and will broaden the available ILS options for their next ILS selection and migration process.
Though facilitated through PLSB, the British Columbia Evergreen implementation came about through a grass-roots process. This new automation system will be owned, governed, operated, and maintained by the community of libraries it serves. In British Columbia, the bulk of the funding for libraries comes from local governments. This funding model requires a strong sense of buy-in from the participating libraries, compared to more centrally funded initiatives. The success of the project depends on support and participation by the individual libraries in the province.
As a centrally hosted system shared by a growing set of libraries throughout the province, PLSB anticipates lower automation costs for each library compared to purchasing commercial systems from an ILS vendor. Many of the costs associated with local ILS systems will be saved through the centrally hosted model. Using open source software will eliminate software licensing costs.
A new company, called Equinox, was recently formed to provide support and services for Evergreen. The principles of this company come from Georgia PINES Library System, the original developers of Evergreen. While PLSB has not entered into a formal arrangement with Equinox for its services, it is in discussions with Equinox, and may at a future point. PLSB will build its own team to implement, support, and develop Evergreen. The British Columbia implementation will also take advantage of the technical expertise available in other Canadian libraries. The University of Windsor, for example, has begun development of an acquisitions module for Evergreen, in preparation for its anticipated Fall 2008 migration.
The commitment of the British Columbia libraries to move to a province-wide implementation of Evergreen takes the open source ILS movement a step forward. While the number of libraries involved in open source ILS implementations remains very small relative to those running commercial systems, momentum continues to build. Over the next few years, the small stand of pines currently involved in open source automation systems such as Evergreen may expand into a forest.