As part of a comprehensive set of improvements in its technology infrastructure, the Salt Lake City Public Library in Utah has begun a process that involves replacing its core integrated library system, introducing RFID technologies, and reviewing its technical processing operations. Serving a population of just under 200,000 with a main facility and five branches, the library's collection of over 900,000 sees a vigorous circulation of 6.7 million transactions annually.
The Salt Lake City Public Library has a process underway to equip all its facilities with RFID technologies for self-service circulation functions and for automated material handling (AMH). One of the considerations involved in the infrastructure upgrades involved the interoperability between the ILS and the self-service and AMH equipment. The acquisition of the SIP2 licenses involved would represent a significant investment in the existing Millennium system in place since 1995, prompting the need to review the products available through an ILS selection and procurement process.
The library has aims to improve the efficiency of the way that it processes and handles its collection materials. An additional component of its strategy to improve its automation environment included engaging a consultant to evaluate technical services workflows.
The Salt Lake City Public Library has also selected Biblio- Commons as its discovery interface, launched for its patrons in April 2013. This library joins the ranks of others including Boston Public Library, King County Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and Austin Public Library that have recently opted to implement BiblioCommons. Chicago Public has engaged in a broader partnership with BiblioCommons to extend its technologies beyond just replacing its online catalog, but to power its entire Web presence.
The library selected Polaris Library Systems to provide new integrated library system, manage its data migration process, and to support the integration with its new BiblioCommons catalog and RFID-based self-service and AMH equipment. Polaris was selected on the basis of its functionality, consistency with the library's technical infrastructure, and positive references from other customer libraries.
The procurement process has not been without complications. Innovative Interfaces, the incumbent vendor responded to the RFP with a proposal for the library to migrate to its Sierra library services platform. The library rejected Sierra for consideration since the request for proposals stipulated that the new system should be based on Microsoft SQL Server. Sierra is instead based on the open source PostgreSQL database management system, which provides similar support for SQL and ODBC (open database connectivity). When informed that Sierra would not be considered due to this issue, Innovative Interfaces challenged its eligibility relative to verbiage in the RFP and issued a formal protest to the award. A hearing on this issue was conducted before the Salt Lake City Public Library board on April 22, 2013. (See: http://www.slcpl. lib.ut.us/board/) The Board ruled that Innovative had not submitted its protest within required time limits and could not be considered on its merits. The implementation of Polaris will continue according to the schedule.
“We simply felt we were not treated fairly during the procurement process,” stated Gene Shimshock, Senior Vice President, Product and Market Management. “The protest was the one way we could escalate our concerns. However, once our protest was denied, we accepted Salt Lake City Public Library's decision and no further action is planned at this time.” The Salt Lake City Public Library limited consideration to products based on Microsoft SQL Server in order to simplify its technical infrastructure and to ensure that it can use specific tools and techniques to access data related to the system, including SQL Server Reporting Services from Microsoft. While SSRS does work with non-Microsoft products via ODBC, maintaining a heterogeneous environment comprising different database engines can be more complex to manage.
Any complications related to the procurement process should not cloud the momentum behind Polaris in winning contracts for large municipal libraries in recent years. In recent years, Polaris has been able to win the majority of the competitive procurements in the municipal library sector. Boston Public (In 2012 migrating from Horizon), New Orleans Public (2012 from Horizon), Columbus Metro Library (2012, from Discovery Place a locally developed system), Tampa-Hillsborough County (2012, Horizon), Santa Monica (2011, Symphony), Dayton, OH (2011 Horizon), Topeka and Shawnee County (2011, Horizon), Denver Public (2010, Carl), Miami- Dade County (2009, Horizon), Phoenix Public (2007, Carl), Dallas Public (2007, DRA) and Palm Springs, CA (2009, Symphony), as well as county systems such as Baltimore County, MD (2009, Carl), Bergen County, MD (2010 Symphony), Harford County, MD (2010, Horizon). In 2012 Polaris also was also selected by the Illinois Heartland Library System, the largest library consortium in the United States.
Other new accounts captured by Polaris so far in in 2013 this year include those for Gwinnett County in Georgia (migrating from Horizon), Westport, CT (from Horizon), Bartlesville, OK (Horizon), Colton, CA (Horizon), Warren Library Association, PA (SirsiDynix Symphony), Jackson-Madison County, TN (Library.Solution), and Pfeiffer University (Ex Libris Voyager). While Polaris has been especially successful in the public library sector, it also continues to win over some small to mid-sized academic libraries.
According to Julianne Hancock, Manager of Communications and Library Innovation, the Salt Lake City Public Library stands confident in their choice of Polaris. She reports that library staff members were generally well pleased with the demonstrations of the Polaris systems, which were perceived as delivered in straightforward manner and that the operation of the software was intuitive. The library has been with its incumbent system for 17 years and anticipates a long relationship with its next vendor. Polaris provided an extensive list of current customers as reference.