In covering the major events of 2013 in the library technology industry for Smart Libraries Newsletter, I see a stage set for interesting and important possibilities in the course of the new year. While I naturally have no ability to predict the future, we can anticipate at least some of the next stages in the course set by trends currently in motion, though not any final destinations.
Consolidation will increase through many spheres: products, companies, and libraries. On the product front, libraryoriented applications are addressing increasingly wide ranges of functionality. The new genre of library services platform aims to manage library collections in many different formats. We are seeing many libraries displace an ILS, link resolver, and electronic resource management system with a library services platform that subsumes the functionality of these multiple incumbent components. Libraries seem interested in not having to operate separate platforms for each of the formats within their collections. Taking the product consolidation one step further, discovery seems to be waning as a disintegrated layer and returning as an integrated component of a larger product suite.
Product consolidation should not, however, be taken as a move toward monolithic black-box systems. While many libraries may find it efficient to implement a comprehensive product suite as a whole, others may continue to consider their management and discovery strategies separately. Different drivers may be in play in any given institution that leads toward a discovery solution other than the one offered by the provider of their ILS or discovery services platform. Product consolidation only heightens the need for interoperability capabilities. Even though a library may choose not to focus resources on integrating a thirdparty discovery layer with their library services platform, they are likely to want to exploit its capabilities exposed in APIs to deliver functionality and content in other ways. Libraries may be willing to invest in these more unified comprehensive systems rather than multiple isolated systems; but only if they have strong confidence that they will be able to gain more efficiency in operation and better access to data and functionality through APIs. If libraries are to place more of their eggs into a single technology basket, their automation becomes more horizontally and vertically consolidated than previous models.
The past year has seen great progress in consolidating e-book discovery and lending into library catalogs and discovery services, establishing a strong expectation going forward for fully integrated patron experience in this area. In the past year or so e-book lending platforms, including those from OverDrive, 3M, and Baker & Taylor, have made APIs available that allow developers of online catalogs and discovery services to provide easier ways for library patrons to search print books and e-books simultaneously and to download titles on their e-reading devices as easily as they might place a hold on a print copy. The ReadersFirst Initiative articulates library requirements for such an integrated approach to e-book services. Going forward, I anticipate that e-book integration will become well-established as a library expectation and will be met not by the current, limited set of partnerships, but through all combinations of e-book lending platforms and catalog or discovery products. The building blocks of technical APIs and business partnership necessary to making this important expectation a reality seem to be coming together this year.
Momentum continues to build in the trend of libraries collaborating in ever larger implementations of shared automation infrastructure. I think that going forward more libraries that currently operate their own independent automation systems will consider some kind of shared environment as they replace their aging legacy ILS. In 2013 several critical projects were set in motion, including the Illinois Heartland Library System, which brings together four previously separate consortial ILS implementations into the single largest ILS in the United States, and the Orbis Cascade Alliance, where 37 academic libraries are moving away from their individual ILS systems to a single shared library services platform. The degree to which projects such as these are deemed successful will have an impact on the trajectory of this trend in the future. Internationally the trend seems strong, with projects brewing such as the national system for Danish public and school libraries underway, the BIBSYS project for a new-generation environment for all the academic libraries in Norway (both covered in this issue), and the tender recently issued by the public libraries of Ireland for a shared system. In the United States, this trend toward consolidated technology implementations may be more moderate, given fewer opportunities for centralized funding and more resistance to relinquish aspects of local control and autonomy.
Further vendor consolidation in the library technology industry remains a possibility. In 2013, we covered here examples of vendor consolidation with SirsiDynix acquiring EOS International (Smart Libraries Newsletter Dec 2013), OCLC adding HKA (Nov 2013) to its roster of acquisitions, and Axiell purchasing Adlib (Apr 2013). Although I do not have any specific deals in mind, I would be surprised if 2014 concluded without at least one more major business acquisition.
The ownership of the larger companies continues to be dominated by private equity firms. Ownership changes that transpired in 2013 include 3i PLC selling Civica to OMERS Private Equity, Goldman Sachs acquiring a minority stake in ProQuest, and JMI and HGGC completing its acquisition of Innovative Interfaces. Given the duration of some of the private equity ownership arrangements in the library technology industry, it would not be unexpected for one or more new rounds of investor turnover to take place in 2014. Consolidation within companies is another trend currently in motion. Some of the large organizations within the industry have undergone major changes in the way that they organize their subsidiaries or divisions. Outstanding examples include the consolidation of EBSCO Publishing into EBSCO Information services and SydneyPLUS bringing its wholly owned subsidiaries into a new company named Lucidea Corporation (both covered in Smart Libraries Newsletter Jul 2013) and Follett unifying all of its school-library oriented businesses into a single company (Aug 2013). A more subtle internal consolidation seems to be taking place within ProQuest, with a gradual diminishment of its individual brands, such as Serials Solutions, Bowker, and Dialog in favor of primary Pro- Quest branding, consistent with a more centralized management structure with executive portfolios that span multiple product lines.