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Supporting Print, Digital, and Mobile: Multiple platforms at the ALA exhibit hall

American Libraries [July - August 2014]

The exhibit hall at the ALA Annual Conference provided both a respite from the toasty weather of Las Vegas and a chance to learn about the latest developments in library technology arena. Not to discount the many publishers of content spanning the full range of print, electronic, and digital media as well as furniture, supplies, and the many other library-related organizations, this report highlights the most interesting and important technology-oriented products and services that caught my attention at the conference. As the world's largest exhibition of library products, the ALA conference continues to be a unique opportunity to assess current technologies from an almost comprehensive representation of vendors involved with libraries.

The initial impression of a somewhat smaller exhibit floor this year is borne out by the official attendance statistics reflecting fewer exhibitors registered compared to last year's Annual Conference in Chicago (5,607 vs. 6,125), but still ahead of the 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim (5,124). Many exhibitors mentioned that the traffic in the exhibit hall was busier than usual, with many attendees opting to stay close to the Convention Center during the day and venture out in the evening to the famous Las Vegas Strip for networking at receptions, restaurants, and other venues.

The diverse array of products at the conference reflects the reality that libraries face today, managing collections comprised of all media and formats. New library services platforms and evolving integrated library systems help libraries mange the increasing proportions of electronic and digital materials even as they maintain their print collections. Stakes are especially high with discovery services that function as the main gateway to these diverse collections and provide key touch points with library users. Developments among these discovery products expand the universe of content available, provide more sophisticated search capabilities, and—above all—deliver improved ease of use for patrons to and strengthen their engagement with the library. A strong contingent of suppliers of self-service stations, book sorters and other automated materials handling equipment reflects that libraries continue to manage extremely high volumes of print materials just as the proliferation of digital scanning equipment on display supports the efforts of libraries to create digital collections.

The ongoing rounds of mergers and acquisitions have taken its toll over the years on the numbers of booths in the exhibit hall. The acquisitions of Polaris and VTLS by Innovative Interfaces stood out as one of the top news events surrounding the conference. Current and prospective Polaris customers were keen to visit Innovative's booth to learn more about the implications of the acquisition on the Polaris product line, which Innovative assures will remain intact. VTLS's came into Innovative's fold so close to the conference that its booth arrangements were already set, though the shift in corporate branding was apparent. Innovative representatives showed off the latest versions of Sierra, the company's new library services platform which continues to see new sales and implementations of at a vigorous pace, Encore Duet, its discovery interface integrated with EBSCO Discovery Service for article-level search, the Polaris ILS, as well as many other products and services. With its international expansion in European operations centered in Dublin, Ireland, its support and development center in India, its strategic acquisitions of Polaris and VTLS represent a major expansion of the company since its 2012 transition of ownership.

SirsiDynix, another of the library automaton giants, announced BLUEcloud Campus designed to meet the requirements of academic and school libraries. This new offering builds on the Web-based BLUEcloud components deployed through a multi-tenant SaaS platform that have been the company's recent focus of development, integrating electronic resource management components provided by EBSCO Information Services. While SirsiDynix has seen a resurgence with public libraries, evidenced by the recent wins of the SWAN consortium in Illinois as the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service in Oregon, the company is developing BLUEcloud Campus to strengthen its position in the academic and school library sector. Also on display at the conference, eResource Central provides capabilities for the management and patron access to e-books and other electronic materials. Last year's acquisition of EOS International, translates into yet one less booth at the conference, with EOS.Web oriented to special libraries now on display from SirsiDynix.

As a company specializing in technology for academic and research libraries, Ex Libris is now promoting Alma, its new library services platform, full bore, with its initial development complete and many deployments now live in many regions of the globe. The consortial implementation of Alma underway at the Orbis Cascade Alliance continues to generate attention as a precedent setting model of shared automation infrastructure among a diverse set of academic institutions. Ex Libris continues to showcase Primo as its strategic discovery service, providing article-level access through the Primo Central index. One of the newer developments announced at the conference was a collaboration with YBP to streamline processing of acquisitions performed on the GOBI3 procurement platform and the acquisitions workflows in Alma.

The Library Corporation demonstrated the latest versions of both families of its automation products, Library.Solution and Carl.X. The LS2 PAC has been recently redesigned to provide a more elegant experience for library patrons, with a responsive design that accommodates smartphones as well as tablets and full-sized computer monitors. The company continues to develop and support Carl.X for the largest tier of municipal libraries. The selection of Carl.X by the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma City reflects its ongoing viability in the marketplace. The biggest news at TLC related to its announcement of Carl. Connect, a new-generation product based on Carl.X that provides new Web-based interfaces for all of the staff functions of the CARL suite of products that will ultimately replace the current set of Windows-based clients. The company also announced its second generation of APIs for the Carl platform.

ProQuest announced at the conference the availability of the foundation release of Intota, its new library services platform designed to provide discovery and management of all types of library resources. This initial release includes the capability to manage electronic resources, including support for demand-driven acquisitions, a new knowledgebase of metadata describing the universe of electronic, print, and digital resources, integrated collection analysis and assessment tools, integrated with the Summon discovery service. This release does not yet include the functionality to manage print resources, currently expected in 2015, that will allow a full transition from a library's legacy ILS. ProQuest also introduced a new version of its 360 Link with an improved approach to connecting users to full text through a feature it calls “Index-Enhanced Direct Linking”. The company also previewed its new e-book reader initially deployed for ebrary, and its intent to create a single e-book platform that consolidates ebrary and Ebook Library - EBL. Speaking of vendor and exhibit hall booth consolidation, Serials Solutions has now been fully integrated with ProQuest, though the ownership status has been longstanding.

EBSCO Information Services, like ProQuest, has become heavily involved in the technology realm in addition to its flagship content products. News related to its EBSCO Discovery Service included the release of a new Hosted Curriculum Builder plug-in to create and manage course reading lists in a learning management system based on resources available through EDS. Leveraging its recent acquisition of Plum Analytics, the company announced that PlumX has been extended with the capability to include usage statistics from its own databases and those available through EBSCO Discovery Service. Following the release of the NISO Open Discovery Initiative Recommended Practice the day prior to the opening of the conference, EBSCO issued a statement asserting its support.

The Follett island in the exhibits reflected the internal consolidation of the company completed in recent months, with a more unified structure for its products and services oriented toward K-12 schools. A unified business, Follett Learning, now represents an extensive array of products and services for PreK-12 districts, schools, classroom, and libraries. Some of the offerings of Follett Learning include print and electronic textbooks, e-books other learning materials, the TitleWave procurement platform, Destiny Asset Manager, Classroom Connections that provides digital instructional tools, the and Aspen student information system. On the library front most relevant to this conference, Follett has recently enhanced its Destiny Library Manager, used in 55,000 schools in the United States, to include a Universal Search feature, which provides discovery of collections of print materials as well as digital resources available to students and teachers from a wide variety of vendors.

As always, OCLC had a massive presence at the conference, both in the exhibit hall and through its many sponsored events. In addition to its many metadata and resource sharing services, OCLC featured its WorldShare Management Services and WorldCat Discovery Service at the conference. Just prior to the conference the University of Delaware became the first ARL member institution to deploy WMS in production. The new WorldCat Discovery Service provides a new platform that consolidates and provides a forward migration path for both WorldCat Local and the FirstSearch service, and provides a new central index of over 1.5 billion resources. A new report developed for the OCLC membership, “At a Tipping Point: Education, Learning and Libraries” provides statistics, observations, and analysis on the perceptions of information consumers related to online learning.

Auto-Graphics, a company specializing in automation and resource sharing products for public libraries, showed off the latest release of its ILS, VERSO 4. New capabilities include many staff features designed to run on tablets allowing tasks to be performed away from traditional service desks as well as mobile access to the online catalog for library patrons. Auto-Graphics has reworked the user interface design, providing a new user experience module that gives library personnel the tools to customize the Web pages provided through VERSO and to produce widgets that can be embedded in resources. The company also has a partnership with ChiliFresh to integrate social interactions, book reviews, and other features seamlessly using the APIs of the two respective platforms.

A first-time exhibitor, the Swedish company ReindexKnowledge come to introduce their fully Web-based integrated library system for small libraries in to the United States library market. Around 150 libraries, primarily in Scandinavia, currently use their Reindex library management system and the company is hoping to attract interest in other regions.

Companies providing services surrounding open source automation products were also well represented at the conference. Equinox Software, the dominant support vendor for the Evergreen ILS, debuted its new Sequoya hosting platform, designed to provide a scalable and robust hardware environment and support services for open source products including the Evergreen and Koha. Equinox also demonstrated FulFILLment Version 1.0, an open source interlibrary loan product it recently developed.

ByWater Solutions, specializing in hosting and support services for the open source Koha ILS, demonstrated its latest features, including those sponsored by 16 of its customer libraries. ByWater emphasizes that it works in close partnership with the global community of developers involved in the ongoing enhancement of Koha.

LibLime, a division of PTFS, previewed its new DLS 3.0, which consolidates the functionality of LibLime Academic Koha with digital content management, and a new cataloging editor. DLS 3.0 also includes geospatial discovery, including support for GeoMARC and a map interface in its discovery layer retrieval based on geo-tagged metadata records.

BiblioCommons demonstrated an ever expanding set of capabilities in its BiblioCore discovery platform for public libraries and its BiblioCMS environment that provides a comprehensive virtual presence, replacing the entire library web site. BiblioCommons, one of the earliest to provide full integration of e-book discovery and lending, has completed its API-level integration to support libraries that subscribe to the e-book services from OverDrive, 3M Library Services, and Baker & Taylor's Axis 360. BiblioCommons has also partnered with Zola Books to integrate their service, “Bookish Recommends” for providing recommendations to patrons based on an algorithm that taps into a database of 500,000 titles and 1.7 billion relationship elements. BiblioCommons has also extended the capability for library staff to create recommendations and reviews to feature items of interest.

Important developments continue in the e-book arena. We see improvements among the primary e-book lending services, full participation among the developers of online catalogs and discovery services for smooth integration of e-book discovery and lending, as well as tools to for library staff to manage their procurement, including support for demand-driven acquisitions. The ReadersFirst initiative has clearly made an impact not only in improving the availability of e-books from publishers for library loans, but also in improving the ease in which patrons can discover, check out, and download titles to read on their reading devices. Technologies related to e-books were one of the hottest areas of interest of the conference.

3M Library Services launched its new 3M Cloud Library app that provides a completely redesigned user experience for library patrons to search, browse, and check out e-book or audiobook titles. The new app offers new features, such as the ability to create personalized categories for organizing content and to tag favorite categories of materials. 3M has continued to expand the volume of content available through new publisher partnerships, resulting in a catalog of more than 300,000 titles from which libraries can select materials to offer to their patron. 3M also continues to improve its family of products related to self-service and security of a library's physical collections.

OverDrive, a pioneer and the dominant provider of e-book and audiobook lending services to libraries, featured its “eBook Lending Roadmap” which outlines its recent accomplishments and ongoing developments. The company continues to expand its content offerings and the lending models available, and has released a series of APIs that enable the integration of its platform with library catalogs and discovery services. OverDrive announced an upcoming improvement in the way that patrons use the service via the elimination of need for activation of the Adobe account, which has notoriously added to the complexity of e-book check-outs. A new widget, called the OverDrive ReadBox, features content that can help connect libraries to their users by providing samples of materials that can then be checked from the local library with an OverDrive subscription. Libraries can embed eBook samples within their local environment. In a move that provides a potential for even greater impact for public libraries, OverDrive has made agreements with The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Bing to embed book excerpts in articles using ReadBox.

OdiloTID has developed a platform that implements e-book lending that allows libraries to purchase and manage their own titles in addition to integrating with those access via subscriptions to providers such as OverDrive, 3M Library Systems, and Axis 360. eVokeColorado, a statewide e-book pilot project, has implemented the company's OdiloConsortia. Odilo also supports the e-book lending environment for the Douglas County Public Libraries. While fairly new in the United States, the company is well established in Spain and is also expanding into Latin America.

An emphasis on delivering library-oriented content and services through smartphones and other mobile devices was pervasive, both through products shown in many of the vendor booths and through a pavilion in the exhibit hall devoted to showcasing mobile products. The pavilion also offered a schedule of presentations allowing vendors to demonstrate their mobile apps. Given that mobile access to the Web exceeds that of full-sized computers in many contexts, the emphasis on mobile technologies at the conference was exceptionally relevant.

A number of vendors offering digital scanning hardware and software showed an impressive assortment of products oriented both to patron self-service and to library personnel involved in digitizing projects. Kodak Alaris demonstrated a variety of products that enable high volume scanning and processing of digital images. At this conference, the company emphasized its new software drivers that enable the use of Apple Macintosh computers with its scanning equipment, expanding beyond its longstanding support for computers operating under Microsoft Windows. Digital Library Systems Group, a business unit of Image Access, demonstrated an impressive array of scanning equipment in its prominent booth. Its product line ranges from those such as its Click or BookEdge scanners oriented to patron self-service for copying or digitizing library materials to the Bookeye scanners oriented to high-quality library digitization projects or the WideTEK models for large format materials. The Crowley Company provides not only a full range of scanning equipment but also offers services for libraries interested in outsourcing some of their digitizing projects. ScannX provides a variety of scanning products designed for libraries, but also offers a cloud-based platform designed to enable more user-friendly workflows for scanning and to optimize efficiency. Its Scannx Book ScanCenter provides an electronic document management system with a variety of options in the creation and delivery of scanned images. Scannanalytics allows libraries to measure and improve scanning productivity through the analysis of metrics gathered during system operation.

Technologies that improve the efficiency in which libraries manage their physical materials represent another important sector in the exhibits. Technologies based on RFID tags continue to prosper, especially among busy public libraries. EnvisionWare demonstrated their RFID self-service and theft detection systems based on RFID technology as well as their products to help libraries manage access to public computers and printers. EnvisionWare works with any of the major integrated library systems to integrate with the patron database for authentication and fee management. D-Tech, a European firm that recently expanded into the United States, offers a variety of library self-service based on RFID and other tagging technologies. The company recently introduced holdIT, which enables patrons to securely pick up requested materials from designated drawers in a self-service kiosk, allowing unattended fulfillment of reserves. Bibliotheca, an international firm specializing in technologies to help libraries manage their physical materials and other services, featured a variety of their products including their self-service kiosks, mobile tools for inventory, and products for automated return of library materials. For libraries with high-volume circulation interested in sorting and automated materials handling, companies such as Lyngsoe Systems, mk Solution, P.V. Supa, Inc., and TechLogic all brought impressive products to see in action.

The many vendors that invest in the conference through their participation in the exhibit hall make an important contribution, not only in their financial support, but also in lending their time to engage with current and potential customers. This year I was particularly impressed with not only the capabilities of the products on display but with the individuals staffing the booths able to provide a high-level overview or answer in-depth questions. As always, the exhibit hall complemented the extensive programming of the conference as a great opportunity to learn about the state of the art in library technology.

View Citation
Publication Year:2014
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: American Libraries
Issue:July - August 2014
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:19586
Last Update:2022-11-25 18:55:02
Date Created:2014-07-30 07:36:08