Though a smaller number of library technology products are available today compared to a decade or two ago, the business and development models span a wider range. In the past, more companies were offering more products, but often with little differentiation. Each of the different approaches in play today seems to offer advantages and disadvantages, which will be validated over time.
A quick review of some of the major products highlights these differences:
- OCLC, a nonprofit membership organization, has developed World- Share Management Services and WorldCat Discovery Services as a multi-tenant platform based on proprietary software. Interestingly, OCLC also owns for-profit companies, mostly in Europe, that offer traditional integrated library systems.
- Ex Libris, a private, for-profit company owned by a private equity firm, offers Alma and Primo Central as multi-tenant platforms based on proprietary software.
- SirsiDynix, a private, for-profit company owned by a private equity firm, offers a hybrid model that includes its new BLUEcloud Suite of services deployed in a multi-tenant platform that interoperates with its Horizon and Symphony ILS products, created as server-oriented, proprietary applications.
- Evergreen, an open source integrated library system, is developed and supported primarily through Equinox Software, Inc, a for-profit company that has recently developed a proprietary hosting platform called Sequoia.
- Koha, an open source integrated library system, is developed and supported through a diverse international community of developers, including both nonprofit and for-profit companies. In the United States, the vast majority of its implementations in libraries are supported through for-profit companies, such as ByWater Solutions.
- ProQuest, a large diversified private company involved in publishing content in addition to providing library management and discovery tools is developing Intota as a multi-tenant platform based on proprietary software.
- Auto-Graphics, a publicly held company, offers VERSO as Web-based single-tenant system based on proprietary software.
- Equinox, a small private company, offers Apollo, a web-based, multi-tenant platform based on proprietary software.
Innovative Interfaces, a private, for-profit company owned by a pair of private equity firms' offers Sierra as its new-generation library services platform, primarily deployed as a server-oriented system, evolving toward a multi-tenant architecture, based on proprietary software.
In addition, another set of middle-sized and smaller companies offer other proprietary integrated library systems, most developed as server-oriented products rather than multi-tenant platforms. Note that even though the product or platform itself may be proprietary, almost all make use of open source software internally. Most, if not all, also offer some degree of openness through application programming interfaces (APIs), providing programmatic access to their data and functionality. These examples illustrate an interesting matrix of software licenses and business models. Many for-profit companies participate in the ecosystem of open source development, just as nonprofits can produce proprietary software.
The mix of business models and software licenses became a bit more complicated in recent weeks due to changes announced with the Kuali set of business applications for higher education. For the last decade, Kuali projects have been governed through a nonprofit foundation acting on behalf of its membership, composed primarily of educational institutions. The Kuali OLE project to develop a new generation library management system was the most recent addition to that initiative. In recent news, a for-profit commercial entity has been established to take the Kuali applications forward in a more aggressive and ambitious manner. This month's issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter covers the initial success of Kuali OLE in its first two production deployments in the libraries of Lehigh University and the University of Chicago. I'll also explore the implications of the changes underway at the Kuali Foundation and the impact on Kuali OLE.