As another year concludes, it is time for a quick review of what has transpired and what readers can expect in the next year. Smart Libraries Newsletter aims to provide current information and perspective on the library technology industry. Libraries make significant investments in technology products and services that shape the daily work life of almost all personnel and are essential vehicles in delivering the library's services to its community. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to produce this monthly newsletter to chronicle the critical technologies upon which libraries rely.
Facts Plus Perspective
No other publication focuses exclusively on the library technology industry. Smart Libraries Newsletter provides in-depth coverage on any major event, supplemented by the historical background of the entities involved. I occasionally provide editorial comments, which should be easily from the objective details. At least some degree of the value of the newsletter derives from its editorial standard seen in the selection of events to cover, consistently garnering and vetting details with the individuals directly involved, and with the inclusion of relevant details and historical developments from a variety of other sources. Smart Libraries Newsletter places utmost value in ensuring that its articles are factually correct. Standard practice includes allowing the individuals and organizations involved to review any article written about them in time to provide any corrections or clarifications. While the subjects may not always agree with editorial comments given, they have the opportunity to identify any factual errors.
As I develop the newsletter, the target audience I address would include library staff who are involved in selection, implementation, and use of major technology products or those responsible for defining strategies related to technology. But Smart Libraries Newsletter isn't only for the consumers of library technology— it also aims to inform those on the production side. Individuals associated with a vendor will naturally pay close attention to how we cover their own products and those of their competitors or partners.
Scope and Coverage
The scope of the newsletter isn't strictly defined, but it generally aims to cover the strategic technology products and the organizations that produce and support them. It usually does not cover trends in consumer technologies and devices, though those trends may at times come into play in the realm of library-specific products. The ever rising adoption of mobile technologies, for example, hasn't been covered discretely, but comes up repeatedly in the discussion of patron-facing library products and services. It's essential to be in tune with the broader trends in consumer and business, though our focus is centered on library technologies.
Key product genres that receive consistent attention are tools that libraries use to describe and manage their collections, including library services platforms, integrated library systems, digital asset management systems, electronic resource management and linking utilities, or repository platforms. I'm also on the lookout for other products or technologies with potential significant impact for libraries. The development of the SirsiDynix BLUEcloud Suite, providing a new multi-tenant platform to extend the capabilities of the company's Symphony and Horizon products, initially discussed in March 2013, saw further coverage in August 2014 with the BLUEcloud Campus initiative.
Some articles deal with new products that have been announced, but may not yet have seen the tests of production use. In these cases I attempt to reflect the design and intent of these new products, since readers may benefit from knowing about them for future consideration. As these products eventually see completion and adoption, I also aim to produce followup stories that discuss how well they live up to expectations.
Kuali OLE stands as an example. Smart Libraries Newsletter has covered its progression from its conceptual design (October 2008 issue), through its software development phase (June 2010, March 2013), and more recently as it has been placed into production in its first two libraries, featured in the October 2014 issue. Yet the Kuali OLE story isn't complete. The version implemented thus far focuses on print resource management. In 2015 readers can expect to read about how well new versions that also manage electronic resources fare as well as its adoption by additional libraries that have been part of the development partnership.
Likewise, ProQuest Intota remains in the unproven category, with development well underway, but not yet in production in libraries. The initial announcement of Intota Assessment, a precursor product, was covered in the March 2013 issue, with its general release featured in January 2014. Intota Foundation Release, focusing on managing electronic resources, was discussed in our August 2014 issue. Next up, 2015 will be a critical year for ProQuest Intota with the planned release of the full product with comprehensive resource management capabilities.
Even more important than the products used by library personnel are those oriented to patrons. Discovery services have been one of the most interesting product genres in the past few years. In this age of index-based discovery services that aim to provide near comprehensive access to library collection items across all formats, we keep a close watch on products including EBSCO Discovery Service, Primo, WorldCat Discovery Service, and Summon. In March 2014 we covered the launch of OCLC's WorldCat Discovery Service, making a transition from its FirstSearch service and WorldCat Local. Summon 2.0, whose initial launch was covered in March 2013, has seen deployment through 2014. New capabilities related to EBSCO Discovery Service were reported, including the new Curriculum Builder (August 2014) and the new Full Text Finder, featured in this issue. ProQuest Flow, the successor to the popular RefWorks citation management product, was covered in Feb 2014.
Smart Libraries Newsletter also takes great interest in the changes and trends in the business side of the industry. Any major transitions, such as strategic acquisitions or investments, mergers among any of the players, or major internal restructuring, have great potential to impact the libraries engaged with these organizations and thus warrant detailed attention.
The library technology industry saw some significant events in 2014, generally continuing the trend of consolidation among companies as well as through internal organizational changes. One of the most dramatic series of events involved the by Innovative Interfaces' acquisition of Polaris, a company with almost unstoppable momentum in the US public library arena. The May 2014 issue provided extensive coverage. The subsequent acquisition of internationally-oriented VTLS was covered in the following July issue. Though less dramatic, our January issue covered the expansion of Innovative into the Arab Gulf Region through a business partnership with Naseej. ProQuest made some major changes in its business, covered in March 2014, that saw Serials Solutions dropped as a separate brand and business, with its activities fully integrated into the company. Another interesting business story relates to the launch of KualiCo as a new commercial company that is expected to play a dominant role in the open source Kuali projects, discussed in October 2014. Though so far we've seen no direct impact on the Kuali OLE project, I will monitor with considerable interest any possible involvement of KualiCo in the months or years to come.
It's not possible, naturally, to predict what changes might be in store for the library technology industry in 2015. Every year sees a steady pattern of some changes, so it would be remarkable if the business scene remained entirely quiet. I believe that it is likely that some companies will change ownership in the next year, with a smaller possibility of transitions resulting in further consolidation. As always, it will be interesting to see what happens. It is also important to keep in mind the remarkable stability of the library technology industry. No companies have gone bankrupt in recent memory. Most of the mergers that have happened resulted in manageable product transitions that did not impose dramatic disruption. Even in the merger with the reputation for the most disruption, that of SirsiDynix, both legacy products, Symphony and Horizon, remain alive and well after nine years.
I also recognize the importance of the people in major leadership roles in the industry. While I can't cover every appointment, changes in the top positions warrant mention. This year has been relatively uneventful. Our November 2014 issue noted the appointment of Eric Hines as the new President of Ex Libris North America. This month we note new appointments to the OCLC Board of Trustees.
Most of my treatment of organizations in the industry is triggered by some major event. Those that keep a steady, albeit positive course might go unrecognized. In order to recognize those with less dramatic histories, Smart Libraries Newsletter occasionally features selected companies and products. Our September 2014 issue, for example, profiled Biblionix, a company that has developed Apollo as an entirely Web-based automation system for small public libraries. Several articles related to the Koha open source ILS appeared in the April 2014 issue.
The churn of libraries selecting and renewing system selections every year fuels the industry. I naturally cannot cover these routine transactions. Some, however, reflect a major trend or have such a large impact that they merit attention. Two in this category include the strategy in Denmark to deploy a single nationwide system for the public and school libraries, which we noted in our January 2014 issue was awarded to Dantek. The selection of Sierra from Innovative Interfaces for the public libraries throughout Ireland was the main topic of the November 2014 issue. While the opportunities for other truly national systems may be few and far between, I anticipate that there will be an increasing number of large-scale automation projects where large numbers of libraries band together for a shared system to enable efficiency and cooperation. Such winner-take-all projects have the potential to reshape the relative positions of the companies and products, favoring those able to master massively scaled deployments.
There should be no shortage of interesting products and events to chronicle in year ahead. It would also be beneficial for readers to become more involved. In addition to the usual coverage of new developments in the industry, I would welcome any questions or suggested topic. I look forward to another year covering the library technology industry through Smart Libraries Newsletter.