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Smarter Libraries Through Technology: Vendor Strategies Address Diverse Needs of Libraries

Smart Libraries Newsletter [June 2015]

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Companies in the library technology industry must continually assess and refine their target audience or market sector. No product or service can meet the expectations of all types of libraries. Vendors must make difficult choices on where to concentrate their efforts. In library technology, one size does not fit all, but rather each system must be designed to align with the strategic needs of their target market. Defining an area of specialization too narrowly can limit opportunities. We can see examples where companies have widened their original target sector to expand their prospects for new customers. In a slightly different vein, it is also interesting to observe the technology products emerging from some of the larger and more diverse companies, especially EBSCO and ProQuest, and the dynamics that can come into play as these organizations become involved in supplying different categories of products. In all of these scenarios, libraries must work hard to identify the technology products best aligned to their strategic needs and the providers most in tune with their expectations.

Ex Libris, one of the largest of the technology-focused companies in the industry, has a long-established focus on the academic and research library sector. Its strategy has been to create a deep stack of products to support the multiple layers of needs experienced by these libraries. Expanding beyond its Aleph and Voyager integrated library systems, Ex Libris has defined new product genres or developed products in emerging categories. Examples include SFX as the first context-sensitive link resolver; Verde as an entrant in the stand-alone electronic resource management systems arena; Primo as an early discovery interface; Primo Central as an index-based discovery service; Rosetta for digital preservation; and Alma as a library services platform to manage all types of library resources. In its most recent phase, Ex Libris has expanded its scope of interest to the broader academic institution, breaking beyond those products specifically oriented to the library. This expansion began with the launch of its Leganto list management software, which leverages the infrastructure developed for the library, but is operated through the institution's learning management system. Its primary users are course instructors. The decision makers for this product may be in the campuswide instructional support organization and not necessarily in the library. The acquisition of oMbiel and its campus platform brings the company a step beyond the library arena, but still within higher educational institutions. We cover the oMbiel acquisition and provide an update on Leganto in this issue.

Follett provides another example of a company focused on a specific sector. Through its technology products initially focused on the K-12 school libraries, the company has a wellestablished product strategy of developing or acquiring products that serve the information and administrative needs of the district. In addition to its Destiny Library Manager, the company has created versions of its flagship platform to manage textbooks or other assets. Its Aspen student management system has been adopted in many school districts. Beyond these technology tools, Follett offers multiple channels for selling books and electronic resources to schools.

Infor, Civica, and Capita have developed products to support many different aspects of local government administration. Each also offers library management products, but these fall within a broader line of products. The domain expertise and marketing leverage overlaps to a smaller extent within the local government area than seems to be the case in the different educational sectors.

Innovative is an example of a company that has managed to serve a very diverse customer base including academic, public, and special libraries. The company has developed technology products with detailed functionality that seems able to meet the needs that all these different types of libraries share in common. To meet more specialized needs, its customer libraries may either work with one of Innovative's partners, such as with EBSCO Discovery Service. Innovative has also cast a wide net geographically.

It also has been interesting to observe the increasing involvement in the technology sector by companies traditionally rooted in the creation or distribution of content resources. EBSCO Information Services and ProQuest fit in this category. Both provide content products in general, multidisciplinary, or specialized disciplines. They also offer a variety of tools related to the management or access of library content. The following stable illustrates some of the striking similarities in the types business activities addressed by the two different companies and the products developed or businesses acquired to fulfill these roles. This comparative matrix may add some perspective to this month's feature on the acquisition of Coutts Information Service by ProQuest.

CategoryProQuestEBSCO Information Services
OwnershipCambridge Information Group
Goldman Sachs
Privately held by Stevenson family
Content delivery platformProQuest PlatformEBSCOhost
Ebook Library—EBL MyiLibrary
Ebooks on EBSCOhost, descended from NetLibrary acquisition
Book acquisition platformOASIS (part of Coutts)GOBI3 (from YBP acquisition)
Periodical subscription serviceEBSCONET
Discovery serviceSummonEBSCO Discovery Service
Link resolver360 LinkLinkSource, Full Text Finder
Library services platformIntota (in development)None (Integration strategy)

Even as companies offer products addressing a wide range of content or technology interests, few libraries would be in a position to work with a single vendor. It's much more likely that libraries will work with a diverse set of vendors as they make their optimal selections for content and for resource management or discovery products. The mix of vendors and providers selected by libraries often results in scenarios where organizations that compete in one area must cooperate in others. It is not at all unusual for a library to purchase content from one provider and use resource management or discovery products from its competitor.

As the business arena becomes increasingly consolidated with a smaller set of companies offering ever more expansive portfolios of products and services, it's important for libraries to understand any potential tensions or incompatibilities. Libraries expect that products created by different vendors work well together. Library technology products are expected to follow standards, offer APIs for data exchange, or conform to any recommended practices that govern the openness of a product genre.

View Citation
Publication Year:2015
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 35 Number 06
Issue:June 2015
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:20821
Last Update:2022-11-29 00:40:55
Date Created:2015-07-02 17:01:47