In this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, we cover a major transition in open source library software. EBSCO Information Services has launched an initiative to develop a new open source library services platform for academic libraries. With the backing of EBSCO, one of the largest companies oriented to libraries, this project has the potential to gain traction quickly. The Kuali OLE project, which has seen extensive coverage in this publication, facing a variety of complications, has opted to shift its efforts from the software, which it has been developing in the course of its project, to lending its resources to the EBSCO-sponsored initiative.
Those anticipating an open source library services platform may be disappointed to see the Kuali OLE software, which has been under development since 2008, ultimately not go forward. It is also important, however, to recognize the important contributions made by the project. It has advanced the state of the art in workflows for efficient management of electronic and print resources in academic libraries. Also, it has built a strong community of libraries engaged in open source software. This work will be vital to the success of the new initiative and will accelerate its progress.
The transition underway promises continuity, launching a new development initiative while winding down another. The individuals and institutions involved in Kuali OLE have pivoted to engage with the new project. Rather than starting from scratch, the project has assets, such as the existing community and vision of Kuali OLE, that otherwise would take significant time to develop.
In the context of the competitive dynamics of the academic library technology industry, ProQuest—with Ex Libris as part of its arsenal—and EBSCO Information Services hold opposing visions for resource management and discovery. Ex Libris has emphasized a unified approach. Its Primo brings together search across all aspects of library collections. Alma manages electronic, digital, and print materials. In combination, they offer synergy. EBSCO in contrast favors a more modular approach, where libraries choose patron-facing discovery services independently of the software managing collections. Each favors differing approaches to openness. Ex Libris has created a global, multi-tenant platform based on proprietary software, providing APIs for extensibility and interoperability. EBSCO has championed open source software for the platform itself, enabling libraries to become involved directly in its development. Given the vast resources of these two organizations, we can expect vigorous competition as each works to instantiate its vision in the marketplace.
This new initiative is in its early phase with many of the details still being worked out. It has not even settled on a name. Yet work is already underway. This feature article in this issue provides details and context as is currently available. Readers can expect further coverage as the project takes shape and moves forward.