We are now five years into the deployment of the genre of library services platforms. This breed of software, implemented primarily in academic and other types of research libraries, departs from the model of the integrated library system (ILS) in several critical areas. Although the conceptual and technical development of this new type of library software was in the works for a few years, its deployment in libraries began in 2011. At this five-year benchmark it is of interest to review the current landscape of these products, assess the level of adoption, and note any discernable trends.
I initially introduced the term “Library Services Platform” in this publication for its August 2011 issue, and it has been adopted fairly broadly in reference to this category of products. The following excerpt describes the rationale for proposing this term rather than continuing to consider these products within the existing category of ILSs:
It is clear that the connotation of the term “integrated library system” fails to capture the essence of this new generation of products, as does the term “library management system,” though it is used in other parts of the English-speaking world. While the new genre entrants are indeed integrated—even more so than those of the past generation— the term ILS has become synonymous with the print-oriented products. We see that OCLC and Serials Solutions have both latched onto the term “Web-scale.” Ex Libris tags their product “unified resource management.” One might be tempted to use a term such as “next-generation integrated system,” but such a designation comes with a short shelf life, especially for long-overdue revitalizations.
I'm gravitating toward the term “library services platform” for this new software genre. The products are library-specific, they enable the library to perform its services, internally and externally though their built-in functionality, as well as exposing a platform of Web services and other APIs for interoperability and custom development. In a time when long-standing terms like “integrated library system,” or OPAC bring along considerable negative baggage, we need new terms when we talk about what comes next. In the same way that discovery services has become a fairly well accepted genre for the patron interfaces that replaced online catalogs, I posit something like library services platform for the genre of software that replaces the legacy of integrated library systems.1
This issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter gives an overview of the progress of the genre of library services platforms. We review the basic functional and technical characteristics that have coalesced in these products and report on the level of acceptance these products have received in the field. These products have sparked a major transition in technology infrastructure for academic libraries and warrant our ongoing attention.
1. Marshall Breeding, “The Beginning of the End of the ILS in Academic Libraries,” Smart Libraries Newsletter XXXI, no. 8 (2011): 2–3.