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Smart Libraries Q&A: Trends in resource management and discovery systems

Smart Libraries Newsletter [October 2017]


What trends are you noticing with resource management and discovery systems? Are more libraries mixing and matching products from different vendors or utilizing the discovery system provided by their ILS vendor?

Resource management and discovery represent two of the major components of a library's technical infrastructure. Resource management systems, such as ILSs and library services platforms, provide functionality to enable library personnel to acquire and manage library collections. Discovery services enable library users to find and gain access to library collections. Although a library will also have other technology components in its environment, these two components provide the foundation for much of the library's core activities.

This bicameral infrastructure takes different forms: the discovery and management components can be bundled together or they can be implemented separately. Several different factors may impact the choices libraries make regarding their strategies for deploying these components.

Libraries that follow the bundled route, can expect the resource management system and discovery service to be tightly integrated, with the vendor taking full responsibility for their technical interactions. Even though the products may be also offered as separable components, when purchased together, the technical integration can be expected to work with little intervention.

Acquiring discovery and management systems separately enables the library to choose the product that works best for its staff to perform their work and to select the discovery service that provides optimal access to their collections. In some cases, the library may go through separate selection processes for each of these components and select both from the same vendor, but many will instead want a mixed environment.

Public Library Discovery Trends

Most public libraries opt to use the online catalog or discovery service from the vendor of their ILS. The patron-facing products created by the ILS vendors have steadily evolved and have gained the features needed to provide access to public library collections. The pairings within each vendor's product family include:

  • SirsiDynix: Enterprise with Symphony or Horizon
  • Innovative: Encore with Sierra or Millennium; PowerPAC with Polaris
  • The Library Corporation: LS2 PAC with Library•Solution

The online catalog module cannot easily be separated for many of the ILSs serving small to mid-sized public libraries. Also, these smaller libraries lack the resources to integrate multiple products. Some of the products where few, if any examples, use third-party catalog or discovery services include Biblionix Apollo, Auto-Graphics Verso, and Book Systems Atrium.

Table 1: Discovery Trends—Public Libraries in the United States
Installations Native CatalogILS DiscoveryVuFindBiblioCommons

Almost all public libraries using the open source Evergreen ILS use its built-in web-based catalog, with the notable exception of King County Library System, which uses Biblio- Core. Almost all libraries using Koha rely on its online catalog. A smaller portion of public libraries have implemented discovery interfaces other than the one provided with their ILS. This arrangement comes with the need to populate and continually update the index of the discovery interface with bibliographic records managed by the ILS. Dynamic mechanisms also need to be implemented to enable patron services to be managed by the discovery interface and to provide real-time shelf status of materials. These mechanisms have become well established, but it does add a layer of complexity to the library's technical infrastructure compared to using the catalog provided by the ILS vendor.

Among larger public libraries, BiblioCommons stands out as the company with a track record of displacing the online catalog of the ILS. Their BiblioCore discovery interface provides full search and retrieval capabilities, assumes control of all patron services, and incorporates many features drawn from the realm of social networks. About 75 public libraries in the United States have implemented BiblioCore. Some of the larger ones include Boston Public Library (with Polaris), Columbus Metropolitan Library (Polaris), Hennepin County Library (Horizon), Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (Horizon), Seattle Public Library (Horizon), King County Library System (Evergreen), and San Francisco Public Library (Sierra). Some libraries have moved away from BiblioCore to the discovery interface from their ILS vendor, including New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and the CLEVNET Library Consortium.

The VuFind open source discovery interface has also been adopted by many public libraries to replace their native ILS catalog. A customized discovery environment called Pika based on VuFind was developed by the Marmot Library Network in Colorado to use in tandem with their Sierra ILS, as well as others in Colorado including the libraries participating in the AspenCat catalog (LibLime Koha), and the Rangeview Library District (Horizon); libraries beyond Colorado using Pika include the Arlington County Public Library (Sierra), Anne Arundel County Library (Symphony), Nashville Public Library (Carl.X), Santa Fe Public Library (Sierra), and the Wake County Public Library (Horizon). Many other public libraries have implemented VuFind apart from the Pika customizations.

A discovery interface called AquaBrowser was commonly used in public libraries from about 2005 through 2012. It has since fallen out of favor with only one library system in the United States remaining.

Table 1 provides data from the directory of libraries in Library Technology Guides to illustrate these trends. The table includes counts of some of the combination of ILSs and discovery products. To better reflect the overall impact of the trends, it supplies both counts of the library organizations as well as the total number of branches represented in each scenario. Separate columns describe the ILS Discovery products, such as Enterprise or Encore. The “Native Catalog” columns represent the built-in ILS online catalog modules.

Academic Library Discovery Trends

Academic libraries see quite a different set of trends related to discovery. These libraries seek the best tools to provide access to their users to their multi-faceted collections, including electronic resources as well as print. These libraries are increasingly moving to library services platforms, such as Ex Libris Alma and OCLC WorldShare Management Services. These products have relatively strong ties to the discovery service offered by the same provider. Ex Libris and OCLC bundle their discovery and management products together, though libraries sometimes prefer a different combination. The default pairing of Alma with Primo and WorldShare Management Services with WorldCat Discovery Service prevail, but there are notable exceptions. Academic libraries using ILSs such as Ex Libris Voyager, SirsiDynix Symphony, or Innovative's Sierra often will use them in conjunction with one of the index-based discovery services.

Table 2: Discovery Trends—Academic Libraries
TotalPrimo CentralSummonEDSWorldCatNative Catalog
Voyager255352405027324752 7

Ex Libris recently has softened its position on bundling Alma only with Primo. When the company was acquired by ProQuest it committed to having Summon as a fully supported patron interface. Open source discovery interfaces, such as Blacklight and VuFind also now enjoy official support. The University of Pennsylvania will implement Alma in conjunction with the Summon index and a locally developed discovery interface. Eastern Michigan University was the first library to implement Alma with Summon as its patron interface; Maurist College has opted for the same arrangement.

EBSCO Information Services does not offer its own ILS or library services platform, but can be used with any of them. For all the management products other than Alma, EDS can function as a complete patron interface, including patron account services.

Academic libraries in recent years have generally opted for Alma or WorldShare Management Services as they seek new resource management products, in most cases going with the default bundling option. Ex Libris recently reported Carnegie Mellon University as the thousandth library to select Alma. This has meant that EBSCO Discovery Service, one of the dominant products in this genre, has been displaced by several libraries because of this prevailing trend. Libraries, as it seems, may see that the difference in capabilities of the discovery services does not warrant breaking apart the bundled management and discovery products. The paired products come with built-in integration and avoids complications of dealing with multiple vendors for implementation and support. In some cases, however, libraries insist on using the best discovery product that meets the needs of its patrons and the resource management platform with the best features for its staff members to use for their work.

At least 60 implementations of EBSCO Discovery Service have been displaced by academic libraries that have selected Alma with the bundled Primo discovery components. Some libraries opting for Alma have retained EBSCO Discovery Service, including the University System of Georgia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A much larger number of libraries implementing World- Share Management Services have chosen to use EBSCO Discovery Service for article-level discovery instead of WorldCat Discovery Services.

Substantial numbers of academic libraries using the ILS products from SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces have implemented EBSCO Discovery Service. These two companies have not developed their own article-level discovery indexes, but have instead formed partnerships with EBSCO. SirsiDynix offers its Enterprise interface with article-level discovery powered by EBSCO Discovery Service as does Innovative's Encore Duet.

Both Innovative and SirsiDynix have lost ground to Ex Libris in the academic library sector since the launch of Alma. Further erosion of their academic market share will not only weaken their position, but also has implications for EBSCO, since replacements of Symphony, Horizon, Millennium, or Sierra would likely come with Primo and mean displacements of EBSCO Discovery Service. This provides some context for EBSCO's support of FOLIO as an open source alternative to Alma. FOLIO has been designed to integrate with any discovery service. EBSCO will offer hosting and other services for FOLIO, and will naturally promote EBSCO Discovery Service.

Table 2 provides data from to illustrate discovery trends among academic libraries. While the directory provides strong coverage of academic libraries in the United States, it is not as comprehensive elsewhere. The numbers generally can be taken as representative of the trends, but not as definitive. Counts are provided for the number of academic libraries, not including branches both for those in the United States and globally. The statistics given for WorldCat combine WorldCat Local and WorldCat Discovery Services.

View Citation
Publication Year:2017
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 37 Number 10
Issue:October 2017
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:23323
Last Update:2023-01-27 12:09:34
Date Created:2018-03-24 10:37:32