In recent weeks, important milestones have been reached in the development and deployment of new technology systems for public libraries by Scandinavian companies. Although not currently available to libraries in North America, these two projects provide an opportunity to observe the impact of new platforms built anew with current technology components and architectures in a sector mostly dominated by integrated library system (ILS) products based on older architectures.
In the academic and research library sector, the new genre of library services platforms emerged in the late 2010s as an entirely new approach for the management and fulfillment of electronic and print collections. Ex Libris Alma and OCLC WorldShare Management Services have seen widespread adoption, steadily displacing legacy ILS products oriented primarily to manage print resources. The FOLIO initiative is advancing toward an open source library services platform based on the microservices architecture, which is expected to be ready for deployment in 2018.
Public libraries, in contrast, have mostly continued to rely on ILSs that have followed an evolutionary path. SirsiDynix has modernized both its Symphony and Horizon ILS products through the development of its BLUEcloud platform, which provides web-based interfaces and new areas of functionality. BLUEcloud itself, however, is not positioned as an independent platform apart from a library's implementation of Horizon or Symphony. Innovative has consistently followed an evolutionary strategy with its ILS products, as seen in the progression from INNOPAC to Millennium to Sierra. Its Polaris product has been enhanced with web-based interfaces while retaining its core technical infrastructure. The company is developing a new multi-tenant technology platform to complement its core products. The Library Corporation's Library•Solution and CARL•X products have seen steady advancement but are both based on well-established architectures. The Spydus platform from Civica has evolved and incrementally reengineered with each new version, leading up to the current Spydus 10 that fully integrates print and digital resource management and discovery. One notable exception, Apollo from Biblionix, introduced in 2006, was developed as an ILS for small to mid-sized public libraries based on a multi-tenant web-based platform.
The reliance of public libraries on evolved products has been a reasonable strategy to meet their core automation needs. Public libraries continue to manage collections comprised mostly of print materials. They appreciate the mature functionality that remains available in these evolved products and that would take some time to mature in newly-built platforms. The transaction loads of public libraries associated with their circulation activity has been well supported by the server-oriented architecture of the incumbent products. Even the busiest of academic libraries do not approach the number of annual loan transactions carried out in a typical public library. Multi-tenant cloud-based platforms can theoretically support these loads, but the incumbent generation of products has an established track record. While public libraries are increasingly shifting to vendor-hosted server-based systems, there has been a bit more skepticism regarding true cloud-based platforms. Two initiatives have been underway in Scandinavia to develop new platforms for public libraries based on multitenant cloud platforms: Axiell Quria and Cicero developed by Systematic.
Quria has been previously featured in Smart Libraries Newsletter (July 2016) as a new product in development by Axiell, a major technology provider for libraries, archives, and museums. The company is based in Sweden and its legacy ILS products are used primarily by libraries in Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. Quria has been developed as a new library services platform intended to align with the current realities of public libraries increasingly involved in providing access to materials in digital form in addition to their traditional print lending services. By creating a design to address digital services as the primary emphasis but layering functionality for traditional lending, Axiell hopes to provide a product that will help libraries meet the current needs and future expectations of their clientele as the proportions of e-book lending increases over time.
As of September 2017, the Drammen Public Library in Norway became the first library to move to Quria as their production system. Along with Quria, the library has implemented Axiell's Arena portal as the basis for its website and online catalog. With this initial implementation complete in Norway, Quria is positioned to enter as a new competitor in the public library technology industry.
Another new product, branded as Cicero, has been developed by Systematic for the public and school libraries in Denmark. This project has previously been covered in Smart Libraries Newsletter using its Danish name Fælles Biblioteks- System, which means “shared library system.” In January 2014, Dantek A/S, the Aarhus-based provider of the BiblioMatik automation system for school libraries, was engaged by KOMBIT, a non-profit procurement organization, to commence the development of a new automation system to be shared by the public and school libraries. The initiative was based on an optin participation model. In August 2014, Dantek was acquired by Systematic, a large IT services company, bringing substantially more development capacity toward the completion of this ambitious project.
Cicero was developed entirely anew, apart from the code base of Dantek's BiblioMatik or other existing systems. The data model is based on a single bibliographic database shared by participating libraries. The technology infrastructure was developed as a multi-tenant platform.
Cicero is the basis of a national shared platform for public and school libraries, with libraries in 97 out of the 98 counties in Denmark participating. The libraries in Hjørring are the only ones that have not yet agreed to participate. The implementation of this shared library system has been mostly completed, with final migrations taking place in October 2017. It supports about 1,500 public libraries and learning centers for schools throughout Denmark. In aggregate, these libraries conduct over 50 million loan transactions annually. Systematic will also market Cicero outside of Denmark. The Central Library of Greenland has signed a contract for the product; libraries in Sweden and Germany have also licensed the product with upcoming implementations.
For more information on Cicero, see: https://system atic.com/library-learning/loesninger/by-name/cicero /library-management-system/.
Libraries in Scandinavia have long been on the forefront of innovation. They have been early adopters of RFID technologies, for example, which is used in almost all libraries in the region. It will be interesting to observe whether these ILSs developed in Scandinavia will have an impact on the library technology industry outside this region.