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Smarter Libraries Through Technology: Trends in Resource Management and Discovery Product Strategies

Smart Libraries Newsletter [March 2018]

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Library services platforms are an established genre of technology products that provide library staff members with the tools to manage almost all aspects of their work. The current slate of products is oriented to academic and research libraries, but at least one new offering for public libraries are in the wings. These products do not necessarily include interfaces used by library patrons for discovery and access of library collections and services. In the current business landscape, each of the organizations offering a library services platform has also developed an index-based discovery service that can also be used in conjunction with other resource management solutions. In most cases, these two products are packaged together. The bundling or integration between library services platforms and discovery services has become a sensitive topic for academic libraries and in the competitive business environment.

OCLC, for example, usually packages WorldShare Management Services with its WorldCat Discovery Service or with WorldCat Local. It is technically possible to use other discovery products with WorldShare Management Services, though very few libraries have opted to venture outside the bundled package. Alma by default is bundled with the Primo discovery interface and Primo Central article-level index. These products, though designed to work together, are managed through their own back office tools. Following the acquisition of Ex Libris by ProQuest, integrations have been developed to enable Summon to also serve as a patron interface and discovery service with Alma. Eastern Michigan University, a long-time Summon site, implemented Alma in June 2017 using Summon as its patron interface. The company also supports the use of open source discovery interfaces such as Blacklight and VuFind. (See “Ex Libris Unbundles Discovery for Alma” in Smart Libraries Newsletter 36, no. 12 [December 2016]: 7).

In addition to its efforts to expand patron interface options, Ex Libris has also created a more tightly coupled option. The company has recently launched Primo VE, which fully integrates Primo with Alma. Primo VE eliminates the Primo back office and enables libraries to configure and customize all aspects of discovery through Alma. Ex Libris will continue to support the separately managed versions of Primo, which may be appropriate for libraries with complex customization and data sources and for those that use it with other resource management systems.

EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), developed by EBSCO Information Services, has seen widespread adoption by academic libraries and its implementations exceed that of Primo, Summon, and WorldCat. EBSCO has developed partnerships and supporting technologies to integrate EDS with almost all the major integrated library systems available globally. SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces, for example, offer product suites that provide article-level discovery powered by EBSCO indexes and technologies. A library can use EDS as its complete patron interface and discovery environment, or it can use its own discovery interface and provide article-level search results provided by EDS behind the scenes using its API. For EBSCO, these integration partnerships help ensure that EBSCO Discovery Service stands out as a viable choice regardless of what integrated library system the library uses.

The library services platforms have not seen the same level of support for EDS as prevails with integrated library systems. Although no business or technical barriers exist between OCLC and EBSCO, few libraries using WorldShare Management Services have opted to implement EDS as its patron discovery layer. The relationship between EBSCO and ProQuest can be seen as more strident, resulting in significant obstacles for pairing Alma with EDS. A longstanding business conflict has yet to be resolved so that content from EBSCOhost database can be directly populated into the Primo Central or Summon discovery indexes and for EDS to be enabled as a supported interface for Alma. The underlying details of this conflict relate to fundamentally opposing views of how data and metadata should be treated within a discovery environment. The lack of data exchange agreements between EBSCO and ProQuest impact the discovery arena. Libraries using Primo that subscribe to EBSCOhost databases perceive less than optimal exposure of those resources, and those that use EDS lack full access to ProQuest databases or use it as their patron interface should they want to implement Alma.

The lack of interoperability between EDS and Alma has been an issue that has made a major impact in the competitive business environment. As Alma becomes increasingly dominant in the academic and research library sphere, it often displaces an existing or potential EDS implementation with Primo or Summon. Many libraries that have implemented EDS may see Primo as a comparable discovery service and do not resist the change. Those that have strong preferences for EDS may opt for resource management solutions other than Alma or may continue to use EDS as a separate discovery service. The libraries of Virginia Tech featured in this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter fall into this category. The bundling of Alma and Primo in a way that disadvantages EDS can also be seen as one of the key factors behind the launch of FOLIO. This new open source initiative is well along its way to develop a library services platform following a more modular design that can work with any set of discovery services. EBSCO has made substantial contributions to FOLIO, including work to ensure its interoperability with EDS.

Judging by the current procurement patterns, there seems to be a general acceptance of the close bond between discovery services and their respective library services platforms. Bundled packages, especially Alma with Primo and WorldShare Management Services with WorldCat Discovery Service continue to show strong momentum. The bonds have loosened somewhat already, with both OCLC and Ex Libris supporting alternative discovery strategies, but not necessarily in ways that cross competitive boundaries. It will be interesting to note how this trend plays out in the next phase of academic library technologies. Will libraries press for more independence between resource management and discovery services, or will they be drawn to more deeply integrated solutions?

View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 03
Issue:March 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:23341
Last Update:2022-12-05 14:57:02
Date Created:2018-03-26 06:13:55