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Smarter Libraries Through Technology: The Evolving Academic Services Ecosystem

Smart Libraries Newsletter [September 2018]

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Products and services oriented to academic institutions, including teaching, research, and libraries, address a wide range of activities crossing many different stakeholder groups. This newsletter focuses primarily on products and services related to libraries, but these companies are increasingly expanding into other aspects of the academic enterprise.

The products in this ecosystem address a range of users or stakeholders. One set of products are offered by companies primarily selling to libraries. For example, integrated library systems (ILSs) and library services platforms are used by library personnel. Many libraries use selection and ordering platforms to acquire new materials. These resource management systems usually have a public-facing interface, such as an online catalog or discovery service, to give students, faculty, or the general public ways to search and gain access to library materials. The relatively new genre of reading list managers is oriented to those teaching courses, enabling them to efficiently tap into resources provided by the library or their own personal materials.

These library technology vendors increasingly compete with another set of companies in the academic publishing industry. These companies include Elsevier, one of the major academic publishers, but also include organizations such as Clarivate Analytics and Digital Science that do not necessarily publish content directly but that provide search and workflow tools addressing differing aspects of the scholarly communications ecosystem.

The product portfolios of EBSCO Information Services and ProQuest can be considered in the perspective of the broader arena of scholarly communications. Both organizations have a core business background in content and databases. They directly compete in the library economy for abstracting and indexing products as well as many other specialized content resources and offer major academic e-book platforms. On the library materials acquisitions front, EBSCO provides GOBI for monographs and is the only major serials subscription agent left standing. ProQuest's OASIS and MyiLibrary also enable libraries to acquire print and digital books.

EBSCO and ProQuest compete directly in the discovery services arena. ProQuest was an early mover in the index-based discovery service category with the launch of Summon in 2009 and gained Primo in its acquisition of Ex Libris. EBSCO Discovery Service, building on the company's expertise in subject indexing, builds on the EBSCOhost platform and has become established as the most widely implemented index-based discovery service.

ProQuest has become established as the leading player in the resource management front, with Alma capturing most new sales of systems to large libraries and consortia in addition to its legacy Aleph and Voyager ILSs that continue to represent a large portion of the installations in academic libraries. EBSCO has opted not to develop its own product in this category but has instead executed a strategy of integration and open source support. The company reports that it has partnered with sixty ILS developers to create integration paths for EBSCO Discovery Service. These integrations enable the online catalog of the ILS to incorporate article-level results via the EDS API or for EDS to serve as the complete patron-facing interface. More recently, EBSCO has helped launch and continues to contribute financial, technical, and organizational resources toward the FOLIO project, working to create an open source library services platform.

ProQuest is increasingly moving into the competitive arena characterized by Elsevier, Clarivate, and Digital Science. Many of its recent products do not compete with its usual competitors, like EBSCO, but instead with this other set of organizations. ProQuest has organized these product offerings under its recently formed Learning and Research division. In many cases, the key stakeholders or decision makers may reside outside the library organization. Pivot, for example, tends to be marketed to a university's office of research rather than its library. The new Esploro research services platform being developed by Ex Libris addresses three stakeholder groups—the office of research, the researchers themselves, and the library. The products of *Research likewise primarily address the university's research community. The acquisition of *Research by Ex Libris is featured in this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.

So far, EBSCO has not ventured into the product categories marketed outside the library. It is interesting to note that it acquired Plum Analytics in 2014. Plum Analytics addresses the impact on an institution's research output and would typically be marketed to the institution's office of research. In one of the rare examples of EBSCO divesting a component of its business, it sold Plum to Elsevier in 2017. This move points to an interest in EBSCO continuing to focus on products marketed through libraries and not to broader institutional stakeholders.

The competitive matrix shown on page 3 (Table 1) illustrates how a narrow set of companies are building or acquiring products to address different activities and stakeholders within the academic enterprise. This matrix shows products oriented to library personnel, article and research data repositories, and search tools for students and scholars. To view the complete table, which also shows platforms for institutional research stakeholders, workf low and analytics to support article publication by researchers, content production and publishing, and ownership and investors, please see

Each of these companies seeks to expand its business opportunities by exploiting the niches represented across the rows of the matrix. These companies are assembling product portfolios addressing ever broader activities and stakeholders within this ecosystem. There will naturally be synergies among the products offered by the same vendor. It will be important to observe whether the synergies develop into more comprehensive platforms or product stacks that may nudge organizations into working with a single organization for all the services represented. In the coming months and years, it will be interesting to see whether these organizations work toward filling in any missing products from this matrix, whether new categories of products emerge, and whether the products themselves will converge into more unified platforms.

View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 09
Issue:September 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:24061
Last Update:2022-12-05 14:53:04
Date Created:2019-03-05 16:22:40