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Smarter Libraries Through Technology: Increasing Impact and Efficiency through Collaborative Technology

Smart Libraries Newsletter [November 2018]

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Driven by ever-increasing pressures to operate more efficiently, libraries continue to collaborate through partnerships, networks, or consortia participating in shared technology environments for the management and discovery of their collections. Through participation in a shared system, libraries can see significant cost savings for technology infrastructure compared to independent implementations. These libraries can also devote their technology personnel to other tasks supporting the library other than maintaining local servers and systems. More importantly, these shared systems enable libraries to have more impact, through providing access to a much broader array of resources than would be possible through the collections they acquire directly.

Shared infrastructure provides efficient ways to manage routine activities, enabling libraries to focus on emerging areas that may prove to be more strategic in the long term. Academic libraries, for example, can allocate more staff time and other resources to involvement with instructors and integration of library resources into classes or into support for scientific research through assistance with data management plans, data curation, or other types of activities that promote or assess the institution's research agenda. Traditional library services such as creating, describing, and providing access to scholarly resources continue as essential services but may be seen as commoditylevel activities that have a limited impact on raising the profile of the library within its parent institution or advancing the institution's capacity in research and teaching. It is essential for libraries to perform their traditional roles with the efficiency and at moderate cost, enabling them to devote energies to establishing new programs and exploring and extending their involvement in different areas of the university.

Shared infrastructure also significantly expands the resources available to the individuals in the community served by the library. Academic libraries today tend to acquire far fewer print or electronic books than previous times since the rising cost of electronic resources capture growing portions of collection budgets. Access to literature and scholarly monographs, however, remains critical. Even though academic libraries are acquiring fewer new titles, they maintain extensive legacy print collections and purchase access to large-scale e-book collections. More importantly, academic libraries participate in resource sharing programs to enable collaborative access to collection resources distributed among a wide network of partners. A statewide implementation of a library services platform makes it easy for uses to find materials held in any participating organization; courier services and other delivery options can minimize the time it takes to receive materials provided beyond the local library.

The budgets of organizations and governmental entities funding libraries within a jurisdiction can also be a factor in moving to shared systems. Providing funding for a single largescale project may end up providing savings in the long term, even though it will likely require substantial up-front investment. Some shared infrastructure projects can be seen as arising from mandates of funding organizations, though most are more grass-roots efforts of libraries developing strategies for increasing the impact of their collections and services though deep collaboration with partner institutions within their region.

Large-scale collaborative projects take place among public libraries as well as academics. Consortia of public libraries— often also including school or academic libraries—have thrived throughout the history of library automation. Recent years have seen consolidation of small or mid-sized consortia into larger-scale systems as well as the formation of new regional, statewide, and national initiatives. Public libraries see much higher levels of involvement with print books and e-books relative to electronic resources and strive to build dynamic collections of current high-demand titles as well to provide materials that cover the wide range of subjects and languages of interest to their communities. Large-scale shared systems not only expand the pool of resources available, but they also bring together a technical foundation for community engagement. For those that enable social features, such as peer recommendations, shared reading lists, and user-contributed reviews, larger-scale shared systems are more able to reach a critical mass of engagement compared to isolated systems.

The last year has seen a variety of large-scale collaborative projects either initiated or completed.

All of the public and school libraries in Denmark completed the implementation of a nationwide implementation of the Cicero library management system developed for the project by Systematic, a major IT systems and services firm. This system now serves all 99 municipalities in the country and their affiliated public and school libraries. With more than 2,428 libraries participating, the Danish Joint Library System (Fćlles Bibliotekssystem) ranks globally as the largest shared system to date. The success of this project positions Systematic as a vendor of significant interest for other projects given the heightened interest in large-scale collaboration in a global industry generally lacking systems with proven capability. (See the June 2018 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter for more details on this project.)

The public libraries in Flanders have recently completed the first implementation phase of a centralized library system based on the OCLC Wise library management system. This issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter includes coverage of this ongoing project. The implementation of Wise in Flanders attracts interest since it represents adoption of Wise outside of the Netherlands where it was developed and further paves the way for OCLC's recent initiative to further develop and market the product in the United States.

On the academic library front, Ex Libris continues to sweep the market, with Alma continuing to dominate as the preferred platform for large-scale consortia and national initiatives.

The academic libraries in Switzerland have developed a major initiative for extended collaboration, including the implementation of shared technology infrastructure. This new project will see over 600 libraries affiliated with 130 organizations implement Alma and Primo by 2021.

National library of Poland announced in July 2018 that it had selected Ex Libris Alma and Primo for a nationwide library network. The Polish National Library's implementation of Alma and Primo will be extended to support a national network for resource management and discovery spanning academic and public libraries.

The academic libraries in Austria are likewise making progress to a collaborative network. The members of two service centers serving different groups of Austrian academic libraries, the Österreichische Bibliothekenverbund and the Österreichische Bibliothekenverbund und Service GmbH, have completed the migration of their bibliographic infrastructure to the Alma Network Zone. This enables Alma to serve as the cataloging system for all the affiliated members in the short term and paves the way for their full implementation of Alma, which is expected to be completed by 2021.

Members of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) have begun the implementation of Alma. This implementation will be shared by 13 academic institutions, including six members of the Association of Research Libraries. The system will manage collections totaling 18 million bibliographic records and will serve a combined population of 340,000 students and faculty. Alma will displace the independent integrated library system (ILS) implementations previously in place in each institution, including Sierra, Millennium, Voyager, Symphony, and Evergreen.

The Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL) announced its selection of Alma and Primo as a shared environment to replace the separate ILS products previously serving each institution. This implementation of Alma will serve the libraries of 51 academic institutions, both public and private, throughout North Carolina. PASCAL includes 51 of the 56 colleges and universities in South Carolina. State University of New York, the largest public university systems in the US, selected Ex Libris Alma and Primo for its 61 libraries. The SUNY libraries are migrating from multiple instances of Aleph and multiple discovery services and other systems for electronic resource management. SUNY serves 467,000 students and its combined collections total 21 million volumes.

At a somewhat smaller scale, the Michigan Shared System Alliance was formed as a new consortium of the libraries of seven academic intuitions in Michigan. This consortium selected Ex Libris Alma and Primo. This shared Alma implementation will displace the standalone ILS of each institution, including Sierra and Voyager.

Although the trend for large-scale shared systems can be seen as increasing, many other libraries continue to maintain or acquire their own standalone resource management and discovery systems. Of the 3,024 academic libraries in the United States registered in the database, 1,263 belong to an ILS-sharing consortium and 1,771 implement their ILS independently. Many libraries may not have collaborative or consortial relationships in place with their peers.

Establishing new organizational partnerships requires extensive planning and must provide mutual benefits to the participants. Opportunities for resource sharing and operational efficiencies can be achieved apart from entirely shared infrastructure. Participation in multi-tenant platforms, even as independent institutions, can accrue benefits through shared knowledge bases and discovery indexes.

From this industry perspective, the growing trend in shared infrastructure favors the companies able to develop scaleable global platforms. These large projects represent winner- takes-all deals, which can accelerate the growth of companies at the expense of others.

Many of the projects covered by Smart Libraries Newsletter in the last few years highlight technologies that support resource sharing and collaboration. The system implementations carried out by individual organizations rarely rise to a level of interest to make headlines, even though they represent a large portion of the overall library technology sector. Libraries are complex institutions and will continue to deploy a diverse variety of technology products spanning many different organizational or collaborative models. Smart Libraries Newsletter will strive to be attentive to all of the different patterns of technology developments and implementations and highlight all these trends for its readers.

View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 11
Issue:November 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:24068
Last Update:2022-11-14 05:40:54
Date Created:2019-03-05 17:43:12