ProQuest and Ex Libris have reorganized and consolidated their operations in Latin America. This move is consistent with a longstanding strategy where Ex Libris has steadily shifted away from working through distributors for sales and support in specific regions to direct operations through wholly owned offices or subsidiaries. It also reflects a growing integration between ProQuest and its Ex Libris subsidiary.
Ex Libris initially entered many geographic regions through partnerships with local companies to sell and support their products. While distributors have proven successful in establishing a presence in some countries, they also involve a more indirect relationship between Ex Libris and the libraries using its products. Ex Libris historically has operated its own offices in its core markets and has worked through distributors only in selected regions. This latest move continues the company's strategy for shifting away from the distributor model. Now part of ProQuest, the scope of the change involves both content and technology products.
Grupo Sistemas Lógicos Launches Ex Libris Products in Latin America
Prior to this change, Ex Libris has worked through Grupo Sistemas Lógicos to represent its products in most countries in Latin America, except for Brazil. Through the efforts of Sistemas Lógicos, Ex Libris products were adopted by many of the major libraries in Latin America. The company became the exclusive distributor for Ex Libris for the region in 1996. Some of the major libraries that acquired Ex Libris products through Sistemas Lógicos include:
- University of Guadalajara (Aleph in 1999)
- Biblioteca Nacional de Chile (Aleph 1999)
- Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina (Aleph 1999)
- Pontificia Universidad Catalica de Chile (Aleph 1999, Alma 2016)
- National Library of Mexico (Aleph 2002)
- Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Aleph 2002)
- Megabiblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City (Aleph 2006)
- Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile (Aleph 2009, Alma 2015)
- Universidad Católica de Córdoba in Argentina (Aleph 2009)
- National Library of Argentina (Aleph in 2010)
- BiblioRedes network of all public libraries in Chile (Alma 2007)
- Tecnológico de Costa Rica (Aleph 2011)
- Universidad de Chile (Alma 2017)
- Universidad Torcuato di Tella (Alma 2017)
- Alerta al Conocimiento consortium of 7 libraries in Chile (SFX, MetaLib 2004)
In addition to this list of some of its largest Latin American customers, many other mid-sized libraries have acquired Ex Libris products through Sistemas Lógicos. As illustrated by this list, some of the largest academic and national libraries in the region have implemented Ex Libris Aleph. In recent years, there have been a small number of sales of Alma, including the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, and Colegio de México. The next few years will be a critical time for Alma as libraries in the region consider options to move beyond their legacy integrated library systems.
Latin American Library Context
Latin America has proven to be a challenging market for the global library automation vendors. The region is characterized by a relatively small number of libraries able to purchase commercial products. Many universities remain decentralized, with separate libraries serving each of the schools and colleges. The libraries within a university may not be well coordinated and may even use different automation systems. While Latin American universities have increasing use of electronic resources, they represent a smaller proportion of collection expenditures compared to academic libraries in the United States or Europe. These factors lead to an ongoing use of integrated library systems in academic libraries and slower rates of adoption of library services platforms, such as Alma or OCLC WorldShare Management Services.
A key challenge for commercial vendors of proprietary library systems in Latin America lies in the strong interest in open source software. Koha has especially seen wide adoption in academic libraries throughout Latin America. In a region with limited financial resources and growing capacity for technical development, open source systems such as Koha have found an enthusiastic community of libraries. In addition to internal support, a number of commercial and nonprofit firms have emerged to provide implementation and support services.
Grupo Sistemas Lógicos Company Background
Grupo Sistemas Lógicos was founded in 1983. In that year, the company launched LogiCat as an automation system for libraries. This product has been continually developed, with current versions including LogiC@t for Libraries and LogiC@t for Archives. Following this transition, Grupo Sistemas Lógicos will continue to develop and support this product. Between 1996 and 2019, the company was the exclusive distributor of Ex Libris products for all of Latin America except for Brazil. At the time of the transition, Sistemas Lógicos employed a workforce of about 25 persons. It operated offices in Mexico City, Bogota, and Santiago de Chile. Alfredo Bronsoiler served as the Director of Operations for the company.
With the completion of this transition, ProQuest content products and Ex Libris technology products will be managed through new ProQuest offices established in Chile, Mexico, and Colombia in addition to its existing office in Brazil. Boe Horton, ProQuest Vice President for Sales, Latin America and Data Products will oversee the company's Latin American operations. Alfredo Bronsoiler joins ProQuest as its Mexico and Central American Region Manager. Most, but not all Grupo Sistemas Lógicos employees have been hired by ProQuest. A portion of the workforce will remain to develop and support the LogiC@t products for libraries and archives. ProQuest anticipates little change for its existing customers in the region. The same individuals providing support through Grupo Sistemas Lógicos will continue with ProQuest. All existing contracts and pricing will remain in place.
Distributor versus Regional Offices
Distribution arrangements typically follow a business model where the distributor is responsible for the cost of operations, receives revenue from the customer libraries, and pays a set percentage of the license fees to the primary content provider or technology developer. Distributors will have expertise of the local market and will be registered to do business in each country involved. The personnel working for a distributor will receive extensive technical training so that they can provide support services surrounding the products. With owned offices or subsidiaries, companies such as Ex Libris or ProQuest cover all expenses and directly receive revenue. Establishing a new office requires an investment that may take substantial time to recover. Working with a distributor can provide a path to gaining a presence in a market where local expertise can be a larger factor and where sales opportunities may be limited. Distribution contracts will usually have a limited term, making it possible for a company to shift to a direct support model.
Working through distributors has not been a common business model in the library technology industry. One of the few remaining arrangements can be seen with Naseej, which operates in the Arab Gulf Region and represents multiple product lines from global companies including content and discovery products from EBSCO Information Services, Sierra from Innovative Interfaces for academic libraries in the region, and SirsiDynix Symphony for public libraries.
An Ongoing Strategy of Business Integration
The changes for ProQuest and Ex Libris in Latin America can be seen as the most recent event in a series of transitions shifting away from third-party distributors to regional offices operated by its own personnel. Working with libraries directly enables the company to have more control and accountability and results in a more integrated business structure.
Ex Libris reached a similar arrangement in May 2016 with GreenData, its long-time distributor in Spain. At that time, Ex Libris took a more active role in the sales and support of its products in Spain, with GreenData personnel involved on those activities becoming direct employees. GreenData continues as a distributor of content products to libraries and other organizations in Spain.
In June 2009, Ex Libris acquired Atlantis S.R.L., which had previously served as its exclusive distributor for Italy and Slovenia. At that time, Ex Libris opened its own office in Italy.1 Ex Libris shifted to direct operations in Eastern Europe in November 2016, replacing distributor arrangements previously held by multiple small companies, including MULTIDATA Praha representing Ex Libris in the Czech Republic, Ex-Lh Kft, operating in Hungary, Romania, and Armenia.2
In 2010, Ex Libris acquired the library division of Fujitsu Services A/S, which had previously served as its exclusive distributor in Denmark and Sweden. Ex Libris opened a new office in Ballerup, Denmark to carry out its sales and support operations to libraries in Scandinavia.
Ex Libris, now a part of ProQuest, continues to strengthen its position as the global leader in providing technology products to academic and research libraries. Its Aleph and Voyager products, though waning, continue to represent a significant number of global installations. Momentum for Alma continues to build in almost all global regions. So far, its uptake in Latin America has been slow, though we can anticipate more aggressive positioning of the product going forward.
According to Bronsoiler:
After three years of promotion where we were able to sell Alma in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, we anticipate increased interest in Alma in the upcoming years. Libraries across the region face the same issues as their colleagues worldwide with managing print, electronic and digital materials across different systems and are looking to unify library services in a single interface.
Other recent developments illustrate the growing integration between Ex Libris and ProQuest. In January 2019, ProQuest implemented the latest phase of the integration between the ProQuest OASIS platform for book selection and ordering and the Ex Libris library services platform. A new API for checking araciality and pricing has been developed for OASIS, which now enables staff members using Alma to perform all steps of book ordering without leaving its interface. This complements other OASIS integration mechanisms, such as the Real-Time Acquisitions API that automatically transfers order records into Alma for items purchased through OASIS. These integrations apply to the current OASIS platform. ProQuest and Ex Libris are also jointly developing Rialto as an entirely new platform based on Alma that aims to create new workflows for selection and procurement of library materials more consistent with the nature of current business processes of content providers and library acquisitions.
ProQuest also continues integration of its content delivery platforms. The company has just announced (January 2019) a new offering branded as ProQuest One Academic that consolidates four of its major cross-disciplinary resources, including ProQuest Central, Academic Complete, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, and Academic Video Online. This offering continues the strategy for ProQuest to bring together its content search and delivery products into a unified platform rather than through separate interfaces.
- This business event was covered in Marshall Breeding, “ILS Market News,” Smart Libraries Newsletter 29, no. 9 (September 2009): 7.
- For more information, see Breeding, “Ex Libris Expands its International Operations,” Smart Libraries Newsletter 26, no. 12 (December 2016): 5-6.
- See Breeding, “Ex Libris Consolidates, a Bit,” Smart Libraries Newsletter 30, no. 4 (April 2010): 4-5.
- Alfredo Bronsoiler (Mexico and Central American Region Manager, ProQuest), email interview by Marshall Breeding, January 2019.
- For more information about Rialto, see Breeding, “ProQuest Introduces Rialto,” Smart Libraries Newsletter 38, no. 12 (December 2018): 2-4.