One of the biggest challenges in selecting and developing news stories for Smart Libraries Newsletter lies in providing balanced coverage of the library technology industry. It is important to ensure that each story covers the events and companies objectively and to select stories that reflect the overall state of the industry. Objective coverage means that each story must be based on information and data from reliable sources. In this newsletter, sources can include announcements from vendors, email or verbal interviews with company executives or librarians, and observable data such as product implementation statistics. I maintain extensive data related to the technology products used by libraries in Library Technology Guides, which are often referenced in news articles.
In order to reflect the future trends of any given company, we give those involved the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to product announcements, it is important to be able to lay out a forward-looking vision or roadmap even in the early stages of development. Waiting until the product has been completed and implemented would not be helpful either to the company or to libraries that may be interested in knowing what technology options may be brewing though not yet available.
We also attempt to take a positive tone regarding the technologies covered. News articles will often lay out the developer's vision and intentions of a new product in advance of knowing whether it will ultimately be delivered with those characteristics. Once these products are deployed and implemented, follow-up articles can reflect how they are received by the library community.
This newsletter also aims not to favor any given vendor or development model. We cover both proprietary and open source technologies, hopefully in proportion to their position in the industry. Proprietary products currently far outnumber open source options in most categories. Balanced coverage of vendors means giving proportional treatment of newsworthy events and accomplishments. Occasionally important events may need to be deferred to later issues due to space limitations. Proportional coverage also means giving more coverage to the vendors or projects with more accomplishments. Large companies with a higher churn of new products and major implementations will generate more news articles than those with less activity.
Business transitions play an important role in the overall shape of the library technology industry. The current slate of vendors and product options comes as a result of a succession of mergers, acquisitions, and capital investments. Articles covering these events aim to provide both the higher-level view of its impact on the library community as well as detailed information relating to the transaction and the organizations involved. The corporate background and history of the companies helps readers understand the antecedent events and organizations. Smart Libraries Newsletter has chronicled the mergers and acquisition of the industry since 2003.
Another aspect of balance relates to the public relations strategies of the organizations involved. Some companies have a more prolific media presence than others. While some companies issue press releases for every product sale made, others make announcements only for their largest deals. While a high velocity of news releases may be challenging for large companies, having more publicly available data regarding product sales and deployments helps provide proportional coverage. Likewise, some vendors may prefer not to make announcements about new products until released for implementation while others begin public discussions at the design and development stage. While press releases continue to be the main vehicle for industry announcements, other channels such as blog posts and Twitter are often favored by newer players.
This newsletter also strives to inform readers about the trajectory of existing products as well as the development of new technologies. While it is especially interesting to write about emerging technologies, most of the economic impact relates to established products. We provide coverage of key products throughout their lifespan. As new products are announced, an initial news article will dig into its conceptual vision, its underlying technologies, and anticipated audience. Successive articles will document its progress in development and in its eventual adoption patterns.
This issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter includes an update on Ex Libris Alma. As a product launched in 2012, Alma is well beyond its development phase and well into its cycle of adoption. It's ongoing penetration into the academic library sector has become so steady that individual implementations may not seem especially newsworthy. Yet, its success among the largest academic library systems and consortia translates into contracts with high economic value. Some of these individual contracts may exceed the entire annual revenue of some of the smaller companies in the industry. We also note progress on some up-and-coming products including OCLC Wise and Innovative's new Inspire Discovery.