The Alma library services platform (LSP) from Ex Libris, now part of ProQuest, continues to make gains in the academic and research library sector. The product's steady stream of product releases deployed monthly and new implementations by library have become routine. The dominance of Alma in this sector must be seen as the backdrop or context for other events that spark interest but tend to have smaller impact. Alma has seen strong and steady adoption since its initial implementations in 2012, including some of the largest university library systems and regional or national consortia.
Alma, for example, holds a strong lead among the members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Currently, 65 out of the 125 ARL members have selected or implemented Alma. Another 14 remain on Voyager and 6 on Aleph. Across these three products, Ex Libris resource management products are used by 85 ARL members or 68 percent of these institutions.
Recent Alma Selections and Implementations
So far in 2019, at least 67 new organizations have selected Alma. This number includes those that have been mentioned in press releases or have been otherwise reported and should not be taken as an official sales report, which will be published in the annual Library Systems Report. Rather, this informal figure demonstrates continued strong rates of adoption beyond the larger sites mentioned in press announcements. Here are some of the announced sales of Alma in recent months:
- University of Michigan, an ARL member with collections of about 13 million volumes, announced its selection of Alma in November 2019 and will be migrating from an Aleph system that has been in place since 2002.
- Other ARL members selecting Alma in 2019 include the University of Pittsburgh, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Texas at Austin, and Wake Forest University.
- North Rhine–Westphalia consortium in Germany, representing 43 members, announced its selection of Alma in November 2019. This implementation will be administered via Hochschulbibliothekszentrum des Landes Nordrhein- Westfalen (hbz), one of the regional library service centers in Germany. The libraries in this consortium will be migrating from eight different incumbent systems.
- University of Toronto, with the largest library in Canada and one of the largest in North America, selected Alma in 2019 and will migrate from SirsiDynix Symphony. This library system includes 44 libraries, spans three campuses, and manages a collection of over 12 million volumes.
- The libraries of the statewide consortium of California Community Colleges selected Alma in 2018, though it was not announced until February 2019. This implementation of Alma includes 110 institutions serving a total of 2.1 million students. This project was supported via a six-million dollar grant, though the actual value of the contract was not specified. According to the announcement from the Council of Chief Librarians, the California Community Colleges ranks as the largest educational system globally and is now the largest customer of Ex Libris.
- The Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, comprised of 91 institutions, selected Alma and Primo to replace its incumbent Voyager and VuFind products. 1 This implementation includes three ARL members.
- The libraries of the City University of New York, comprised of 31 libraries spanning 25 campuses, selected Alma to replace their existing Aleph systems. These libraries hold combined collections of 6.2 million volumes.
- An academic library consortium including Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior State University, Finlandia University, and Gogebic Community College announced in June 2019 their selection of Alma to replace their current Voyager integrated library system (ILS).
- In France, the University of Lille, which was recently created through the merger of three universities, announced its selection of Alma and Primo in January 2019. This consolidated institution ranks as the largest French-speaking university in the world.
- In Japan, Bukkyo University in Kyoto selected Alma to replace a locally developed system. Waseda University and Keio University, which selected Alma in 2018, placed Alma into production in October 2019.
- The libraries of the University of Hawaii, including three universities and seven community colleges, announced its selection of Alma in January 2019. The system has been using Primo since 2011.
Ex Libris has achieved authorization for the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). Its application was sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. FedRAMP authorization means that the product has achieved the security requirements of the U.S. Government for cloud-based services. Ex Libris Alma and Prime are currently the only library services listed on the FedRAMP marketplace (https://marketplace.fedramp.gov/) as FedRAMP Authorized. SirsiDynix EOS.Web is listed as FedRAMP in Progress.
Ex Libris introduced Leganto in 2015, which enables instructors to manage reading materials for their courses. The product is based on the Alma technology platform and integrates with the institution's learning management system. Since its introduction, over 100 institutions have selected Leganto. A substantial portion of recent contracts for Alma also include Leganto, and many existing Alma customers are subsequently adding the product.
Some of the recently announced sales of Leganto include the University of Manchester, migrating from Talis Aspire, the University of Salford, University of Technology Sydney, and University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The Esploro research services application, introduced in 2018, has graduated from its development phase into early adoption. One of the product's development partners, the University of Iowa, placed Esploro into production use in July 2019. Institutions that have recently selected Esploro include the University of Montana, Washington State University, the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Germany, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Despite its position as the dominant provider of technology products to academic and research libraries, Ex Libris faces significant competition. OCLC's WorldShare Management Services, which was developed and launched in about the same timeframe as Alma, has also attracted many libraries in this sector and has been selected for many large-scale projects, especially in Canada and the Netherlands. The open source FOLIO may also be an increasing threat now that it has been placed into production in Chalmers University of Technology. Many libraries have deferred selection of a new system pending the completion of FOLIO, especially those inclined toward open source technologies. The next year or so will be critical for whether FOLIO will become a major factor in the market beyond those that have been involved in its development. Innovative's Inspire platform may also become a factor in the academic library marketplace, though it is in an early phase of development.
No company in the library technology industry can rest on its laurels. Although Ex Libris has become well established and has a large head start on FOLIO and Inspire, it will face stronger headwinds as FOLIO matures and as Inspire comes to market. More than half of the academic libraries in the U.S. remain on legacy products. Among larger institutions, the penetration of LSPs is substantially higher. Early success by new competitors and satisfaction levels among existing Alma sites will be major factors in whether Ex Libris is able to strengthen its position even further or if it will hold steady. Barring extreme difficulties, any decline in the portions of academic libraries using Alma seems unlikely.