SOLUS has acquired the Boopsie Mobile division from Demco, Inc. The deal strengthens SOLUS's presence in the global library market. Boopsie was one of the pioneers of mobile technology in libraries, though its presence has since been eclipsed by SOLUS and other providers. The technology platform developed by Boopsie was quite advanced and forward-looking when it was launched in 2005, though it may not necessarily be optimal for the current generation of patron-facing mobile interfaces. This business event provides libraries using Boopsie's products an opportunity to shift to more recently developed technologies provided by a vendor with established success in the library mobile technology sector. While consistent with the pattern of consolidation within a market niche, it runs a bit counter to the trend for smaller specialized companies to be acquired by large businesses with diverse product portfolios.
Vendors of mobile products represent a relatively small portion of the library technology industry. Mobile devices represent a growing, if not dominant, portion of access to information resources, including those provided by libraries. It is a basic expectation that any patron-facing interfaces for library services follow a responsive design that makes them as easy to use on mobile devices as on larger screens. Despite the advances in responsive design, opportunity remains for dedicated mobile apps able to provide features not possible through responsive web interfaces.
The October 2020 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter featured the acquisition of Capira Technologies by OCLC. This move brings further consolidation among library mobile technology vendors.
Details of the Acquisition
Through this transaction, SOLUS acquires technology and customers from Demco. It does not involve Demco employees joining SOLUS. The Boopsie library apps will no longer be developed. Its customer libraries will be offered a transition to SOLUS-powered apps at no cost.
SOLUS has developed tools to smoothly migrate libraries from the Boopsie mobile platform. While there will be some effort involved in migration, libraries will gain the new capabilities available through the SOLUS mobile app with no additional cost beyond what they were paying for the Boopsiebased app.
Residual support for Boopsie apps will continue through September 2021. Following this transition period, the Boopsie mobile platform will be decommissioned.
The financial details of the transactions were not released.
SOLUS has become established as the largest provider of mobile technologies to public libraries in terms of libraries served. It has licensed customized mobile apps to about 360 library customers, including 5,600 branches or locations spanning five continents. The total number of individual library customers on the platform is likely to be far higher as SOLUS reports large consortia as single customers.
The acquisition of Boopsie positions SOLUS to make a significant expansion in its customer base. Boopsie had about 100 contracts at the time of the acquisition.
This acquisition expands the geographic reach of SOLUS. The majority of Boopsie's clients were in the United States, though it also had a presence in New Zealand. SOLUS serves customers in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. The distribution of SOLUS customers is further expanded through its partnerships with ILS vendors.
Demco and its parent holding company Wall Family Enterprise has steadily grown through a long series of business acquisitions to become a major provider of products and services to libraries and other organizations. The sale of Boopsie is a rare instance of the company divesting a product or business unit. Demco remains involved with software and technology. In addition to the other products that continue to be offered by Demco Software, the company has recently made an agreement with Axiell to market its Quria platform for public libraries in the United States and Canada. Demco, Inc. acquired Boopsie in 2015 as part of its initiative to create a new operating business specializing in software for public libraries. The company had previously acquired Evanced Solutions in May 2011. Evanced products, though no longer carrying the name, continue to be marketed and supported by Demco Software, including its SignUp programregistration system and Spaces + D!BS facilities management application.
See the June 2017 Smart Libraries Newsletter for additional details of the establishment of Demco Software and its acquisition of Boopsie. An in-depth profile of Boopsie was featured in the May 2015 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter. Demco Software leveraged the Boopsie platform for its Demco DiscoverMobile, launched in 2017. This app included capabilities such as searching and browsing library collections, mobile check-out, and integration with its calendar and event registration products.
SOLUS, with its headquarters in Glasgow, United Kingdom, provides mobile technology products and services for libraries. The company develops customized mobile apps for libraries as well as mobile applications to facilitate tasks performed by library staff. Multiple vendors of ILS products have partnered with SOLUS for their branded mobile applications.
SOLUS was founded in 2005 by Neil Wishart, who serves as chief executive officer; Andrew Daye, the company's chief technology officer; and Richard Offord, former director. Prior to Offord's departure, the company had been primarily involved with the creation of digital signage products for organizations in many different industries.
Beginning in 2012, SOLUS shifted its focus to mobile technologies for libraries, with the City of Edinburgh Libraries as its initial customer. Following the launch of its library division, the company expanded its leadership team and geographic market interests. Liz McGettigan joined SOLUS in 2013 and is the director for digital library and cultural experiences. SOLUS expanded into Australia in 2015. Brenton Hall is the director for SOLUS responsible for the APAC region. John Richardson joined SOLUS in 2018 as director of SOLUS North America, leading the company's further expansion in the United States and Canada.
The companies involved are relatively small. At the time of the acquisition SOLUS employed 13 persons.
The SOLUS mobile app operates with 12 different ILS products. In addition to working with libraries directly, several vendors of library products have partnered with SOLUS to develop patron-facing mobile apps. These apps carry the branding of the ILS vendor and are tightly integrated with their catalog search and user service features and include a wide variety of features to create the rich mobile experience expected by library patrons. These partnerships include:
- Axiell, initiated in December 2014, taking advantage of the APIs available through the Axiell Arena platform, which serves as a library's website and collection discovery tool.
- Libero Informatics, based in Australia, works with SOLUS for the mobile app for its LIBERO ILS, used by public libraries in Australia.
- SirsiDynix entered a partnership with SOLUS for the development of its BLUEcloud Mobile app, the successor to its original BookMyne+ product launched in 2010.
- Most recently, Innovative Interface and SOLUS entered a partnership for the creation of Innovative's new mobile app for libraries to work with its Sierra and Polaris ILS products. This new app includes advanced capabilities such as patron self-checkout, including support for RFID security, as well as features to support curbside pickup. Patrons can request items through the mobile app or the web catalogs and use the button on the mobile app to notify staff when they have arrived to collect their materials. The new mobile app is available for iOS and Android.
One of the first companies to develop mobile technologies for libraries, Boopsie was founded in 2006 by Greg Carpenter and Tim Kay. The company's business model was based on the development and deployment of a platform-as-a-service, providing scalable infrastructure for mobile apps and other services. The company's core market was libraries, though it also licensed its products and technologies to organizations in other sectors.
Carpenter and Kay exited Boopsie at the time Demco acquired it. Tony Medrano served as CEO of Boopsie from 2013 through 2016. Nicholas Wehr joined Boopsie in 2014 as its executive vice president for technology and continued with the company through its ownership by Demco. He also served as executive vice president of Evanced Solutions, also part of the Demco Software portfolio, acquired in 2011.
The Boopsie platform was developed prior to some of the modern API-based integrations between ILS products and mobile apps. The Boopsie platform managed the content and provided discovery and user services in support of its mobile apps or other applications. Content resources, such as library catalog data, are loaded and indexed on the Boopsie platform. This approach provides high performance and scalability but requires continual incremental processing of new resources. Search results performed on a Boopsie mobile app may not exactly align with results of the native library catalog. Relevancy and indexing algorithms may differ, and recent items may not yet be loaded and indexed. The SOLUS app interacts with the APIs of the ILS in real time to provide current search results consistent with the native catalog or discovery service.
One of the major components of the Boopsie platform-as-a-service, AccessILS, enables interoperability with a library's ILS, with connectors developed for each major product. This service, launched in April 2015, provides the integration capabilities used by Boopsie to interoperate its app platform with diverse ILS products. It is also a service that can be licensed by content providers and other vendors, eliminating the need to develop a complex matrix of connectors. AccessILS essentially translates the proprietary system interactions of each ILS product into a uniform and modern API. Those licensing AccessILS can target their development on this single API rather than separate integrations for each ILS product. Technologies developed by Boopsie principals were also licensed by organizations in many other industries. (See patent applications: 20110078243, 20110083167, 20120323965, 20200142901, 20120310924, 20080168039, 20100306228, 20140096081, 20130124606, 2014017261; and grants: 8255377, 8255411, 8639713, 8639713).
Boopsie also worked with other vendors to facilitate the deployment of mobile technologies. OCLC, for example, partnered with Boopsie to develop its WorldCat Mobile app in 2009, which saw its production release in June 2011.
The Evolving Library Mobile Landscape
With the acquisition of Boopsie, SOLUS gains a foothold to become one of the major providers of mobile technology in the United States and Canada and to strengthen its global position overall. Through its direct sales to libraries and its partnership with ILS vendors SOLUS will likely see growth in the library mobile technology sector.
Despite the strengthening of SOLUS's position, the mobile sector in library technology remains competitive. Several other vendors offer library-specific mobile products, including Capira Technologies recently acquired by OCLC; Communico, BiblioCommons, Springshare, and others. Many companies offering library catalog and discovery services have developed mobile apps in addition to their responsive web interfaces.