In a move that further consolidates the global library technology industry, Axiell has entered into an agreement to acquire the Library and Information Solutions division of Infor. This deal will add the V-smart integrated library system and related products to Axiell's already extensive portfolio of library technology products.
The scale of the transaction is modest but impacts libraries across many countries and regions. At the time of the announcement, Infor reported 180 library customers. V-smart is a well-established product in the Benelux region, with many customers in Belgium and The Netherlands as well as in Switzerland, France, and Greece. Beyond Europe, V-Smart has been implemented by libraries in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and in the United States.
The acquisition includes a diverse portfolio of related technology products:
- V-smart: a full-featured, web-based library management system
- Iguana: a portal for a library to manage its website, including its catalog and patron services. Iguana provides similar capabilities to Axiell Arena.
- Iguana DAM: a digital asset management module for Iguana
- Iguana Library App: mobile app for library content and catalog services Iguana Newsletters: an application for producing and distributing library newsletters
- V-link: a link resolver based on the OpenURL standard
- V-eyeQ: an analytics and reporting application for V-smart and Iguana for collection planning
- V@school: a library management system for schools that works in tandem a public library's V-smart implementation.
Although the VUBIS product was originally developed by academic libraries, the vast majority of installations are in public libraries. Out of 418 installations, 279 are in public libraries, 45 in academic libraries, and 94 in specialized libraries.
Some of the libraries in the Unites States using V-smart include, East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Volusia County Public Library (FL). In Canada, V-smart has been implemented in municipal libraries including Kingston Frontenac Public Library and Lambton County Library as well as other public and special libraries. Although the number of libraries using Infor's products in the United States and Canada is modest, this move also gives Axiell a stronger presence in the North American library arena.
Details of the Transaction
Axiell will acquire the assets of the Library and Information Solutions division of Infor. The deal includes Infor's library technology products, the contracts for the 180 existing customers, and the responsibility to provide support. All 28 employees of Infor Library and Information Systems will join Axiell. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The deal, announced on January 4, 2022, is scheduled to close January 31. Vrije Universiteit Brussel continues to be a co-owner of the VUBIS technology and receives royalties.
According to Axiell CEO Joel Sommerfeldt, Axiell plans to continue marketing and supporting the products acquired from Infor. Axiell has a good track record for maintaining the automation systems it has acquired. While Axiell positions Quria as its strategic product for public libraries in the long term, the company also invests resources to support the libraries using its other library management product. In addition to the V-smart and Iguana product suite acquired from Infor, other key products for public libraries include BOOK-IT, Aurora, Bibdia, Open Galaxy, and Micromarc as well as WeLib for school libraries. Sommerfeldt reported that 80 libraries have selected Quria to date.
Through the acquisition of Infor Library and Information Solutions, Axiell gains a set of technology products that have been steadily developed through multiple major versions since the mid-1970s. The products have been modernized and continually enhanced to serve the needs of libraries. The Infor customer base is dominated by public libraries, which aligns well with the focus of Axiell.
Axiell corporate background
Axiell has grown through both business acquisitions and organic sales. The company has made 21 previous acquisitions. These acquisitions span companies involved with library management systems, technologies for museums and archives, and digital media. Axiell has also developed products apart from those it acquired from business acquisitions. Quria, launched in 2018, was created as an entirely new cloud platform for public libraries, following a digital-first design.
Axiell, headquartered in Sweden, currently has customers in 60 countries and operates 28 offices globally. Its products are used in 3,000 libraries, its overall customer base across sectors totals over 13,000 organizations.
|Axiell corporate chronology|
|Jan 4, 2022||
Axiell acquires Infor Library and Information Solutions
|Sep 22, 2020||
CultureConnect acquired by Axiell
|Aug 3, 2020||
Axiell acquires Musoft
|May 25, 2016||
Axiell acquires Mobydoc, the market leader for French museums
|Mar 9, 2015||
Axiell acquires seventy percent of Elib e-book distributor from publishers Bonniers, Norstedts, Natur & Kultur and Piratförlaget
|Apr 3, 2014||
Axiell acquires KE Software
|Oct 8, 2013||
Axiell acquires Selago Design
|Mar 1, 2013||
Axiell Group acquires ADLIB Information Systems
|Jan 5, 2009||
DS Ltd changed its name to Axiell Limited
|Apr 28, 2008||
Axiell acquires DS
|Jan 1, 2008||
Axiell Library Group formed as new parent company
|Dec 12, 2007||
Axiell invests in Akateeminen Tietopalvelu ATP Oy
Axiell acquires TietoEnator Libraries Oy, Finland for 2.4 million Euros
Axiell engages with TietoEnator in joint venture for library systems development
Axiell acquires CSC's Consulting Group's Library Section
Axiell Biblioteksystem AB and BTJ System AB merge to form Axiell Bibliotek AB
ADLIB Information Systems acquires ROTA and Ocelot automation system from Reekx
BTJ System AB is formed
BTJ 2000 launched
Bert Degenhart Drenth joins Databasix Computer Systems and launches a subsidiary office in the Benelux
Axiell Biblioteksystem AB Founded
Danish Data Elektronik Founded
BTJ converted into a limited company.
Infor corporate background
Axiell is acquiring the library division of Infor, a global enterprise software company with revenues exceeding $3.2 billion. Within Infor, Library and Information Solutions represented a very small business unit within its Public Sector division. Infor was owned by Golden Gate Capital since 2002. Following an earlier investment made in 2017, Kotch Industries acquired full ownership of Infor in February 2020.
Infor's involvement in the library technology industry began with its 2005 acquisition of Geac, a major company involved with ERP and other enterprise systems for multiple commercial and public sectors. One of the longstanding business activities for Geac related to library systems, through this part of the company had become less significant relative to its overall business portfolio.
Geac: library automation pioneer
Geac, one of the main antecedent companies to Infor's library business, was a pioneer in library automation. The company had a complicated history from launching some of the earliest mainframe-based library management systems, to becoming a market leader in the global library technology industry, and eventual decline. In its earlier years, library automation was one of its core product offerings. Over time, Geac became much more involved in enterprise software for banking and other business sectors and its library products represented an ever smaller fraction of its business interests.
The company was founded in 1971 in Markham, Canada. Beginning in 1978, Geac develop specialized software that operated on its own proprietary mainframe computers. The company's first library automation system was the Geac Library Automation System (GLIS) which operated on the Geac 6000 or 8000 computers. Early sites included the libraries of the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo. GLIS was sold to large and midsized libraries and became one of the leading global providers of library management systems by the mid-1980's. ()
With waning interest in mainframe computers and proprietary systems by the mid-1980s, Geac made business acquisitions for a new library automation system as a migration path for its GLIS libraries and to attract new sales. In August 1988 Geac acquired Honolulu-based Advanced Libraries and Information, Inc. and its ALOHA automation system. ALOHA operated on the Pick and Unix operating environment and had been implemented in about 20 sites beyond the University of Hawaii, for which it was originally developed. Following the acquisition, Geac marketed this product as Advance and it gradually became established as one of the leading automation systems for public and academic libraries.
In December 1992 Geac acquired CLSI from TBG (formerly Thyssen-Bornemisza) is and its Libs100Plus library automation system used widely by public and academic libraries in North America and internationally. Geac marketed CLSI Libs100Plus as PLUS. The combined market presence of CLSI and Advance established Geac as one of the leading providers of that era. Competitors included Sirsi Corporation, Dynix Systems, Data Research Associates, NOTIS Systems, MultiLIS, INLEX, and Ex Libris. In February 1995 Geac acquired ODIS, the commercial developer and distributor for the VUBIS library management system. VUBIS at that time was a strong player in Europe, especially in Belgium, France, and The Netherlands. Following this acquisition, Geac focused its resources on the VUBIS product family and phased out development of its other ILS products. Existing installations of Advance and PLUS declined and now are close to extinction.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Geac made additional business acquisitions, primarily in the ERP sector. In 2002 Geac acquired Extensity, a major provider of financial and personnel business systems. Geac was acquired by Golden Gate Capital in November 2005 for an estimated value of $1 billion. Its library division operated under the Extensity brand for a short period. In August 2006 Extensity was merged into Infor, a large enterprise systems company also owned by Golden Gate Capital. Following this transaction, the library products of former Geac formed Infor Library and Information Solutions. This organizational structure remained in place from 2006 through 2022, until it was acquired by Axiell. In February 2020, Koch Industries acquired Infor from Golden Gate Capital.
Infor's Library and Information Solutions has contracted in recent years. In 2002, the company reported a total workforce of 127. By 2019 the number of employees gradually fell to 63; 2020 saw a steeper reduction down to 35. As the company becomes part of Axiell, 28 employees remain.
The number of installations of V-smart has grown. The company reports that V-smart is currently used in 418 library locations. But the overall customer base contracted since some portion of libraries using Vubis Smart migrated to competing products.
Infor has continued to make new sales of V-smart even as the size of the company has diminished. Infor recently announced the selection of V-smart by the municipal library system in Clermont-Ferrand in France as well as to libraries and museums in the UK, The Netherlands, Quebec, and Greece.
Development and Evolution of VUBIS
The V-smart library management system traces its history to the VUBIS system developed in the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in the mid-1970s. Under the leadership of Micha Namenwirth, the university library initiated a project to create a new system to automate the library. The development was done in partnership with a commercial company, Interactive Systems. The proposed system was one of the first to include an online catalog. The system was named VUBIS, reflecting the partnership between Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Interactive Systems. (see https://50.vub.be/en/timeline/milestones-vub). VUBIS was completed and launched for production use in 1978.
VUBIS was developed using the MUMPS (Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System) programming language, often referred to as M. It was a popular programming environment for mainframe and minicomputers and was used for many biomedical applications. MUMPS was acquired by InterSystems in 1979, which later developed Caché as its strategic database and programming framework. Subsequent versions of VUBIS, Vubis Smart and V-smart, are based on Caché. Other library systems based on Caché include LIBERO developed by Insight Informatics. (See: “Success with Caché: Caché-based VUBIS library system brings the library of the future into the present.” InterSystems press release issued in 1995.)
By 1981, further development of VUBIS was needed. Interactive Systems, the original development partner, had exited its business in Belgium. Marc Verpoorten, one of the original developers of VUBIS at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, joined Interactive Systems in 1977, and later became the librarian for Eindhoven University of Technology in 1982. These circumstances led to Eindhoven University of Technology becoming the development partner for VUBIS II. At this point, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Eindhoven University of Technology become co-owners of the software.
The success of VUBIS led to interest by other libraries. A new company, ODIS was founded in 1987 by Marc Verpoorten to commercialize VUBIS and to participate in its ongoing development. ODIS had exclusive rights to develop and market VUBIS, though the ownership of the software remained with the founding universities. During that period, VUBIS became established as the leading library automation system in Belgium and The Netherlands.
ODIS was acquired by Geac in in February 1994. Following the acquisition, Geac continued the development of VUBIS, along with its other library automation products, including ADVANCE and PLUS. The ownership of the technology continued to be held by the two founding universities until 2011 when Eindhoven University of Technology withdrew from the partnership and a new agreement was made where Geac and Vrije Universiteit Brussel became co-owners of the product. (See VUBIS: 40 JAAR bibliotheekautomatisering. )
Under Geac, the product continued to see growth and was sold to libraries in France, Australia, Canada, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States in addition to its original territory in Belgium and The Netherlands. The VUBIS product family became Geac's strategic library offering. Geac's strong position in the United States diminished as libraries migrated from ADVANCE and PLUS to competing products. Adoption of VUBIS in the US was limited, though it saw moderate sales in Canada.
Geac launched a new version of the software, branded as Vubis Smart in 2002. This product was developed using Caché and was initially tested and deployed in the Breda Public Library in The Netherlands. In 2005 Geac released V-link, a link resolver based on the OpenURL standard. Development of new versions of the product continued under Infor. The company produced V-smart, a new version of its flagship library system, deployed entirely through web interfaces, released in November 2008. Since that time, the migration cycle from Vubis Smart has been completed with all current customers using V-smart.
In addition to its core library management products, Infor developed a portfolio of related applications. In 2010 the company launched Iguana, a patron-facing portal that provides a modernized online catalog and that manages the library's entire website. Other key products produced include V-spaces, a federated search tool (2006), V-insight statistical portal (2008), V-eyeQ analytic tool for collection management (2013), and Iguana DAM, extending the Iguana framework for digital asset management (2016)
Eric van Lubeek was Managing Director of Geac Benelux from 1995 until Geac was acquired by Infor in 2004. From 2004 through 2007 he served as Managing Director of Infor Library and Information Solutions. van Lubeek currently joined OCLC in 2007 and currently serves as Vice President, Managing Director, EMEA and APAC.
Ann Melaerts served as the Managing Director of Infor Library and Information Solutions beginning January 2007. Prior to becoming managing director, Melaerts worked with Infor and ODIS since 2002. In August 2017 Melaerts joined Axiell as Vice President and Business Area Director for Axiell Public Libraries. Her current role for Axiell is Vice President for Strategic initiatives. In August 2017 Ann Melaerts joined Axiell as Axiell as Vice President and Business Area Director for Axiell Public Libraries. Her current title is Vice President for Strategic Initiatives.
Jean François Piat has served as Managing Director for Infor Library and Information Solutions since Melaerts departure in 2017 and will lead the unit as it becomes part of Axiell.
Joel Sommerfeldt has served as the Chief Executive Officer for Axiell since August 2011.
|Axiell Library Products||Product||Developed by||Year launched||Country||Status|
|Quria||Axiell||2016||Global. Initially: France, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, UK||Active development and sales|
|BOOK-IT||Axiel||1997||Sweden, Finland, US (1 library)||Active (developed as successor to BTJ 2000)|
|WeLib||Axiell||2016||Sweden, Norway||Active, digital school library|
|OpenGalaxy||DS||1983||United Kingdom||Active only in the United Kingdom; Open Galaxy Spark, a new web-based staff interface for OpenGalaxy was developed in 2015;|
|V-smart||Infor||2008||Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Switzerland, UK, US||Active, with ongoing development, support, and sales|
|DDElibra||Data Danish Electronic||1991||Denmark||DDElibra was phased out in 2017 following the nationwide implementation of Systematic's Cicero in the public and school libraries in Denmark|
|PallasPro||TietoEnator||Early 1990s||Finland||Legacy system, largely replaced by Axiell Aurora in Finland|
|Origo||Akateeminen Tietopalvelu ATP Oy||1990's||Finland||Legacy system, largely replaced by Axiell Aurora in Finland|
|LIBRA.SE||Axiel||1990's||Sweden||Legacy: not actively marketed, though it is still used by a few public libraries and by school libraries in Sweden|
|Web Portal Products|
|Arena||Axiell||2009||Global||Active: positioned as the discovery interface for Quria and other ILS products as well as CALM archive management system|
|Saga||Bibits||2007||Norway, Sweden||Active: implemented by libraries in Norway, Sweden, and Finland|
|Iguana||Infor||2010||Same as V-smart||Active: implemented as the customer interface for most V-smart sites|
Observations and Perspective
The acquisition of Infor Library and Information Solutions represents one more step in the consolidation of the global library technology industry. Recent decades have seen successive rounds of mergers and acquisitions that have concentrated the technology-related products and services into a smaller number of larger companies.
It's also important to note that the number of products available to libraries does not decrease at the same pace as the corporate consolidations. There has been a longstanding pattern of the continuation of acquired products. Although technology products have limited lifespans, it is not necessarily clear that their acquisition into another company accelerates their demise. In most cases the acquiring company may have greater capacity to continue a legacy product. When companies acquire the products of a competitor, they are motivated to provide reasonable support and development, especially if their long-term interests are in retaining them as customers or attracting them to their own offerings.
Infor, as a global company of massive scale involved in enterprise software for a wide range of commercial sectors and local governments, did not treat libraries as part of its core business and did not allocate the resources needed to sustain this business unit. The steady reduction in personnel in its library division in the last two decade are not positive indicator.
Axiell's acquisition of Infor Library and Information Solutions places its products within a company specifically focused on libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural organizations. The geographic diversity of V-smart and related products seems well aligned with Axiell's experience with libraries across many different regions and languages. Axiell has a demonstrated record of responsible treatment of the companies and products it has acquired.
Although industry consolidation remains a concern for libraries, each business transition brings a unique set of considerations. Although it will be important to maintain a critical perspective, on balance the acquisition of Infor's library business by Axiell seems mostly a positive move. The transition will be difficult to assess in the short term. The benefits of this transaction will be reflected through longer-term trends such as whether libraries involved remain within Axiell's fold of if substantial numbers seek technology solutions from other providers.