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FOLIO: Momentum building with new wave of implementations

Library Technology Newsletter [July 2022]

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The FOLIO library services platform, based on open source software, has made rapid gains in library implementations. Following a five-year development effort, the major modules of FOLIO are complete and implementations are well underway. These implementations span multiple support arrangements and include large, mid-sized, and small libraries. This article describes the inroads that FOLIO has made in the academic library arena and examines its positioned going forward in this competitive environment.

FOLIO: open source software and open systems architecture

FOLIO has been developed as open source software which also follows an open systems approach to its data and functionality. Consistent with current expectations, FOLIO offers a robust API which provides programmatic access to all data managed within the platform as well as to functional elements. Documentation of the FOLIO API is available on the Project Website. A recent article in the International Journal of Librarianship describes how Drew University made use of APIs in its FOLIO implementation.

Dobson, G. (2021). Lessons learned about FOLIO's APIs. International Journal of Librarianship,6(2), 30-39. https://doi.org/10.23974/ijol.2021.vol6.2.206.

The Caltech Library, which implemented FOLIO in Fall 2021, has implemented multiple capabilities based on the FOLIO APIs. These include:

  • Transferring catalog records in FOLIO to EBSCO Discovery Service.
  • interchange of MARC records with OCLC Connexion.
  • Interoperability YBP GOBI, to create order records and brief bib records in FOLIO when an order is placed in GOBI, then sending the new FOLIO order number back to GOBI.
  • Utilities offered through a locally-developed browser tool ( Foliage). These tools support activities such as collection withdrawals. Foliage also has a lookup function to view any type of record data from FOLIO, and a lookup function to find the unique universal identifiers of field values.
  • Programming is underway to automate a patron data import
  • Other projects as needed such as to change loan types of sets of items, or for uploading sets of patron records.
  • An implementation of controlled digital lending.

Kristin Martin, Director of Technical Services for The University of Chicago Library provided some perspective on the FOLIO APIs:

In terms of APIs, everything that FOLIO does in daily operation is done through the APIs. The UIs only use (and can only use) the available APIs to do work. So FOLIO really does eat its own dog food. Basically, anything you can do with FOLIO is done through the APIs, this is by design. They are used both by programmers and librarians/staff who aren't programmers. Having 100% of the data available through well documented APIs makes FOLIO more accessible to staff than previous systems in a much safer way than SQL access may have provided.

We use the APIs to support operations in some specialized ways that are either not already part of the UI in a convenient form for the given task, or which would make no sense to do in the UI. It allows special functionality to be created using tools such as Google Sheets or more traditional scripting languages, allowing libraries to customize their FOLIO to meet their needs.

EBSCO FOLIO

As an open source product, libraries can implement FOLIO on their own or through commercial support services. EBSCO FOLIO includes hosting and support services provided by EBSCO Information Services, along with related components such as EBSCO Discovery Service, the EBSCO Knowledge Base to support electronic resource management, EBSCONET for subscription management, the GOBI marketplace for books and other content, and the recently-launched Panorama Analytics suite. This suite of integrated products makes EBSCO FOLIO a comprehensive offering for academic libraries spanning print and electronic resource management, discovery, and analytics.

EBSCO has announced that over fifty institutions are now using EBSCO FOLIO in production. Most are using the complete suite of FOLIO modules. Some examples of libraries that use EBSCO FOLIO today include:

EBSCO lists more than 50 sites worldwide that use EBSCO FOLIO today and the company reports that the number is growing rapidly month over month. Some examples of libraries that use EBSCO FOLIO today include:

  • California Institute of Technology
  • Wellesley College
  • Center for Research Libraries
  • Cornell University
  • LOUIS-LSU
  • Missouri State University
  • Chalmers University, Sweden
  • Trinity College, UK
  • Universidad de Concepción, Chile
  • Durban University of Technology, South Africa
  • Jio Institute, India
  • Massey University, New Zealand

All libraries that have selected or implemented FOLIO can be viewed libraries.org directory on Library Technology Guides.

EBSCO Information Services partners with other organizations to provide support services for EBSCO FOLIO. Libraries working with these partners use the same software components and hosting services as EBSCO FOLIO. In the United States, ByWater Solutions, provides support services for EBSCO FOLIO. Libraries using EBSCO FOLIO with support provided through ByWater Solutions include:

Simeon Warner, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology at the Cornell University Libraries provides some perspective on the choice for EBSCO FOLIO:

FOLIO stood out in part because it is open-source. “The open-source and collaborative nature of FOLIO aligns with Cornell University Library's commitment to open access and the wide sharing of knowledge.

The library also appreciated FOLIO's improved functionality and greater freedom and flexibility. “It's a very dynamic system,” said Warner. “We are not at a vendor's mercy for how it's going to work, and we're also not locked into the way that it works right now. We can request that the FOLIO community develop a new feature, or we can develop it ourselves and contribute it to the community.”

In addition to selecting FOLIO, the library chose EBSCO to provide implementation, hosting and support services. “EBSCO's experience and implementation/migration services were a large factor in our choice to go with a hosted solution,” shared Debra Howell, Director of Information Technology Operations.

Cori Lynn Arnold, Electronic Resources Librarian at Washington College noted:

FOLIO ticked all the boxes we set out as requirements for our ILS. After the demo there were things we hadn't even thought of that came up, like the panorama reporting and fantastic course reserves integration with EDS! Yes, we loved that it was designed to go with EDS seamlessly, which we already had and liked. To our patrons not much had changed other than they were never shifted off to that other horrible catalog interface. We were very impressed with EBSCO's support and knew based on referral calls that the implementation service was top notch. We knew they were not just some fly-by-night company that we would need to replace in a few years, as EBSCO had a long history and reputation with Washington College.”

Tamir Borensztajn. EBSCO VP SaaS and Open Strategy notes:

EBSCO Information Services views FOLIO as a community response to industry consolidation that has provided libraries less choice as vendors increasingly bundle their services with their proprietary library systems. The FOLIO project has emerged as new model for vendor/library collaboration, where libraries are not locked-in to a single provider. Libraries can benefit from a modern platform on their terms while vendors can focus on developing best of breed applications and integrating these with the FOLIO platform. FOLIO is open throughout and integrates with external platforms without pre-conditions.

Other FOLIO implementations

In addition to the EBSCO FOLIO implementations, a number of other libraries have completed migrations to FOLIO through other support and hosting arrangements. These include those working with Index Data for hosting and support and others that manage their implementation independently without commercial support services.

Some of the libraries implementing FOLIO with support services from Index Data include:

  • University of Chicago
  • Lehigh University
  • Spokane Public Library
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Simmons University
  • Duke University (migration to be completed in 2023)
  • University of Colorado, Boulder

Libraries implementing FOLIO independently without commercial support services include:

  • Texas A&M University
  • Stanford University

As FOLIO completes these new rounds of implementations, the product is now positioned as the main competitor for new procurements to Ex Libris Alma. OCLC WorldShare Management Services, launched at the same time as Alma remains an important competitor in this arena.

Rising among the ARL members

The members of the Association of Research Libraries represent the largest and most complex implementations of any automation environment. Any product implemented in these libraries must offer sophisticated functionality and be able to manage very large multi-format collections. Over the last decade, these libraries have been moving away from legacy integrated library systems more oriented to print materials to library services platforms that address both electronic and print collections.

Ten members of the Association of Research Libraries have projects completed or underway to implement FOLIO, representing about 8 percent of its membership, as shown in Figure 1. Among ARL members Ex Libris Alma dominates with implementations by 80 members. FOLIO has now surpassed those using WorldShare Management Services (6 members) and is equal to those using Sierra.

Many ARL member libraries continue to use legacy ILS products. If the trends of the last decade prevail, many or most of these libraries will migrate to one of the library services platforms (Alma, FOLO, or WorldShare Management Services) in the next few years. With a pool of 27 libraries in play, including those still on Voyager (7), Aleph (2), Symphony (8), Sierra (10), substantial opportunities remain for each of these alternatives.

Figure 1: ILS market share among ARL member libraries

Another relevant study shows the number of implementations of each product in ARL member libraries over the last two decades. These trends illustrate the life cycle of the products used among this group. For historical or legacy systems, the chart shows their rise and eventual decline. Some products are now extinct, including NOTIS, Virtua, Taos, DRA, Amicus, Carl, Dynix, and Millennium. Others have rapidly diminishing implementations, but remain in use, such as Aleph, Voyager, Sierra, Symphony, and Horizon.

Another set of products are on the rise, including Alma, WorldShare Management Services, and FOLIO. Figure 2 includes these trendlines, which are also shown separately in Figure 3. This graph features the rapid rise of Ex Libris Alma among ARL members beginning in 2012 to achieve its current dominant position. OCLC WorldShare Management Services saw implementations beginning at about the same time as Alma, but did not break into the ARL members until 2014.The presence of WMS among the ARLs has held steady at 5 for the last three years, including the loss of the University of Delaware offset by the inclusion of the Atlanta University Center which became an ARL member in 2022. FOLIO saw its first ARL selections in 2020, which has increased to 10 members by 2020. This study suggests that while Alma has achieved rapid dominance among ARL members, FOLIO has gained momentum and seems positioned to increase its presence.

Figure 2: ARL member libraries: all ILS and LSP implementations 2000-2022
Figure 3: ARL member libraries: LSP implementations 2000-2022

Interest in FOLIO spans libraries of all sizes

FOLIO has also been implemented by smaller libraries. Through comprehensive support services such as EBSCO FOLIO, libraries can implement this open source system without the need for additional local technical personnel. Some of the small and mid-sized libraries implementing EBSCO FOLIO include:

Migration intentions from the International Perceptions Survey

The International Survey of Library Automation includes a section that asks whether libraries are considering migrating to a new system and the products that are under consideration. The most recent edition of the survey reflected strong interest in FOLIO. Alma continues to be listed most frequently (92 mentions) with FOLIO closely following (86 mentions). Fewer responses mentioned OCLC WorldShare Management Services (34). Increasing interest in FOLIO was one of the main observations highlighted in the survey report:

The decline of legacy products among academic libraries accelerates, with 17% considering plans to migrate. Reasonably high satisfaction rankings for both Voyager and Aleph, strong loyalty scores, and migration intentions favoring Alma suggest most may stay within the Ex Libris camp. Interest in FOLIO continues to increase, suggesting that FOLIO may be Alma's main competitor in the next phase of migrations. Academic libraries considering migration continue to mention WMS as a candidate, but at a lower level than Alma or FOLIO. Survey data suggests that the transition from the remaining libraries to library services platforms will continue, with an interesting mix of selections divided among Alma, FOLIO, and WMS, as well as some moving to open source combinations such as Koha and Coral.

2021 Migration Intentions
Current ILSRespShoppingPercentAcademic AlmaWorldSharePolarisSierraSymphonyFOLIOKohaEvergreenTIND
ALEPH 500 27 22 81.5 10 17100112200
Horizon 81 14 17.3 5 441042300
Library.Solution 90 18 20.0 5 101222200
Millennium 9 7 77.8 3 210003100
Sierra 279 97 34.8 46 34109214301441
Polaris 184 12 6.5 1 011010320
Symphony 342 53 15.5 18 1155228721
Voyager 24 17 70.8 8 930005201
Any Product 9234201031865094

Note: These figures represent the number of times each product was mentioned among the candidates listed. The matrix lists only selected current ILS products and candidate systems under consideration. The sum of values given at the bottom of each column represents the total number of times the product was mentioned as a replacement candidate, including for products not among those selected for the table. The highlighted values indicate where the candidate system mentioned is provided by the same company as the incumbent.


Earlier Coverage

Library Technology Newsletter and its predecessor Smart Libraries Newsletter have provided extensive coverage of FOLIO from its initial launch through its current phase of implementations.

Smart Libraries Newsletter August 2020: FOLIO Advances with New Implementations and Organizational Changes

The project to create the open source FOLIO library service platform has made significant advances, including a round of new installations and some changes in organizational structures. Libraries have partnered multiple support vendors, demonstrating the readiness of the software to accommodate a wide range of academic libraries. Other libraries have opted to implement FOLIO apps, such as electronic resource management, as a first phase, while continuing to rely on their existing ILS for other areas of functionality.

The organizational structures related to FOLIO are evolving. The Open Library Environment, which has been helpful to help manage the transition from the Kuali OLE to FOLIO and to channel resources into FOLIO development, will be phased out, though its members will continue to be part of the FOLIO community. The Open Library Foundation will continue its role to provide governance services to FOLIO and other open source software projects.

Smart Libraries Newsletter November 2019: FOLIO Crosses New Thresholds

The initiative to develop FOLIO as an open source library services platform has been underway since 2016 and has continued to cross important milestones. The software has continued to advance in its functionality and completeness, leading to its first production migration, selections in formal procurement processes, with other libraries waiting in the wings for future implementation.

The ongoing launch of the FOLIO initiative has been chronicled in previous issues of Smart Libraries Newsletter. Some of the distinctive characteristics of the software include:

  • an open source library services platform able to manage print, electronic, and digital resources; that it's based on a microservices architecture, including the OKAPI API gateway and Stripes user interface toolkit;
  • an underlying Codex metadata model that can describe and manage multiple types of content;
  • a modular design with a suite of apps that can be optionally implemented and replaced as needed without requiring wholesale changes to the overall environment;
  • a multi-tenant design, though some libraries or support organizations may opt to deploy their own instances of the software;
  • that it is designed to interoperate with external systems and services, within the library, institution, and external partners;
  • that it is designed to integrate with any knowledgebase or discovery service;
  • that the initial project concept and funding began with EBSCO Information Services;
  • that Index Data contracted to create the initial technical framework and continues to contribute to ongoing development;
  • that the software is owned by the Open Library Foundation, with diverse board representation including representatives from libraries invested in implementing the software and companies involved in development; and
  • that the project is allied with the Open Library Environment, which previously led the Kuali OLE initiative.

In recent weeks, the FOLIO project has achieved a major benchmark with its first production use in an academic library at Chalmers University of Technology. The software has been selected through two major procurement processes, including the National Library of Hungary and the libraries of Missouri State University.

Interest in FOLIO continues to build through both the efforts of its global community and through the sales force of EBSCO Information Services, one of the major backers of the project. The project can be characterized as nearing completion of its initial product release and in the early phase of its implementation cycle. While this transition to implementation is a significant event, FOLIO remains in a nascent state with much development remaining ahead. These events help demonstrate the possibilities of the software, providing a basis for other libraries to make their own evaluations.

Smart Libraries Newsletter October 2016: An Update on FOLIO

Progress continues on the FOLIO project to create a new open source library services platform for academic libraries. Recent milestones include the initial release of the lower-level platform software needed for the development of functional apps and some new organizational structures.

FOLIO will be based on a microservices architecture, with a lightweight platform providing common infrastructure services to the functional modules or apps. The development of this infrastructure layer was contracted to Index Data, a firm based in Copenhagen, Denmark and Boston, MA that specializes in open source library software. The initial announcements of the FOLIO project anticipated an initial release of the framework in August 2016, which was accomplished on schedule.

Generally consistent with this timeframe, Index Data has completed some of its initial work for FOLIO, with code repositories now openly available on GitHub. It must be emphasized that the software currently available is oriented to developers and does not yet provide higher level functionality. According to Sebastian Hammer, Chief Strategist for Index Data, “the software created at this time should be considered more like an operating system to support apps, which will provide smaller units of functionality which can then be stitched together to form complex systems.”

The architectural design of FOLIO organizes the technical infrastructure into several layers. The lowest system layer will be comprised of components mostly oriented to storage for bibliographic and transactional data as well as indexing and configuration services. Another layer, called OKAPI, serves as an API gateway, providing a variety of services to manage communications among apps. A UI toolkit will also be provided to facilitate the creation of apps with consistent user interfaces. The FOLIO development environment will include Stripes for OKAPI, which builds on the React framework created by Facebook and Instagram. The creation of apps can commence in earnest once the system layer, OKAPI, and UI Toolkit are in place.

A variety of communications channels have also been set up to support developers interested in working on FOLIO. The project envisions individuals and organizations throughout the world contributing their efforts to design, develop, test the software, and create documentation. Robust communications will therefore be required to coordinate these efforts.

Conversations among developers are currently taking place in Slack (folio-project.slack.com) as well as in threaded discussions managed through Discuss (discuss.folio.org). The main page, folio.org is growing rapidly to include or link to all aspects of the project.

The Open Library Foundation was recently established to house the governance of FOLIO and to support other allied open source projects, such as the GOKb and the Open Library Environment (OLE). Open source projects need some type of organization to manage decision making, to hold assets such as copyrights or other intellectual property, and to acquire and distribute any financial resources. Examples can be seen across many open source software projects. These roles are provided by LYRASIS for CollectionSpace and ArchivesSpace; DuraSpace provides these services for DSpace and Fedora. The Apache Foundation manages many of the large-scale open source projects such as the Apache web service, SOLR, Lucene, and dozens of other core technologies for the web.

Smart Libraries Newsletter May 2016: EBSCO Supports New Open Source Project in Partnership with Kuali OLE

A new initiative has launched to create an open source library services platform for academic libraries. EBSCO Information Services conceived the project and will provide substantial funding. A community of developers comprising commercial and library organizations will create the software. Kuali OLE, previously working to create its own open source library resource management system, will make a transition to participate in this new initiative rather than complete its own software. Many details of the new project, including the nature of Kuali OLE's involvement, are not yet finalized. The resources currently lining up behind this initiative provide the potential for the rapid development generally consistent with the plans for Kuali OLE. Participants characterize this new project as not as a setback, but as an acceleration of the availability of an open source library services platform for academic libraries.


Selected FOLIO Implementations
InstitutionERMLSPDiscoverySupport ProviderPrevious ILSMore Info
Full FOLIO LSP implementations
Five Colleges Jul 2022 Jul 2022 EDS EBSCO Aleph Press Release
University of Massachusetts, Amherst Jul 2022 Jul 2022 EDS EBSCO Aleph Press Release
Mt Holyoke College Jul 2022 Jul 2022 EDS EBSCO Aleph Press Release
Cairn University Jul 2022 Jul 2022 EDS EBSCO Sierra
Center for Research Libraries Jun 2022 Jun 2022 EDS / VuFind EBSCO Millennium Press Release
Wellesley College Jun 2022 Jun 2022 EDS EBSCO Millennium Announcement
Holy Family University Jun 2022 Jun 2022 EDS EBSCO WMS
College of the Holy Cross Jun 2022 Jun 2022 EDS / VuFind Index Data Sierra Press Release
Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano May2022 May 2022 EDS EBSCO Symphony Press Release
Texas A&M University Jan 2022 Jan 2022 EDS / VuFind Independent Voyager
University of Chicago Jan 2022 Jan 2022 EDS Index Data Kuali OLE Press Release
Washington College Jan 2022 Jan 2022 EDS EBSCO Sierra
Spokane Public Library Jan 2022 Jan 2022 VuFind Index Data Horizon Press Release
California Institute of Technology Oct 2021 Oct 2021 EDS EBSCO TIND ILS Press Release
Okanagan College Oct 2021 Oct 2021 EDS EBSCO Voyager Press Release
Universidad de Concepción - Chile Oct 2021 Oct 2021 EDS EBSCO Aleph Press Release
Middle Tennessee State University Jul 2021 Jul 2021 EDS EBSCO Voyager Press Release
University of Tennessee at Martin Jul 2021 Jul 2021 EDS EBSCO Voyager Press Release
Cornell University Jun 2020 Jul 2021 EDS EBSCO Voyager Press Release
Washington and Jefferson College Jun 2020 Nov 2020 EDS ByWater Symphony Press Release
Lehigh University Aug 2020 Aug 2020 EDS / VuFind Index Data Kuali OLE
Drew University Aug 2020 Aug 2020 EDS EBSCO Local
Missouri State University Jun 2020 Jun 2020 EDS EBSCO Sierra Press Release
St. Thomas University Jun 2020 Jun 2020 EDS ByWater WMS Press Release
Simmons University Jun 2020 Jun 2020 EDS Index Data Millennium Press Release
Warner University Jun 2020 Jun 2020 EDS ByWater WMS Press Release
Chalmers University of Technology Aug 2019 Sep 2019 EDS EBSCO Sierra Press Release
Implementations Underway
Stanford University Planned 2023 Planned 2023 EDS / Blacklight Independent Symphony / Voyager Project site
Duke University Jun 2020 Planned 2023 Summon Index Data ALEPH Announcement
University of Alabama EDS EBSCO Voyager
University of Colorado, Boulder Jun 2021 Planned 2023 EDS Index Data Sierra

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Publication Year:2022
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Technology Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 1 Number 07
Issue:July 2022
Page(s):5
Publisher:Library Technology Guides
Place of Publication:Nashville, TN
Record Number:27574
Last Update:2022-12-06 14:59:16
Date Created:2022-07-19 13:57:58
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