As usual, the library automation vendors were well represented in the exhibits that accompanied the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 24-30, 1999. By our count, there were 21 vendors of integrated library systems plus a goodly number of vendors of specialized automation products, such as cataloging and ILL packages.
In addition to their exhibits, many of the vendors held lavish, by invitation only, receptions at venues that included the New Orleans Art Museum, the Creole Queen cruise boat and a wax museum, as well as catered affairs in plush hotels and restaurants.
Also, as usual, there were the negative comments being bantered about by sales personnel of competing vendors. There has always been some "negative selling" in the library automation industry, but increasingly, these off-the-record comments seem to be part of a marketing strategy for various companies. Our own opinion is that negative selling reflects poorly on the perpetrators. However, as we have seen in recent political campaigns, negative advertising sometimes works. Not surprisingly, the vendors most often the target of negativity were also among the largest, by several measures-total number of installed systems, number of installed systems supporting 200+ concurrent users, number of staff devoted to software maintenance and development, and number of staff devoted to customer support. There are good points and not so good points about every company. It is wiser to pay attention to verifiable facts, rather than to unsubstantiated claims that may be little more than speculative, at best. The following vendor information is based on personal interviews with top management and press releases that were distributed around Conference time.
Ameritech Library Services (ALS), arguably the largest vendor of automated library systems and a prime target for detractors, reports that its sales through June 1999 are up approximately 30 percent over the same period last year. Most of the "new name" sales are for Horizon, the vendor's client/server product. We are inclined to accept the representation because we track the company and its major competitors. As Horizon with Sunrise, the enhancements which add Dynix' a unique functionality to the Horizon product, begins to take shape, interest in Horizon appears to be increasing.
Among Ameritech's June 1999 sales announcements is a Horizon system for the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, one which will serve a central library, 21 branches, and 14 high schools. Another award for a Horizon system was made by Zhejiang University, a major Chinese academic library serving 34,000 students with a collection of more than 3 million volumes. The Smithsonian Institution also chose a Horizon system for its 18 libraries. The 62 libraries of the New York State Unified Court System will be sharing a Horizon system. Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, a major law firm with 300 attorneys in six offices in four countries, will also implement a Horizon system to link its library collections and services. LOUIS, the consortium which automates and links nearly 30 Louisiana academic libraries has chosen to upgrade its NOTIS system to NOTIS II, a recent enhancement of the mainframe-based product.
Ameritech has also sold its Resource Sharing System (RSS) to several libraries and consortia. The system is a complete interlibrary loan automation system that conforms to the ISO 10160/10161 interlibrary loan standard. The University of Chicago is among the new customers. The New Jersey State Library will use the technology to create a virtual state-wide database of book resources for the public, academic, and school libraries of New Jersey.
The Santa Clara County Library (SCCL) has purchased AshureNet Desktop Management from Ameritech. It allows a library to manage desktop PCs from a central location. While SCCL uses a Dynix system, Desktop Management can be used with any automated library system. SCCL will be the fifth library in California to use the product.
Ameritech Corporation, parent of Ameritech Library Services, is one of the original "Baby Bells" that was created from the breakup of "Ma Bell." FCC permission for it to merge with SBC Communications Inc., formerly known as Southern Bell, another of the original Baby Bells, is still pending. How this megamerger would affect Ameritech Library Services is unclear, but ALS is a valuable asset and would undoubtedly be treated as such by the new company. As for the possibility that ALS might be sold, that possibility exists for any company, public or private, and on its face is not necessarily good or bad.
The other three vendors at which negative comments were aimed are DRA, Innovative Interfaces, and Sirsi, who along with Ameritech accounted for approximately 45 percent of total revenues for the multi-user library systems market in the U.S. during 1998. Innovative and Sirsi were the two best-selling products for the first five months of 1999.
[Contact: Ameritech Library services, 400 Dynix Drive, Provo, UT 84604-5650; (801) 223-5200 or (800) 223-5413; fax (801) 223-5202; www.amlibs.com].