The ALA Annual Conference, held July 6-12 in Chicago, provided a venue for library automation vendors to announce changes in business relationships and to show off the latest releases of their products and services. The one prevailing theme was the integration of new forms of content into the library OPAC.
In the current library automation market, the basic products offered by each vendor are mature and rich in functionality. The main battleground of competition that differentiates one competitor from another now lies in the products and services that operate beyond the traditional scope of library automation. Each vendor now seeks to deliver new and better ways to help libraries provide a more comprehensive and integrated environment of information resources.
The Library Corporation
Immediately prior to the ALA Conference, The Library Corporation (TLC) announced that it had acquired CARL Corp., which develops, markets, and supports the CARL system, a large-scale library automation service favored by municipal libraries and multi-campus universities. [For more information, see the NewsBreak on page 23 and at www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb00073 1-3.htm.]
TLC’s presence has been very conspicuous in ALA’s exhibit halls for the last few years. Its large exhibit space, which this year featured professional jugglers to promote TLC and its products, has increased ALA attendees’ awareness about the company. Library.Solution, TLC’s flagship product, has attracted over 300 contracts representing about 1,000 libraries. TLC indicates that sales for Library*Solution, its client/server integrated library system, continue to be remarkable. The product operates on Windows NT servers and uses Oracle as its back-end database. Released in late 1996, Library*Solution can now be considered a fairly mature and feature-rich library automation system. [For more on Library*Solution, see the news story on page 53.]
In another development, TLC announced that it has entered into a partnership with CASPR Library Systems, Inc. to license its LibraryCom.com library automation system. LibraryCom.com is entirely Web-based, and is offered as an outsourced solution for small libraries. [For more information on the partnership, see the news story on page 66.]
Even though The Library Corporation has been in business for over 25 years, and its BiblioFile product was a mainstay as a cataloging utility, it still suffers somewhat from lack of recognition among the integrated library system vendors. With its impressive sales of Library.Solution, its acquisition of CARL Corp., and through its partnership with CASPR, TLC is poised for a much higher profile in the library automation industry.
epixtech, DRA Enter Partnership
This development demonstrates that competitors in the library automation industry can cooperate when there are mutually beneficial business interests. epixtech, Inc. offers an interlibrary loan (ILL) and resource-sharing product called Universal Resource Sharing Application (URSA). This product aims to help library consortia perform efficient ILL, even if the libraries use different library automation systems. In order for URSA to work, it must communicate and exchange information with each library’s integrated system. Under this agreement, epixtech’s and DRA’s cooperation will ensure that URSA can operate with DRA’s library automation system. URSA has been adopted by library consortia whose member libraries use DRA’s system, making it mutually advantageous for DRA and epixtech to complete this software-development project. [For more on the agreement, see the news story on page 64.]
Despite rumors and speculation to the contrary, both companies strongly deny any changes in their competitive business relationship. There is no merger or acquisition involved in this development. At press time, DRA did, however, announce that it had the investment banking firm Crescendo Capital Partners, LLC assist it in identifying strategic acquisitions and investments. With the steady stream of DRA classic sites to other systems and the late-starting sales of Taos, it wouldn’t be too surprising for DRA to attempt to strengthen its position in the market through some sort of business acquisition.
Ex Libris Plunges Ahead
Ex Libris, a library automation company based in Israel, has enjoyed remarkable success in the North American market in the last few years. Its ALEPH 500 automation system, designed for large libraries and library consortia, though widely deployed in Europe, had not been particularly well known in the U.S. Recently though, some major North American libraries, including the University of Notre Dame, McGill University, Brandeis University, the City University of New York, and the State University of New York have implemented the system.
In addition to its ALEPH integrated library system, Ex Libris has been active in developing products that tie together all of a library’s electronic resources. Ex Libris acquired the rights to an application called SFX from the University of Ghent in Belgium. SFX provides reference-linking services among electronic resources--even if they’re from different vendors. One of the key issues in digital libraries involves the ability to provide seamless connections from one resource to another. Users expect, for example, to click through from a citation in one database to the full text of the article in another, or to easily determine if the local library holds the journal issue referenced in a citation. SFX uses a framework that it calls OpenURL to transmit metadata from each resource to a server that then determines relevant links for any given citation. [For more on SFX integration, see the news stories on pages 39 and 40.]
Ex Libris also announced a related product called MetaLib, a service that blends all of a library’s electronic resources into a standard interface. MetaLib makes use of SFX as well as a component called the Universal Gateway.
With its selection by some major U.S and Canadian libraries and with its new products for digital libraries, Ex Libris has quickly become a major presence in the North American library automation arena.
VTLS Makes Advances
VTLS, following a period of rebuilding while it finished its next-generation Virtua library automation system, seems to be experiencing a resurgence. The Virtua system, now complete, is enjoying success both internationally and domestically. Virtua, through its native implementation of Unicode, excels in its ability to support multiple languages and character sets. Virtua is well suited to international libraries and libraries with holdings in multiple languages. The system has been selected by libraries of varying sizes and library consortia.
In addition to its progress with Virtua, VTLS has been working on several other related projects. At the ALA Conference it announced the release of its Chameleon Gateway: a highly customizable Web-based OPAC. Through the Chameleon Gateway a library can craft the presentation of its online catalog and gateways to other resources in a way that best suits its user community. Libraries can offer multiple gateways that target different audiences, including, for example, a general interface, one for children, and another for advanced searchers.
[For more about VTLS, see the news story on page 54.]
Endeavor Announces Web Editions
Following the stunning news earlier this year that it had been acquired by Elsevier Science, Endeavor Information Systems unveiled its first product created from the union of these companies. At ALA, Endeavor and Elsevier Science announced that this information product, called Web editions, will be integrated into the next release of the Voyager library automation system and will be available to Endeavor’s customers free of charge.
Endeavor’s users who have purchased Citation Server will have article-level access to the 1,200 journals in Science Direct. The library’s patrons will be able to click through to the full text for the articles from journals for which the library already owns a print subscription. This agreement doesn’t provide free access to the full text of articles from Elsevier journals that the library doesn’t already own. In the demonstration of this product that I saw, the level of integration between Voyager, Citation Server, and the Elsevier Web editions content was very impressive. Endeavor maintains that the technologies being developed to support this initial product based on Elsevier’s content will also function to integrate content from competing publishers.
At ALA, Endeavor also demonstrated release 2000 of its Voyager library automation system. This release includes major enhancements in its acquisitions functions, improvements to cataloging with a workflow-oriented interface, and new search capabilities in its Web OPAC. (See the news story at http://www.infotoday.com/it/jul00/news24.htm and on page 48 of the July/August issue.)
[For more about Endeavor, see the news story on page 37.]
SIRSI Corp. Unveils iBistro
iBistro blends SIRSI’s WebCat online catalog with a set of content services to create a customized Internet portal for libraries. Through iBistro, a library’s catalog can present enhanced information about the materials it holds, including book jacket images, tables of contents, synopses, and book reviews. [For more on iBistro, see the news story on page 34.]
SIRSI also previewed Unicorn 2000, its library management system, which is expected to be available later this year. With Unicorn 2000, SIRSI continues its rollout of its WorkFlows staff interface. This release will include many new Wizards that automate tasks in the acquisitions module.
At the Innovative Interfaces booth, conference attendees could see several new products that have been integrated into the company’s Millennium library automation system. Innovative has added the ability for users to personalize their approach to the library’s OPAC through an enhancement of an optional module called MyMillennium. Among other things, with MyMillennium library users will be able to designate and save search strategies for ongoing use, specify the format in which circulation notices will be sent to them, and display the items currently charged to them.
In a previous NewsBreak, I described an agreement in which netLibrary and Innovative were to integrate e-books into Millennium. (See the March 13, 2000 NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com and on page 1 of the April 2000 issue.) At ALA, Innovative demonstrated this capability, which allows libraries to purchase e-books for their users. The library can automatically receive netLibrary’s MARC records corresponding to these materials. The holdings of the netLibrary e-books will be available in the Millennium OPAC, including the ability for library users to click through to the text of the books.
Innovative announced another development that has great potential for streamlining circulation operations. The Circulation Voice Input capability allows all the circulation functions of Millennium to be controlled through voice command, eliminating the need to touch the mouse or keyboard. This capability targets high-volume circulation stations where having to constantly reach for the keyboard or mouse at the same time as handling books can be very inefficient.
The company also demonstrated a new, Java-based interlibrary loan module. When a patron finds that the material he or she needs is not available from the library, it’s helpful to have the means to initiate an interlibrary loan request directly from the online catalog. This module uses the ISO 10160/10161 ILL protocol to transmit patron-initiated requests for materials to other interlibrary loan systems such as OCLC.
Gaylord Information Systems is a veteran of the library automation industry. Its original Circ400 system and, later, Galaxy systems were widely deployed in public libraries. Galaxy, however, had the misfortune of being based on the VAX/VMS operating environment, which has been largely abandoned by the computer industry. Gaylord subsequently developed the Polaris library automation system, which is based on the Windows NT operating system, Microsoft SQL Server, and other technologies from Microsoft.
Gaylord demonstrated the latest version of Polaris at ALA, promoting it as a feature-rich product well suited for many types of libraries. Several library automation companies are promoting staff clients that are designed to help library staff work more efficiently by automating oft-repeated tasks and providing other techniques to streamline the work flow of library duties. Gaylord has incorporated a number of features in its staff client to facilitate efficient work flow-especially by anticipating the next steps that need to be done within a given work routine.
[For more on Gaylord product implementations, see the NewsBrief on page 45 of the July/August 2000 issue.]
Sagebrush Technologies, a company specializing in the school library arena, demonstrated the latest versions of its Winnebago Spectrum and Athena products. With its more aggressive marketing, and the combined forces of the former Nichols and Winnebago companies, Sagebrush Technologies is well positioned to compete with Follett Corp., its archrival in the school library automation market.
In January, Sagebrush acquired Winnebago Software Co. Sagebrush had previously purchased Nichols Advanced Technologies, the creator of the Athena library automation system in October 1998. Until August 1999 Nichols operated under its own name, when it then became a division of Sagebrush Corp. called Sagebrush Technologies.
At this conference it was apparent that Winnebago and Nichols have been fully integrated into a single company. Both Winnebago Spectrum and Athena will continue to be developed and supported in their previous headquarters, Caledonia, Wisconsin, and Austin, Texas, respectively. Though Winnebago Spectrum and Athena appeal to the K-12 school library market, they are very distinct products, and it’s unlikely they will be consolidated anytime soon.
Sales for both products seem to be strong. Sagebrush recently announced its largest sale ever for Winnebago Spectrum--a $1.4 million contract to NewYork’s public schools. Sagebrush also maintains a Web portal site called Ednow.com, which provides an extensive collection of educational resources that are targeted for teachers, librarians, media specialists, administrators, and other education providers.
Follett Software Co.
Follett Corp. was a major presence in the exhibit hall, providing space for its different divisions. Not only does it include Follett Software Co., which develops, markets, and supports the Circulation Plus and Catalog Plus library automation products, but it also has divisions for book publishing, textbooks, CD-ROMs, audiovisual equipment, online services, bookstore management, and instructional materials.
Follett Software Co. demonstrated the latest versions of its Circulation Plus and Catalog Plus automation products, both of which have evolved from their DOS origins into more modem architectures. They have Windows-based interfaces for library staff functions and a Web OPAC. One of the more interesting presentations that I saw at Follett’s booth was a demonstration of how Internet resources can be integrated into the library’s online catalog, allowing the library to build a customized collection of Web sites that complement the school’s curriculum. Follett promoted its "one-stop" capability, which is integrated into its automation products and enables users to search the local catalog and other information sources simultaneously.
Marshall Breeding is the technology analyst at Vanderbilt University’s Heard Library, a columnist for Information Today, and a writer and speaker on library technology issues.