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Library technology at ALA Annual Conference

Computers in libraries [July 1994]


Copyright (c) 1994 Information Today

Abstract: The exhibits at the ALA Annual Conference, held in Miami, included several vendors of library automation systems. An increasing number of vendors characterize their systems as following a client/server architecture.

One of the things I appreciated most at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Miami, Florida, was a chance to catch up on whas new in the way of library technology. A large part of my professional responsibility involves staying abreast of the latest developments in library automation systems, CD-ROM networks, and the various systems and services related to the Internet, OCLC, and other information systems. Although the integrated library system market was comprehensively represented, I was somewhat disappointed by the paucity of exhibitors in the other technology categories.

The physical layout of the exhibits made it a little easier for those of us primarily interested in technology products. The exhibit hall of the Miami Beach Convention Center was split into two connecting halves. One side of the exhibit hall focused mostly on library technology, although some automation vendors were also scattered throughout the other side as well. Conference attendees seemed to react mostly positively to this change of layout. Those of us primarily interested in technology could cover the field without having to traverse the whole exhibit area.

Nearly all the familiar names were represented at the conference. No new players have entered the field, and no new systems were announced. The ongoing pattern of consolidation of library systems under the ownership of a few vendors is reflected by the current range of exhibitors.

The hottest story by far at the conference concerned the announcement by Ameritech Library Services concerning a change of direction in the development of the highly publicized NOTIS Horizon library management system. Horizon will not be developed as a totally new product, but will be built as an enhanced academic version of the Dynix Marquis system. I'll save a more complete cliscussion of this event and its implications for another story.

Library Automation Systems

As can be expected at any ALA conference, the exhibit hall was well populated with vendors of library automation systems. First, some general comments, and then I will give an overview of the specific exhibitors at this ALA meeting.

The products seen at the conference reflect distinct trends in the evolution of the integrated library system. All the vendors seem to be rushing to develop graphical interfaces to their systems usually under Microsoft Windows. An increasing number of vendors characterize their systems as following a client/server architecture, and Unix seems to be the operating system promoted most strongly. Z39.50--an almost intangible concept just a couple of years ago--now claims support by most of the major library automation systems.

Most of the library automation systems have matured to the point where they all offer a basic set of required features. Each now tries to distinguish itself with regard to a new set of requirements that have become buzz-words of the industry. The vendors are eager to emphasize their new graphical interfaces, adoption of modern computer architecture, and interoperability through compliance with the Z39.50 protocol. More and more, one sees features that reach beyond the core modules traditionally encompassed by an integrated system: citation, reference, and full-text databases; delivery of images; and interlibrary loan.

Data Research had one of the largest booths among the automation vendors, demonstrating several products and services. The main emphasis was the Data Research library automation system and DRAnet, which links DRA sights among themselves and offers access to various electronic databases. DRA showed its recently developed graphical Z39.50 client. This client, which was running under Windows NT, is impressive in that it can connect to multiple Z39.50 servers and search them simultaneously. INLEX/3000 was also demonstrated in the Data Research booth, reflecting last year's acquisition by DRA of this product. In addition, MultiLIS, just recently acquired by DRA from Sobeco Ernst & Young, exhibited its system separately.

Although Geac emphasizes its Advance library system, it also demonstrated the LIBS 100 plus, which it acquired from CLSI about two years ago. Geac showed off the new features now available in Version 5 of Advance, as well as its "GeoPac client/server research station," its graphical Z39.50 client. Ameritech Library Services subsumes under a single organization two of the major names in library automation.

As can be expected, the Dynix and NOTIS booths were in close proximity. Little could be seen of the mainframe version of NOTIS LMS, the mainstay of this part of the company. Rather, the NOTIS booth featured demonstrations of Dynix Marquis, which it plans to enhance for academic libraries, and the recently announced WinPAC product. WinPAC is a Microsoft Windows-based interface for accessing library catalogs and other electronic resources over the Internet. NOTIS also showed its InfoShare Z39.50 server for reference and citation databases. In the Dynix booth, ALA attendees could try out the Unix host-based Dynix classic system, the client/server Dynix Marquis system, and the Dynix Scholar system targeted for the K-12 school library market.

SIRSI showed off its Unix-based Unicorn integrated library system. With the recent increased interest in Unix, SIRSI makes much of the fact that it has been operating under this operating system since 1982. But following one of the more recent trends, SIRSI's most recent accomplishment is its Windows-based clients, available both for its online catalog and for staff functions. Vision, SIRSI's Windows-based Z39.50 client introduced at the ALA midwinter, was also demonstrated at the annual conference.

PSS Tapestry demonstrated its recently completed integrated library system, based on the Software AG's ADABAS database management system. Tapestry runs on both mainframe systems and Unix servers.

Data Trek demonstrated its three lines of PC-based integrated library systems. These include its full-featured Professional Series, its older Manager Series, and its School Series developed for school libraries. All three of its products can use Data Trek's graphical online catalog interface, called GoPAC. GoPAC's recent enhancements include the ability to view images that can be associated with any bibliographic record. Although it purchased The Assistant from INLEX last year, Data Trek continues not to market it. Even more recently, Data Trek acquired the OASIS library system from Dawson Holdings Company, but this system was also not available for demonstration at ALA.

MARCorp, formerly Carlyle Systems, promoted its relatively new Voyager integrated library system. This client/server system runs under the Unix operating system in conjunction with Ingres or Oracle relational database mnagement system. Voyager was originally developed with the X-Windows-based Motif interface, but MARCorp is now implementing clients under Microsoft Windows. The Motif version of the system currently offers significantly more functionality than the Windows clients.

Innovative Interfaces, Inc. demonstrated the latest version of its Unix-based integrated library system. Like many of its competitors, Innovative was demonstrating a Windows-based Z39.50 client. At the VTLS booth, attendees could learn about its integrated library system, which now runs on Unix as well as on Hewlett-Packard's MPE and IBM's VM operating systems. VTLS also showed its graphical InfoStation and the PC-based MicroVTLS integrated system.

International Library Systems showed off the latest release of its SydneyPlus integrated library system. This is a full-featured system geared toward corporate libraries that runs under MS-DOS or VAX/VMS.

Carl Corporation showed a variety of products. The Carl System, based on Tandem computers, is its primary library automation product. Carl had previously developed a Kid's Catalog, which makes an online catalog accessible to younger library users. This year Carl was showing another interface it calls Everyone's Catalog.

The PC-based integrated system Mandarin was represented by its U.S. distributor, Media Flex. Mandarin can be used to make citation databases available under the same interface as the library's catalog. This is a fairly impressive capability for a PC-based system.

IME demonstrated the latest version of The Information Navigator, a PC-based integrated library system that uses hypertext-like searching methods. IME was showing its just-completed Windows version of its online catalog. The Windows version follows the same general searching style as the DOS-based system, but it also includes the ability to view images and video clips attached to a record.

Best-Seller Library Systems promoted its integrated system called Best-Seller, based on 4GL technology.

Ringold Management Systems showed off its integrated system, which it calls the Nonesuch System.

General Automation demonstrated Zebra 2000 Advanced Library Management and Information System, its Pick-based automated system. Zebra also runs on Unix systems under the Unidata database environment.

Cuadra Associates displayed its STAR information management system. Not only can STAR be used for traditional library automation tasks, but also it is especially well adapted to general text management. Cuadra recently announced its STAR/WorkSaver information management software. Cuadra indicates that its future development plans include shaping the system to a more client/server approach, supporting its own proprietary protocols; Z39.50, and SilverPlatters DXP search and retrieval protocol.

Gaylord Brothers, among its wide array of other library services, demonstrated its VAX-based Galaxy library automation system.

Auto-Graphics displayed its SLiMS Small Library Management System as well as its document processing systems.

Follett Software exhibited a range of products aimed for the school library. Follett has recently developed a new environment, called Unison, that integrates its other automation products. The Circulation Plus, Catalog Plus, and TextBook Plus core modules can all operate with the new Unison database engine.

Winnebago Software Company demonstrated its CIRC/CAT library automation system. This system, designed for sehool libraries, includes the ability to search supplemental databases. Winnebago offers three different databases from UMI, called Resource/One Select, Resource/One, and PA Library. These databases are loaded on the hard disk of the system and are updated three times per year.

Nichols Advanced Technologies demonstrated MOLLI, its PC-based integrated library system, designed for school libraries. In addition to the basic MOLLI system, Nichols offers two products, AQUI, its Bcquisitions module, and Serials.

Library Technologies, Inc. promoted Bib-Base, its cataloging and acquisitions software.

Internet Services

With the immense interest in the Internet of late, I was truly surprised that so few vendors were exhibiting products specifically related to the Internet.

Auto-Graphics was also demonstrating NetCom's interface, which it developed for accessing World Wide Web and other servers on the Internet. The freely available NCSA Mosaic has gained wide acceptance for navigating the Web on the Internet. NetCom, however, anticipates that many people will be willing to pay for a commercially supported application laden with features missing from the current version of NCSA Mosaic.

Sprint's booth promoted its Internet connection services as well as a Web-based tool for assisting novice users with finding resources on the Internet. Winnebago showed its interest in this area by demonstrating an educational video that it developed to help train library staff and patrons in taking advantage of services on the Internet.

Other things related to the Internet included SilverPlatter Information showing the use of its Electronic Reference Library to access remote servers through the Internet; the WinPAC interface, which could be seen at the NOTIS booth for connecting to Z39.50; and other servers over the Internet. Overall, however, I did not see vendors taking advantage of this conference to promote access services to the Internet, network connectivity products, and the like.

CD-ROM Technology

Relatively few vendors exhibited products related to CD-ROM technology. Although quite a few vendors offered information products delivered on CD-ROM, one could not find a large number of CD-ROM hardware and network systems.

Three vendors had booths promoting CD-ROM networking systems. Virtual Microsystems showed its CD/Works and CD/Access products, Online Computer Systems promoted its OPTI-NET products, and Meridian Data demonstrated its CD Net system. Meridian Data also announced it would now offer the CD/Networker system developed by Lotus for its OneSource products. Lotus attempted to market CD/Networker as a separate product for a limited time, but withdrew the product.

SilverPlatter Information, in addition to its wide array of database products, showed its Electronic Reference Library, a client/server database system designed to access any SilverPlatter database using its DXP information retrieval protocol. SilverPlatter demonstrated WinSpirs, the Microsoft Windows version of its search and retrieval software.

View Citation
Publication Year:1994
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Computers in libraries
Publication Info:Volume 14 Number 7
Issue:July 1994
Publisher:Information Today
Place of Publication:Medford, NJ
Subject: Library automation -- product reviews
Record Number:1232
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00