The country of Northern Ireland operates a country-wide library service called Libraries NI, including around 100 libraries, serving a population of around 1.8 million. Libraries NI was formed in 2009 through the merger of four regional library services.
The E2 Project included renewal of several components of the technical infrastructure throughout the library service including its public access network, virtual library for access to its collections and services via the Web, RFID-based services, its corporate network for administrative support, business intelligence for data-based decision making, and a customer relationship management system (see Libraries NI Annual Report and Accounts 2011-2012). Libraries NI awarded a project totaling £25 million to a consortium of vendors led by Fujitsu UK and Ireland to provide a comprehensive renewal of its information technology and library automation infrastructure. This consortium includes SirsiDynix, which will provide its Symphony ILS and Enterprise discovery interface as well as its BookMyne mobile app, Social Library native Facebook application, and its SMS messaging module. SirsiDynix Symphony will replace the Axiell OpenGalaxy ILS in place since 2002. SirsiDynix previously had a presence in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Government Libraries consortium selected Symphony in 2005 as the automation system for six government department and three agricultural college libraries.
Bibliotheca will provide RFID-based products for the project, including RFID security gates in each of the libraries and self-service equipment in twenty of the largest libraries. More than 400 self-service kiosks with integrated payment capabilities will be deployed. Libraries NI holds a combined collection of 1.8 million items, all of which will receive RFID tags. Bibliotheca reports that this project will represent the largest RFID deployment in the United Kingdom.
Fujitsu, as the lead vendor, will manage the overall implementation and will provide complete IT support to Libraries NI for the five-year term of the contract. In addition to library automation provided by SirsiDynix and RFID technologies from Bibliotheca, the project includes upgraded network infrastructure, including Internet access and Wi-Fi.
This project stands out as noteworthy as an instance of the trend toward shared technology infrastructure for libraries. This contrasts with an approach where each library independently implements its own automation products. Shared infrastructure offers the potential for lower technology costs per library and for providing access to a larger collective collection to library users. Other examples include the current procurement process underway for the country of Denmark, the OneLMS project in the state of South Australia, and many others. In the US many states are working toward developing statewide opt-in automation projects. With the almost unlimited scalability of today's technology, we can anticipate increased numbers of libraries participating in large-scale shared automation projects rather than implementing standalone systems.