Chapter 2 examines themes that commonly arose in the comments: cost; the benefits and drawbacks of consortial membership; ILS functionality; customer support; and open source software. While comments on cost are almost universally negative, the other topics reflect a range of opinions. Librarians want mature, intuitive software with responsive vendors. They disagree on whether their current products, or open source alternatives, provide this.
We categorized the comments from the free text field to look for hot-button issues. Popular areas of interest included costs; consortia; open source (no doubt partly because other survey questions directly addressed this); ILS functionality; and customer support. Libraries commenting on their support typically either loved it or hated it, and this issue will be addressed in more depth and in the context of specific vendors in chapter 4. The other themes will be addressed here.
A very large number of comments centered on the costs involved with annual maintenance and support. Not only were the costs perceived as high, but the annual increases were burdensome. Many libraries noted that given budget pressures, current levels of cost for maintenance were not sustainable. A few were satisfied with their ILS and support, but still considering migration due to cost concerns. Some knew they were making tradeoffs in terms of functionality to reach a good price point, but were satisfied with the overall package. For many, however, the costs, in terms of both funds for a new system and the personnel efforts required, precluded change and forced continuation of the status quo despite some degree of dissatisfaction.
Commenters addressed both the benefits and the drawbacks of consortia membership.
On the positive side, many libraries make use of an automation system provided through a consortium. This arrangement allows them to benefit from the use of a full-featured system, at a cost lower than they would pay individually, and to rely on technical support provided through the consortium. Several comments indicated that the consortium made it possible to use a system they otherwise couldn't afford or to benefit from technical expertise they did not have in house. Other libraries not in consortia expressed a hope that they could find partners that would allow them to experience these benefits.
However, some libraries sharing an ILS though a consortium expressed concerns regarding the choice of system imposed by the consortium, constraints in functionality, and issues in the way that consortium delivered services. These libraries may have been dissatisfied with the choice of ILS--in some cases thinking it was a step backward from their previous automation system--but they felt powerless to effect change. Many libraries involved with consortia noted that they were unable to evaluate the performance of their ILS vendor or provide feedback because their support was mediated through the consortium. This in turn may make it difficult for vendors to be appropriately responsive to users' needs.
Open source ILSes have been a prominent topic of discussion in recent years, and the survey has specifically addressed this since its inception by asking about level of interest in open source products and specific products under consideration. While some pockets of interest in open source ILS software surface, the survey does not reveal widespread interest outside the ranks of libraries already invested in one of these systems. Libraries' comments on this issue are diverse and the overall picture is complicated. (See also the section on interest in open source in chapter 3.)
Just over 10 percent of survey respondents currently operate open source ILS products, with generally moderate to high satisfaction scores. Open source was among the most …