A Comparative Analysis of the Effect of the Integrated Library System on Staffing Models in Academic Libraries

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ABSTRACT

This analysis compares how the traditional integrated library system (ILS) and the next-generation ILS may impact system and technical services staffing models at academic libraries. The method used in this analysis is to select two categories of ILSs--two well-established traditional ILSs and three leading next-generation ILSs--and compare them by focusing on two aspects: (1) software architecture and (2) workflows and functionality. The results of the analysis suggest that the next-generation ILS could have substantial implications for library systems and technical staffing models in particular, suggesting that library staffing models could be redesigned and key librarian and staff positions redefined to meet the opportunities and challenges brought on by the next-generation ILS.

INTRODUCTION

Today, many academic libraries are using well-established traditional integrated library systems (ILSs) built on the client-server computing model. The client-server model aims to distribute applications that partition tasks or workloads between the central server of a library automation system and all the personal computers throughout the library that access the system. The client applications are installed on the personal computers and provide a user-friendly interface to library staff. However, this model may not significantly reduce workload for the central servers and may increase overall operating costs because of the need to maintain and update the client software across a large number of personal computers throughout the library. (1)

Since the global financial crisis, libraries have been facing severe budget cuts, while hardware maintenance, software maintenance, and software licensing costs continue to rise. The technology adopted by the traditional ILS was developed more than ten years ago and is evidently outdated. The traditional ILS does not have sufficient capacity to provide efficient processing for meeting the changing needs and challenges of today's libraries, such as managing a wide variety of licensed electronic resources and collaborating, cooperating, and sharing resources with different libraries. (2)

Today's libraries manage a wide range of licensed electronic resource subscriptions and purchases. The traditional ILS is able to maintain the subscription records and payment histories but is unable to manage details about trial subscriptions, license negotiations, license terms, and use restrictions. Some vendors have developed electronic resources management system (ERMS) products as standalone products or as fully integrated components of an ILS. However, it would be more efficient to manage print and electronic resources using a single, unified workflow and interface.

To reduce costs, today's libraries not only band together in consortia for cooperative resource purchasing and sharing, but often also want to operate one "shared ILS" for managing, building, and sharing the combined collections of members. (3) Such consortia are seeking a new ILS that exceeds traditional ILS capabilities and uses new methods to deliver improved services. The new ILS should be more cost effective, should provide prospects for cooperative collection development, and should facilitate collaborative approaches to technical services and resource sharing. One example of a consortium seeking a new ILS is the Orbis Cascade Alliance, which includes thirty-seven universities, colleges, and community colleges in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

As a response to this need, many vendors have started to reintegrate or reinvent their ILSs. Library communities have expressed interest in the new characteristics of these next-generation ILSs; their ability to manage print materials, electronic resources, and digital materials within a unified system and a cloud-computing environment is particularly welcome. (4) However, one big question remains for libraries and librarians, and that is what implications the next-generation ILS will have on libraries' staffing models. …