Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Helping You Buy ILSs

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Helping You Buy ILSs

Article excerpt


In 2008, commissioned ILS expert Pamela Cibbarelli to conduct a comprehensive survey of ILS vendors. In this section, we are pleased to bring you the results.


During the 30 years I was editor of The Directory of Library Automation Software, Systems, and Services, I had to make occasional revisions to the criteria for describing the software in order to reflect the concurrent evolution of computer technologies. It was always a pleasure to determine that a particular feature or function no longer needed to be included because it had become ubiquitous to the marketplace. This survey provided two more reasons to be pleased.

This year, it was found that holds management and prepackaged reports are also now provided by all vendors responding to the survey. The results further reveal that these features and capabilities have become almost ubiquitous:

* Acquisitions management

* ASP service

* Authority control

* Decision support

* Interfaces to bibliographic utilities

* Interfaces to commercial databases

* Interfaces to digital content

* Interfaces to display book images

* Interfaces to internet resources

* Interfaces to self-checkout services

* Inventory management

* Measurement of in-house usage statistics

* Patron account self-services features

* Patron authentication

* Serials management

* Serials routing management

* User groups

* Windows operating system


Some of the items listed above will never be developed for all products. Others are now in development by software publishers.

The similarity in features creates an increasingly competitive marketplace. (See Table 1 and Figure 1.)

In such a competitive marketplace, services of the software publisher or vendor become increasingly important. (See Table 2 on page 9.)

All vendors provide customer support via telephone, email, website, chat, or site visits. All vendors use at least three of these methods, and about half use all five methods.

Decision support and measurements of in-house usage statistics are proving to be useful tools.

There are also users' groups, mail lists, and/or online forums available for clients of almost all ILS vendors responding to the survey.

Flexibility has increased in the range of output formats available for custom reports with two-thirds of the vendors offering your choice of Excel (.xls) , .pdf, .doc, and .html file formats, greatly increasing the usefulness of the data.

Patron account self-service features have become commonplace, as has patron authentication. Patron notices are now output in a variety of formats by almost all systems.

Product Profiles

The history of library automation has been one of chasing the most popular operating systems for the host computer or the server. No longer is there a long list of alternatives. Today's library systems run on Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, Linux, Novell, or thin client architecture. Many run on several of these alternatives. (See Table 3.)

The UNIX operating system, while available as a platform for about half the ILS software publishers, has not become the overwhelming favorite as was anticipated several years ago. Products running under Windows, however, are almost universally available.

Client architecture has also simplified. HTML/web, Java, Windows, and Macintosh are today's choices, with HTML/web and Windows as the overwhelming favorites.

The growth of ASP services is dramatic. Almost all ILS suppliers now offer ASP services as an alternative to installation of the computer server on-site for libraries. This has become a very attractive alternative, since it reduces the support staff necessary on the library payroll and takes away the headache of upgrades. …

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