October 3, 2022

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.


  1. It probably is not an over-statement to say this is a watershed event for libraries. Large-scale collaboration and a shared technology platform for back-office functions are, as William Jordan indicates, necessary for the survival of academic libraries. The same can be said about public libraries.

    Unifying libraries’ resources and efforts to accomplish common tasks will improve operational efficiency. That should free funds and staff for the critically important work of developing and delivering more locally tailored services to library patrons. It can also shift the balance of power between libraries and publishers in the e-content battle. The “informed cooperative collection development” made possible by a shared technology platform for back-office functions should lead quickly to informed cooperative collection acquisition. When dozens of libraries begin buying both printed and e-content collectively, they will gain a much stronger position in negotiating for improvements in publishers’ terms, conditions and pricing for e-books.

    Large collaborations such as this one are very difficult to manage. But if they can be made to work as envisioned, operational productivity will improve, patrons will receive more and better services, and librarians’ collection-development decisions will be influenced more by the needs of patrons and less by the price of e-content.

  2. This “radical shift away from the ILS” doesn’t sound like much more than a shift to a single integrated library system shared by the members of the consortium, rather than trying to cobble something together on top of multiple integrated library systems. By definition, having one ILS that everybody in the consortium uses will reduce complexity, enable common workflows, and make it easier to pair up circulation and collection data.

    I guess “consortium decides to move to one integrated library system” is a much less sexy angle for an article, though.

    • Dan, I agree. The idea (i.e., a consortium sharing a single library automation system) is not new. Ohiolink and others have been doing it for years.

      What is new is the functionality that Alma may offer over and above a legacy ILS, plus the added discovery layer.

  3. A true ILS and giving up the local catalog is a BIG second step. Third will be giving up the bib on a Central site for one bib on ONE global site.

  4. Mark Andrews says:

    I get the point, though the article reads like an extended advert for Ex Libris. A big win for them. I wonder what’s going to happen to those companies late to the party? Who buys a stand-alone ILS any more unless absolutely necessary?

    • Stephanie Tetter says:

      Mark: spoken like someone with experience on both sides of the vendor/customer relationship! I agree, BTW.

  5. You say that you considered several open source options. Could you please tell us which zones ?

  6. Bids in the RFP process came from EBSCO, Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, Inc., OCLC, and Serials Solutions. Some bids were for an ILS, some for a discovery layer, and some combined both.

    Whatever open source options they looked at in the process didn’t make it to the RFP process.

  7. Just as Helmer said, moving forward everyone has to get used to the new data structures and concepts which are imperative to the new learning environment. This indeed is a huge step but innovation at its finnest.