In the latest Perceptions survey, the most popular library management system is from a relatively new supplier to libraries and is available exclusively on a Software as a Service basis. The survey also reveals that interest in open source library management systems is weak outside the community of libraries that has already adopted one.
The Perceptions series of surveys is three years old now, and is part of Marshall Breeding’s armoury of library technology commentaries, the most well-used of which is Library Technology Guides. Meanwhile, Perceptions 2009: An international survey of library automation, like its predecessors, aims to ascertain levels of satisfaction within libraries with their library management system and suppliers thereof. Despite disruption in the library software arena, the library management system (LMS), or integrated library system (ILS) as it’s known to Marshall Breeding in the US, remains important:
The integrated library system (ILS) for most libraries represents the most critical component of its technology infrastructure and can do the most to help or hinder a library in fulfilling its mission to serve its patrons and in operating efficiently.
Interest may be waning in open source
One of Marshall’s central aims this year is to gauge interest in open source ILS products, which he describes as “one of the major issues brewing in the industry”.
A key overall finding was that companies supporting proprietary library management systems tend to receive higher satisfaction scores than companies involved with open source library management systems. Marshall notes explicitly that LIbLime received particularly low marks in customer satisfaction, whilst libraries that undertook to implement Koha without external support were highly satisfied with this arrangement.
Respondents who had made use of other support firms such as PTFS, Nusoft and ByWater Solutions (it should be noted that support companies servicing open source products are still not prevalent in the UK) were not sufficiently numerous to be included in the report’s summary tables. Likewise, Talis only had 14 respondents and therefore does not figure in the main tables, although as a UK supplier, we are happy to be positioned in 10th place in terms of satisfaction with LMS in an international survey.
As Marshall told the audience at the SCONUL conference here in the UK in June 2009, there are low levels of interest registered in open source library management systems apart from the community of libraries already using one. Even those libraries that are dissatisfied with their current proprietary system fail to demonstrate interest in open source.
But Software as a Service is top of the pops
Biblionix, described by Marshall as a relatively new company, gained the top satisfaction scores in the following categories – ILS product, company, and support for its product, Apollo. This is interesting not just because it’s a relatively new entrant in the library software marketplace, but because the product is offered exclusively through Software as a Service. As Marshall comments:
The responses for Apollo were overwhelmingly positive, the only product to receive 9 as either the mode or median response. The comments offered gave effusive praise for the company, the product, the ease of migration and for support.
It should be noted that takeup of Apollo is currently limited to small public libraries in the US.
Although UK suppliers don’t feature strongly in this international survey, it remains an important source in terms of looking at the key trends in our world.