Panlibus Blog

Archive for the 'Procurement' Category

Vendors respond robustly to critical HE LMS report

20080603113327194.pdf Vendors respond robustly to critical HE LMS report is the headline on the front of the latest issue of the CILIP Gazette.  What follows is the second in a two-part feature on the JISC/SCONUL study, which I have discussed in Panlibus previously, by Gazette contributor Tim Buckley Owen.

In preparation for this second article on the subject, Tim contacted the four vendors (Ex Libris, Innovative, SirsDynix, Talis) who between them provide over 90% of the UK higher education Library Systems, and asked them to comment on the report.

I would have linked to the article if it been available on line.  Unfortunately the Gazette’s web page only shows an out of date thumbnail of the latest issue.  So, here are some snippets from Tim’s article:

[the vendors] acknowledge that things need to change in university libraries, and are starting to develop new systems as a result – but it’s not always clear yet what those changes actually need to be.

‘We agree that the library management system, with its “traditional” scope and functionality, does not adequately address the expectations of end users,’ says Tamar Sadeh of ExLibris, which has developed its Primo discovery and delivery solution in response.  ‘If the LMS does not interoperate with other institutional systems and resources, it deserves to be bypassed and become irrelevant,’ agrees Talis’s Richard Wallis

‘There is no disagreement that users’ demand for information is morphing in new and exciting ways and that the library (and library systems) need to change to meet those needs,’ agrees Gene Shimshock of Innovative.  ‘However, interoperability is but a part of a rather complicated puzzle, a means to an end, and is not the sole factor in determining libraries’ relevancy.’

Stephen Abram of SirsiDynix shares this view.  ‘You can build all this stuff but you actually have to align it with the way the users are behaving… there is no one right answer right now – and that no one right answer is the challenge for librarians.’

So what’s the solution?  Open application programming interfaces (API), says SirsiDynix’s Abram, with the vendor providing the toolkit and the librarians choosing the tools to meet their clients variegated needs.

‘Can we as vendors create appropriate solutions?  No,’ he declares.  ‘Can our clients, in a collaboration environment, using our tools, create them?  Yes.’

Talis’s Wallis agrees that open systems are the way forward.  ‘The current monolithic model and a lack of web based APIs and standards has led to an effective vendor lock-in… a lack of real competition, thus a lack of innovation and inevitably frustrated customers.’

The study proposes that JISC & SCONUL are best placed to ensure that the libraries and vendors agree on priorities.  As Tim says:

– and vendors are hardly likely to disagree.

‘Any initiative that moves our understanding of the problems (and opportunities) for the library forward in a meaningful way is always welcomed,’ says Innovative’s Shimshock, citing his own company’s work on the emerging Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI).  ‘We would welcome the ability to engage at a consortial level with important and influential organizations such as JISC and SCONUL that can work with their constituent members,’ agrees ExLibris’s Sadeh.

But there are some caveats.  ‘Looking at the programmes of the recent JISC and upcoming SCONUL conferences the role of vendors seems to be viewed by organizers as sponsors of drinks receptions rather than active participants in the debate,’ declares Richard Wallis of Talis.  ‘Our hope is that representative bodies as JISC and SCONUL find a way to constructively and openly collaborate with all stakeholders.’

Libraries, bodies such as JISC & SCONUL, the system vendors, and I would include the open source community, are all important stakeholders in the way libraries and the technologies and services they use develop over the next few years.  It is for all these stakeholders to agree in a conversation of equals as to the way forward.  The old ways of either libraries broadcasting requirements, or vendors individually coming up with ‘the new way to do things’ in the hope that everyone will move to their systems, did not and even more will not move us forward.  What is needed is a requirements, solutions, innovation sharing, and visionary, but also focused on practicalities, conversation – let’s hope it emerges from burst of activity following the publishing of this study.

The vendors, the type of library, and their issues, are not limited to the UK HE community.  They are replicated on a global scale.  Libraries and other interested parties outside of the UK, should be watching this closely – it could well save time and repetition in their own conversations with the same stakeholders in their locations – hopefully leading to a global conversation.

Egotistical note:  Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed a picture of yours truly on the front cover of this issue of the Gazette.  Through a happy coincidence of editorial deadlines, I am not only quoted in Tim’s headline article on page one, but I am also to be found on page two introducing the Library 2.0 Gang.  I suppose they will have to name this one the Wallis issue!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Libraries face their biggest shake up” UK Public Library Procurement – Time for change

It has been clear for some time now that huge changes to the way Public libraries procure stock were going to hit the headlines and “libraries face their biggest shake up” was how the Guardian reported it going on to say that the changes are “the most radical since public libraries were set up in the 19th century”

The cause of this consternation is the long awaited report from DCMS/MLA entitled
‘Public Libraries: Efficiency and Stock Supply Chain Review.’
In our view the report has far reaching implications, not only for libraries and providers of Library Management Systems, but also for the book supply, and data supply businesses.

We see this report as having the potential to drive change, and welcome the urgency that the report brings. The key themes of efficiency through process improvement and aggregation chime exactly with what we are doing at Talis

Aggregation and efficiency

We have a long history of successfully removing complexity and delivering efficiency gains into the book supply chain with very close integration with all of the leading book suppliers in the UK. Our “Gateway” service already aggregates around 25% of all public library EDI book procurement transactions and so a major part of the infrastructure the report calls for is actually already in place. So is the “one cataloguing system”: the close integration of procurement process with our massive database of catalogue records (Talis Base -one of the largest such databases in the world) means many public libraries already achieve big efficiency gains with ready catalogued books delivered “shelf ready” to the local branch library. With this in mind we found it surprising that PKF (the authors of the report) had not recognised this. We certainly expect the MLA, who now has responsibility for implementing the recommendations to be banging our door down any minute!

Talis very much see these latest challenges as the next phase in the evolution of these services and have been working with customers and other industry players on new procurement models which very much support the recommendations from this report.

We are already working on “next generation” interoperability so that the process of library procurement can be more closely integrated with local authority corporate finance systems for example. The report rightly acknowledges that this is an area ripe for efficiency gains.

National Agency

The controversy around a “National Agency”: can we develop an efficient community based approach?

One of the more controversial aspect of the report is the openly acknowledged cost to local democracy of a “national agency” to run almost all public library selection and procurement. It’s probably natural for a national body itself to think in terms of a new national agency to solve the problem but does it really have to be like that? Maybe technology can help to combine efficiency and community participation. A lot of our research is looking at the next wave of “web services” or “web 2.0” technology, which has the themes of collaboration, aggregation, community, and the “network effect” at its heart. So instead of selection being decided centrally on the basis of “experts” maybe we could let the public library users themselves contribute to a selection “profile”. In the same way Amazon aggregates data to make recommendations for your next purchase we could use the aggregated borrowing patterns of the public library community to contribute to a selection profile. The recent “Report to Parliament of Public Library matters” (November 2004)[pdf] talked about the public library marketing theme for 2005 being “heart of the community”. What better opportunity to embed the communities borrowing behaviour into the heart of stock selection?

Next steps

We’ve already invited PKF and the MLA and other stakeholders to debate and analyse the report further at our Talis Insight conference in November. We hope that you will join us to hear the recommendations and calls for action straight from the teams driving this change. The session is sure to be very lively and will be of key interest to anyone involved in public library management and supply.

Tony Stevens and Ken Chad