February 17, 2018

Automation Marketplace 2012: Agents of Change

By Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technology and Research, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

Author’s Note: I’ve had the privilege of writing the Automation Marketplace for a decade. During this time, the industry has seen profound changes in the companies involved, products offered, and prevailing technologies. A decade ago, the industry was working its way through the transition into client/server computing. Today we see a new cycle beginning that brings libraries into alignment with the shift to cloud computing and the increasing dominance of electronic and digital content relative to library collections and services. This year’s Automation Marketplace reflects on the progress and transitions of the last decade as it examines the current key accomplishments of the industry.

As development efforts near completion on a new slate of automation products, vendors are beginning to pull out all the stops to monetize them. A new round of competition is heating up to place these new products in libraries, replacing their own legacy products and aiming to displace those of other companies. Ex Libris’s Alma, OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services, Innovative Interfaces’ Sierra, and Serials Solutions’ Intota, as well as the open source Kuali OLE project, are positioned to move toward more dominant market share through a product cycle that will play out over the next decade. These new-generation products will compete with well-established proprietary and open source systems following an evolutionary path, such as Evergreen, Koha, Polaris ILS, The Library Corporation’s (TLC) Library.Solution, SirsiDynix’s Symphony, and Auto-Graphics’ AGent VERSO.

The transition to new-generation products is a delicate business. Libraries don’t respond well to enforced, abrupt transitions. But savvy and well-resourced vendors divide their energies between developing, maintaining, and supporting their existing products, even as they channel the bulk of their energies to developing and marketing new ones. Failings with legacy products can result in lost credibility, which can take a large toll on the prospects of new offerings. [Ed. note: A more detailed version of this decade-long overview, with information about the K–12 and international markets and more in-depth charts, can be found online at thedigitalshift.com/?p=7053.]

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.