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Strategic Development: SirsiDynix and Serials Solutions

Smart Libraries Newsletter [July 2006]

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Copyright (c) 2006 ALA TechSource


SirsiDynix has unveiled a new strategy for its electronic-resource management (ERM) offerings for libraries. According to company officials, it has selected Serials Solutions as a strategic partner for the delivery of products related to e-resource management and access (as well as for linking and metasearch).

Previously, the company had planned to develop proprietary ERM products for each of its flagship ILS products, and it had other partnership arrangements in place for linking and metasearch products. But this new collaborative marketing agreement gives both companies important benefits. In a market sector ripe for abundant sales, SirsiDynix secures products it can offer to its customers immediately, and Serials Solutions gains access to libraries outside its traditional scope. The enormous number of public libraries, consortia, and school districts within the SirsiDynix fold extend the reach of Serials Solutions beyond the already strong customer base it has established among academic libraries.

A motivating factor behind SirsiDynix's decision to form this partnership involves the need to have a single suite of products that would operate with both Unicorn and Horizon/Corinthian, as the company inherited a plethora of arrangements from the pre-merged companies. The partnership with Serial Solutions gives SirsiDynix the opportunity to focus on developing a cooperative relationship with a single company, so it can offer a full suite of ERM products.

Suite Products

The products covered in the agreement include the full suite of integrated products and services offered by Serials Solutions including:

  • Central Search -- A federated-search application, Central Search relies on the company's federated-search technology, supplemented by translators into remote resources licensed from WebFeat. In January 2005, Serials Solutions partnered with WebFeat for access to its library of translators for connecting to information resources. Serials Solutions developed, in house, Central Search's core technology. SirsiDynix will also incorporate the Central Search technology in its new Rooms product.
  • Article Linker--Released by Serials Solutions in 2003, Article Linker provides an OpenURL-based linking service. Article Linker relies on the knowledgebase of e-journal data (maintained by Serials Solutions), which works in conjunction with a detailed profile of a library's subscriptions.
  • Electronic Resource Management System--This product provides an environment in which the library can efficiently manage its electronic resources. It includes tools to manage all aspects of licensed electronic content, including procurement; license tracking; current status of each resource; relevant technical and administrative contacts for each resource; proxy services for off-site access to resources; as well as many different reporting and analytic tools related to usage statistics. Full MARC Records Service—This component delivers records that can be loaded into the library's ILS so the e-journal titles and holdings stored in a library's OPAC (online public access catalog) are up-to-date and consistent with those that can be viewed through Article Linker or ERMS.
Serials Solutions delivers all its technology products as hosted solutions in the Application Service Provider (ASP) model, which means all the software and data reside on servers hosted and managed by Serials Solutions. Libraries utilizing these products do not need servers for local installation of the software.

One of the key strengths of the product suite offered by Serials Solutions involves the centralized knowledgebase of e-resources it maintains: Serials Solutions devotes seven full-time staff members to the knowledgebase maintenance, and the knowledgebase is updated daily.

The accuracy and quality of this knowledgebase has played a major role in the company's success. By subscribing to products based on this knowledgebase, libraries can track their e-journal holdings more accurately and in a more sustainable way than by attempting to maintain this information through individual library-based efforts.

The Story of Serials Solutions

Founded in 2000, Serials Solutions established itself as a small company devoted to helping libraries manage their burgeoning collections of e-journals. The company's initial product was produced in the form of an A–Z list, which managed a library's collection of e-journals available through its various subscriptions.

In the fall of 2001, Serials Solutions debuted its MARC record service, making it the first company in the industry to offer libraries an automated service to keep their journal holdings (represented in their automation systems) up-to-date. Subsequently, the company launched Article Linker in December 2002, and unveiled its E-Resource Management System in October of last year.

In July 2004, Serials Solutions was acquired by ProQuest Information and Learning, a large corporation with many subsidiaries involved in various aspects of publishing and electronic content. ProQuest Information and Learning is part of the even larger ProQuest Company, a public company (NYSE: PQE) involved in publishing and information products across several different industries.

In June 2005, Jane Burke joined ProQuest as a VP and was named general manager of Serials Solutions. Formerly, Burke helmed Endeavor Information Systems as president/CEO (from March 1995 through December 2002), and she was also president of NOTIS Systems, Inc., from its founding through July 1994.Serials Solutions operates as an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of ProQuest, keeping its facilities, management, personnel, and identity intact, while benefiting from the deep resources available from its parent company.

Prior SirsiDynix Efforts

Prior to this arrangement, SirsiDynix had a number of products in place or in development. For instance, on the Dynix side, the company had been working with Serials Solutions since November 2003. Its Horizon Link Resolver was based on technology from Serials Solutions, and the development of an electronic resource management module was on the agenda for Horizon. In June 2004, the company, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, announced it would create an integrated ERM for Horizon. Even earlier, in March 2001, Dynix (then epixtech) formed a partnership with WebFeat as the basis for its Horizon Consolidated Searching offering.

On the Sirsi side, the company inked an agreement in October 2003 to license the 1Cate (“one click to everywhere”) technology from Openly Informatics for its link-resolver offering, Sirsi Resolver. The metasearch product Sirsi SingleSearch was based on MuseSearch developed by MuseGlobal. On the ERM front, Sirsi had originally planned to develop an ERM module that would be integrated with Unicorn.

A Flexible Agreement

The Serials Solutions and SirsiDynix partnership, although strategic, is not exclusive. It takes into consideration existing business relationships and offers both companies flexibility. Under the terms of the agreement, SirsiDynix will market Serials Solutions's products to its customers, and Serials Solutions will continue to sell directly to all other libraries.

Any client libraries of SirsiDynix that had previously purchased any of Serials Solutions's technology products will continue to deal with Serials Solutions directly, and although SirsiDynix will offer its new partner's products as the preferred option, there may be circumstances that require other alternatives. For example, because Serials Solutions offers its products only as hosted solutions, SirsiDynix will offer other products to libraries that prefer (or require) locally installed applications or extensive customization.

The new partnership with Serials Solutions does not cancel any of the existing agreements SirsiDynix has in place with other companies. It will continue to support and, under some circumstances, sell its existing SirsiDynix Resolver, which is based on technology from Openly Informatics and Single Search (based on metasearch technology from MuseGlobal). Sites that have made significant investments installing and customizing these locally installed products will be able to continue with these products indefinitely.

Integration Issues

One of the key issues with any electronic resource management system (ERMS) lies in how it integrates with the other related system components. The ERMS overlaps with both the knowledgebase of the link resolver (for data related to the library's current holdings of e-journals) and with the ILS's acquisitions module (for data related to the vendors from which subscriptions are licensed, the financial-fund management files from which subscriptions are purchased, and the bibliographic components that provide descriptive information regarding each subscription). An ERMS, by its nature, deals with many different data components, and using a stand-alone third-party product presents quite a challenge—in order to avoid duplication of management among the overlapping data components—for ILS integration.

SirsiDynix will work to integrate the Serials Solutions ERMS into both Unicorn and Horizon, and the initial integration level will require users to launch its management console from the Horizon or Unicorn staff client. Higher-level integration, such as automated interchange of data between the ERMS and the ILS, will be developed over time.

Competitive Concerns

At the time of the merger last summer, both Sirsi and Dynix were in the process of developing their own ERM systems. Since the merger, neither the Unicorn nor the Horizon ERMS has been delivered as a finished product, yet the competition on the ERMS front is well underway. Innovative Interfaces launched its ERMS in 2002, and Ex Libris and Endeavor announced their ERM offerings in mid-2004.

According to executives at both SirsiDynix and Serials Solutions, one of the motivators in forming this partnership involved the need to deliver an ERM product to SirsiDynix customers in the shortest possible timeframe. Through this agreement with Serials Solutions, SirsiDynix can offer its customers these key products immediately.

A Trend Toward Partnerships

Employing more than 675 overall, with at least 150 devoted to software development (more developers than any other ILS company), SirsiDynix stands as the largest company in the ILS arena. Yet the decision to buy—rather than build—products in this area reflects the reality that it does not have the resources to tackle every aspect of the library-automation sphere. These days, companies in the library-automation arena must make hard choices about which products to develop as proprietary and which to license from third parties. The partnership with Serials Solutions reflects SirsiDynix's strategy to outsource development of these resources so it can focus its resources on other products it considers more strategic.

The relationship between SirsiDynix and Serials Solutions, too, parallels recent announced partnerships between other library-software vendors. Endeavor Information Systems recently partnered with TDNet for its suite of e-resource products, and earlier this year, Endeavor announced it would transition from its locally developed ENCompass and LinkFinderPlus products to the federated-search and link-resolver products from TDNet (See SLN, April 2006, p. 1).

In both cases, the ILS vendors in-volved made major shifts in product offerings, both utilizing technology from a third-party company that specializes in the development of e-resource technologies.

The SirsiDynix partnership with Serials Solutions reinforces the trend that non-ILS companies are gaining more and more ground in the library-automation arena. More than ever, libraries are focused on products related to the management and access of electronic resources. Companies that deliver strong products in this sector have a promising outlook. In this case, SirsiDynix gains by associating itself with a strong suite of products, and Serials Solutions expands its market opportunities too.

Publication Year:2006
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 26 Number 6
Issue:July 2006
Page(s):1
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Company: SirsiDynix
ISSN:1541-8820
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Record Number:12102
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00