This month’s lead story illustrates real-world examples of some broader industry trends and how they manifest themselves in areas like business and technology. The research for this article was a fascinating exercise in tracing the roots of products familiar today back to the earlier era of library automation history that spanned multiple continents. Through this story, we can also see the way that a product initially created for a specific library takes hold regionally, nationally, and internationally. It has been an interesting process to untangle the antecedent products and companies, the technology issues, and even lawsuits involved in the background behind the launch of a new library automation system named Evolve.
I’m not aware of previous coverage of the Evolve Library Management System. It’s a rare event when a new library automation product enters the market. It will be interesting to follow Evolve going forward, especially to see if InfoVision Software finds success in converting its current customer base without significant numbers of losses and expands to new sites. In a highly consolidated market, adding a new choice to the mix expands the competition, running contrary to the trend of ever-diminishing choices.
This story also involves OCLC’s role in the library automation industry. Over the past few years, we’ve seen OCLC acquire a number of different ILS products and companies. OCLC now owns a number of aging products, including Amlib, SISIS-Sunrise, OLIB, CBS, and LBS, as it works toward completion of its Web-scale Management System. For US libraries running Amlib, InfoVision Software has guided them toward a new path based on their new flagship ILS. This path may differ from Amlib libraries elsewhere, where OCLC may have an interest in eventually attracting them to WMS.
We see the classic cycles of technology at play. In the article "Evolve ILS Launched by InfoVision Software Following OCLC Acquisition of Amlib" in this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, we see a historical set of transitions that begins with a mainframe-based library automation system called LIBRARY39. Powerful personal computers paved Austrathe way for the development of new client/server automation systems with easy-to-use graphical interfaces such as Amlib. As the Web came to dominate all aspects of information management, these client server products began to sport Web-based interfaces, especially for patron access. Staff use of the system often continued to rely on Windows interfaces. More recently, we’re seeing many examples, such as Evolve, where these hybrid systems are being displaced by fully Web-based systems. Current demands for interoperability with other enterprise systems demand a service-oriented architecture. The .NET framework upon which Evolve is based is one of several development platforms available for creating applications that embrace the service-oriented architecture.
The research for this piece also involved reviewing documents related to the lawsuit between InfoVision and OCLC that haven’t previously been covered in the press. Though there were issues of serious conflict between the parties, it seems to me that they were able to settle their differences in fairly short order and to reach an amicable arrangement that involved the least disruption to the libraries involved.
While the story of this new ILS called Evolve seems especially convoluted, every automation product has its own set of twists and turns in its history and technical underpinnings. In this newsletter I aim to relate the context, background and history of each of the products we cover to help our readers understand the dynamics of the industry and to make well-informed technology decisions.