VTLS launched a new product suite, called VTLS Open Skies, positioned as a library services platform. A major step for VTLS, this new strategy takes the most successful components in the current arsenal of technologies and products and rebuilds them into a comprehensive platform for the management and access to library resources.
Some of the antecedent products that will contribute building blocks for VTLS Open Skies, include:
- Virtua, the company's flagship integrated library system, initially introduced in 1998 as the successor to the original VTLS. Virtua is based on a multi-tier client server architecture, using Oracle as its relational database management system and Apache SOLR for its indexing and search engine. In recent years Virtua has been engineered to support multi-tenant implementations, allowing for the consolidation of many previously separate installations of Virtua to be consolidated into a single instance. Its functionality is organized according to the traditional ILS modules, including cataloging, circulation, serials management, and acquisitions. Virtua includes a Web-based online catalog, branded Chameleon, though the company offers additional discovery interfaces. Virtua's metadata management modules natively support FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) hierarchies and RDA (Resource Description and Access) cataloging rules.
- VITAL provides a highly customizable digital asset management system on the open source Fedora repository platform. First introduced in 2004, VITAL has been implemented by libraries and related organizations to support institutional repositories and digital collections. A specialized version, VITAL Media, supports streaming media in multiple channels and formats and has enhanced the native support in Fedora in the way it handles linked data RDF triple stores.
- Chamo Discovery is VTLS's discovery layer product, designed to deliver access to a library's collections and enriched with a variety of social networking features. Chamo was initially introduced in 2009 and re-launched in 2012 as Chamo Discovery. In a consortial implementation, Chamo Discovery allows patrons to maintain multiple borrowing profiles when associated with multiple libraries or institutions. Chamo offers APIs that facilitate integration with a Drupal-based library website. VTLS bases an increasing portion of its patron interface products on Drupal and offers consulting services to assist libraries with creating customized applications based on this open source content management system. Chamo Discovery enables a library to provide access to its print and digital collections, events, and any licensed and free data for which it has access to metadata. Chamo Discovery does not include a pre-built index of article-level content, following the model of the Web-scale discovery services, such as Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, Primo Central, and WorldCat Local. Chamo Discovery has the ability to integrate with these other discovery indexes through APIs.
MozGo, a mobile application for libraries, was launched in 2012. Available for Android and iOS devices, it includes such functions as searching of a library's collections; viewing account details, including items charged, due dates, and fines owed; as well as presenting information about the library, such as opening hours, program, and location maps. MozGo has been designed to operate with any ILS and is positioned as the initial application built under the VTLS Open Skies architecture.
Open Skies is being developed by reengineering each of its previous standalone products to conform to the service oriented architecture (SOA) and to follow a consistent set of APIs that allow them to work together as a unified library services platform. According to VTLS CEO and President Vinod Chachra, “Open Skies takes the best components from each of VTLS's current products and makes them available in a SOA-based platform.” This approach of rebuilding existing business logic components to operate through SOA preserves the functionality currently offered by the antecedent products and provides a foundation for the creation of new capabilities, such as the ability to support workflows across print and digital materials. VTLS Open Skies will include a unified multi-format Metadata Management System (MMS) for all material types. New user interfaces, both for library staff and for patrons, will be developed that take advantage of the new architecture and consolidated functionality.
The company plans to offer VTLS Open Skies through a variety of deployment options, such as: software that can be installed on servers operated by the library, on servers hosted by VTLS, and through multi-tenant software as a service. VTLS will offer Open Skies as an upgrade to its existing client libraries that have purchased Virtua and VITAL.
Development of VTLS Open Skies is underway. VTLS plans a phased process as its current products are replaced with the Open Skies architecture.
VTLS Corporate Background
VTLS, though based in the United States, has a broad international presence, with the majority of its customer libraries outside of the United States. The company traces its beginnings to the Virginia Tech University Newman Library in the mid-1970s. It has operated as an independent company since 1985. Libraries of many types use VTLS products, with academic libraries representing the highest percentage. In recent years, VTLS has broken into the top tier of the municipal library arena, with successful implementations of Virtua in the Queens Borough Public Library, the busiest public library in the United States, and the Hong Kong Public Library, one of the busiest public libraries in the world.
As a company in the library automation industry with a long corporate history, VTLS has been able to bring its products through several generations of fundamental technology transitions. Its first products based on mainframes gave way to those based on client/server technology. Now as the service-oriented architecture prevails, VTLS has charted a course that will transform its products into the model of library services platforms.
VTLS Open Skies takes an evolutionary approach into the library services platform arena. This strategy can be seen as similar in some ways to the path Innovative Interfaces followed to create Sierra, blending a considerable level of new development on a foundation of existing software components. Ex Libris Alma, Kuali OLE, the OCLC WorldShare Platform, and Serials Solutions Intota, in contrast, were each developed from scratch without borrowing code from existing applications. Whether by evolutionary or revolutionary routes, these library services platforms, offering a more unified and comprehensive approach to managing library collections across multiple formats and using modern technologies such as SOA, represent an important new dimension of the library automation industry.