Ex Libris has now sold its Alma library services platform to all three of the public higher educational systems in California. A recent announcement from the Systemwide Integrated Library System taskforce of the University of California libraries announced the final selection of Alma and Primo from Ex Libris, now part of ProQuest. The University of California system joins the California State University System and the Consortium of Community Colleges in the selection of Alma to provide shared infrastructure for the management of their collections and Primo for discovery and access. Each of these projects on its own would be considered massive; together these three systems represent an unprecedented level of involvement by the libraries in a single governmental jurisdiction with a single vendor.
This forthcoming implementation of Alma and Primo will provide a shared system for the ten campuses of the University of California, which includes 100 individual libraries. These libraries together hold over 50 million volumes.
The selection of Alma for the University of California campuses fits within a broad trend of consolidated automated systems among institutions within common governance or funding. Ahead of the selection and implementation of Alma, each of the ten campuses operated their own integrated library system or library services platform. Five of the campuses had previously selected Alma, including UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC San Francisco will be moving from Innovative's Millennium ILS; Riverside will migrate from OCLC's WorldShare Management Services; and UCLA will migrate from Voyager.
The University of California has a long history of shared discovery, though with separate automation systems for each campus. The Melvyl catalog, representing the combined collections of the ten campus library systems currently is based on OCLC WorldCat Local.
The system will also be used to manage the operations of the systems' two large-scale storage facilities, Northern Regional Facility in Richmond and the Southern Regional Facility in Los Angeles
The three selections of Alma represent a significant loss of business for Innovative Interfaces, which in previous times had been the favored system. With the pending acquisition of Innovative by ProQuest, this shift becomes less consequential. The movement toward technical infrastructure shared by large numbers of libraries is driven by many of the same factors that have led to vendor consolidation. A tight economic environment demands organizational efficiency. Mergers and acquisitions result in less organizational overhead for development, support, and sales, even when the number of products remains constant. Likewise, the deployment of one or more ILS products for each academic campus requires more effort and resources than a single shared system serving the broader organization. The entities funding libraries increasingly favor a single shared system than individual deployments. Shared systems also provide increased opportunities for deeper collaboration in collection development, technical processing, and resource sharing.
The transition from separate campus ILS deployments to shared systems can be unsettling for the libraries involved. Such a strategy requires difficult compromises related to local campus practices as well as a shift of control toward the central organization. While shared systems offer strategic advantages in the long term, they are inevitably disruptive for operations in the short term.
|Table 1: University of California Campuses|
|Campus||Incumbent ILS||Number of Volumes (2018-19)||Enrollment (FTE)|
|UC Los Angeles||Voyager||10,911,750||39,649|
|UC San Diego||Millennium||5,288,731||36,296|
|UC San Francisco||Millennium||1,202,970|
|UC Santa Barbara||Alma||3,019,866||26,019|
|UC Santa Cruz||Alma||2,513,432||19,837|
Source: Volume statistics have been gathered from “University of California Library Statistics July 2019,” revised November 8 2019, https://libraries .universityofcalifornia.edu/groups/files/Library_Statistics_18-19.pdf.