ProQuest announced that it has received notification from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that the review of its acquisition of Innovative Interfaces has been completed. According to ProQuest Chief Executive Officer Matti Shem Tov, the acquisition of Innovative was accepted in its entirety and without further stipulations. ProQuest announced in December 2019 that it had acquired Innovative Interfaces from its previous owners, investment firms HGGC (formerly Huntsman Gay Global Capital) and JMI Equity in a transaction that closed on January 16, 2020. The FTC review commenced in February 2020, with ProQuest making a public statement acknowledging it on March 13, 2020. No specific information is available on what triggered this acquisition for review by the FTC, nor why it took place after the transaction had closed. (This topic was also discussed in the June 2020 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.)
During the period in which the acquisition was under review (February 2020 through November 1, 2020), ProQuest agreed to operate Innovative entirely independently, with no direct business integration or intermingling of assets. ProQuest appointed Yariv Kursh as the general manager of Innovative, replacing Shaheen Javadizadeh, the incumbent CEO who, along with other C-Level executives, directed the company under previous ownership. Kursh reports directly to Matti Shem Tov, president and chief executive officer of ProQuest.
Continuity of leadership has been maintained throughout this transition and is expected to continue. Under current arrangements, executive roles carry titles at the vice president and director level. There has been limited turnover among the general workforce of the company. Key executives continuing with Innovative include:
- Hilary Newman, senior vice president of customer support and customer success (joined Innovative in Dec 2000),
- Tom Jacobson, vice president, executive library advocate and strategist (May 1990),
- Kirsten Matetich, vice president, marketing and business development (Mar 2018),
- Toni Minick, vice president, product management (Feb 2019),
- Aaron Terrell, vice president, engineering (Dec 2013),
- Robert Jacobs, vice president, international sales (Sep 2013),
- Eyal Alkalay, vice president, information technology (Nov 2016),
- Akin Adekeye, general counsel and executive vice president (Nov 2016),
- Sherry Stafford, director, human resources (Mar 2016).
Now that the review has concluded, ProQuest is no longer under the agreed-upon constraints. Prior to the conclusion of the FTC review, the two companies were not allowed to coordinate business strategies, intermingle intellectual property, or integrate administrative infrastructure.
Innovative, a ProQuest Company
ProQuest will continue to operate Innovative as an independent company, in parallel with, but not integrated with Ex Libris. Innovative has a diverse customer base, spanning public libraries, academic, and special libraries. All Innovative products will continue to be developed, sold, and supported for both the academic and public markets with no changes to product availability or pricing. Ex Libris focuses exclusively on technology products for academic, research, and national libraries and networks. The two sister companies will focus on their respective product. Innovative will be free to supplement its offerings to academic libraries with products from the Ex Libris portfolio.
Innovative will continue to support all its established products spanning each library sector. The company's major products include:
- Sierra, launched in 2011 as the successor to Millennium.
- Millennium, now a legacy ILS product, initially launched in 1997 as a successor to INNOPAC.
- Polaris, an integrated library system designed specifically for public libraries; initially launched by Gaylord Information Systems in 1996 and part of Innovative since 2014.
- Virtua, an integrated library system launched by VTLS in 1996, acquired by Innovative in 2014.
- Encore, launched in 2006 as a next-generation catalog interface.
- INN-Reach, one of the first resource sharing systems for library consortia, initially launched in 1997.
- Vital, a digital asset management system based on Fedora, launched by VTLS in 2004.
- SkyRiver, a bibliographic service Innovative initially launched as a separate company in 2009 and integrated into the company in 2012, following the transition of ownership to JMI Equity and HGGC.
- MyLibrary!, a mobile app for libraries launched in 2016.
Consistent with the policies of ProQuest and its sister company Ex Libris, Innovative states a commitment to continuing to support these products so as not to disrupt libraries. Since its ownership transition, Innovative has moved forward on major initiatives to introduce new products. It has launched Vega as a new patron interface and partnered with SOLUS for its new mobile app, Innovative Mobile.
Vega: New Public Library Interfaces
Vega Discover is a new discovery service developed by Innovative. Designed specifically for public libraries, Vega incorporates some of the concepts of the Inspire product, announced prior to the change in ownership. For example, the “context engine,” a technique for shaping search results according to the interests of the searcher and other contextual clues, is part of the underpinnings of Vega to help anticipate the intentions of the user. Vega has been designed to deliver an intuitive user interface, fully responsive to work well on all devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as full-sized screens.
Vega has been developed and deployed as a multi-tenant platform, consistent with the modern software-as-a-service technology paradigm. Patron access and library administration of the product is fully web-based. Libraries implementing the product will not need to install any local software.
Innovative announced Vega as its new patron discovery interface in July 2020. The product is being developed in consultation and collaboration with a slate of development partners. This group includes Jefferson County Library Cooperative, The Ferguson Library in Connecticut, the MidPointe Library System in Ohio, the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in New York, the Central Arkansas Library System, and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative. All these sites currently use Innovative's Sierra ILS. This group has since expanded to over ten sites. While the initial development of Vega targets Sierra, support for Polaris is also underway with multiple libraries signing on as development partners.
The initial phase of Vega development centers on resource discovery. Work is underway on new marketing and engagement capabilities, one of the critical areas of interest among public libraries eager to promote their services to their communities. Innovative indicates that additional announcements regarding its roadmap for Vega and other products are forthcoming in December 2020.
As noted in the November 2020 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, Innovative has partnered with SOLUS for the delivery of a mobile app for its library customers. Innovative Mobile not only provides catalog search features, but also includes patron self-checkout and check-in and curbside pickup. SOLUS acquired Boopsie in September 2020, a major competitor in the library mobile sector.
Vega displaces the Inspire initiative, launched in 2019 prior to the company's acquisition by ProQuest. Inspire was designed to serve both public and academic libraries. Concluding its development gives Innovative the opportunity to create an interface more focused public library patrons without the complication of meeting academic library requirements as well.
Innovative will continue to support Encore, a discovery interface initially released in 2006. Encore continues to be widely implemented by libraries using its Sierra and Millennium ILS. Though Encore remains fully supported for existing implementations, Innovative now focuses its new development energies on Vega Discover.
Clarity and Competition
The completion of the FTC review of ProQuest's acquisition of Innovative removes a cloud of uncertainty from the companies involved and their respective library customers. The review hindered business integration and possible collaborations or synergies between Innovative and other ProQuest businesses. Any uncertainties regarding the status of Innovative may have had an impact on current and potential library customers. Although the FTC is unable to comment on the process or outcome, the absence of any stipulations imposed on the integration of the companies signals that the current environment was determined not to violate anti-competitive regulations or standards, at least not at a level that warranted challenge. That said, the library technology and business environment is deeply consolidated, leaving libraries with limited options. ProQuest has become an incredibly strong competitor in the academic market and now expands further into the public library sphere. Yet it faces other strong challengers, including EBSCO Information Services, OCLC, SirsiDynix, and a tier of other mid-sized companies. Open source offerings represent important alternatives and may moderate pricing.
The current level of consolidation, possibly beyond the comfort level of many libraries and competing vendors, has been confirmed as a reality. Libraries will naturally remain vigilant and advocate for product innovation and fair pricing as they seek new technology solutions in this consolidated business environment.