Consolidation continues in the library software marketplace as Ex Libris announces purchase of Innovative.
Not a surprise given the reality that the library marketplace for managing physical materials, even combined with managing growing digital content, is shrinking and jobs/roles are disappearing and morphing – including in academia. With budgets also tightening with more senior executives and management wondering why such systems are needed as library physical requirements are shrinking (in their minds) the library marketplace continues to be more challenging for software providers to be able to make money and stay in business.
I have been following and analyzing these kind of agreements and mergers for many years. This official announcement is big picture and very sparse in what it all means. My assessment is that they will probably indicate Innovative teams and location will remain at this point. But I bet they will shrink quickly after the first year, if not totally disappear. I believe in 3 to 5 years maximum the Innovative ‘brand’ will be gone as the next versions of the software are melded into the overall Ex Libris architecture. This is not necessarily a bad thing for customers from a functionality standpoint depending upon how that all is implemented. Pricing is a whole other issue.
I agree that this looks more and more like a monopolistic environment — OCLC offerings as one of the few other large system competitors available notwithstanding. Let’s see what happens and how they spin this at ALA Midwinter and other major meetings.
There has been a lot written about access to and use of open source tools and services, particularly library management and similar systems. Whether a commercial product or open source option is right for your organization depends upon a number of things including your needs, available resources such as budget, and in particular what technical expertise you have available or are willing to pay for from a service provider. It is important to understand your current situation and constraints so that you can make the best possible decision based on that information. Ideally you have done a careful analysis of your requirements through a strategic technology planning process that assesses physical and people resources, levels of expertise available, and policies and procedures which will influence what can be done and how. It is best to get information about all options available to make the best choice to meet your needs.
Given all that, you can then pursue possible solutions to address your requirements whether they are commercial products and services or those available as “open source”. One thing to keep in mind is that open source is not really ‘free’ but it can be an initial cost-containing alternative to licensing of a proprietary commercial product.
If you have expertise available in house to adjust and manage open source code to your requirements or are willing and able to pay for a service to do that for you, then open source tools can be a viable alternative to some available commercial (proprietary) products. However, should you not have that kind of expertise, then a commercial product may be a much better investment over the long term. It is important to evaluate your own situation and make decisions from what you need and what expertise you have available either directly or through contact. Ultimately, you will have to live with that decision so examine options carefully and make an informed decision.
Internet Librarian will once again be held in Monterey, CA October 16-19, 2011. Check out the online program and the other information about the conference! On Tuesday October 18 at 10:30AM I will be giving a cybertour about technology as a catalyst for change. I will also be moderating an entire track of sessions about content management on Wednesday October 19 from 10:30AM to 3:30PM. This conference is consistently an excellent venue for librarians and other information professionals to learn and share knowledge about technology and its use. I hope to see you there!
In an article in the NY Times about I.B.M.’s continued success due to more focus on services and less on hardware and software, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior technology strategist for I.B.M., is quoted saying “As the components of technology — especially hardware — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use technology.” The article is: “Huge Payoff for I.B.M. After a Shift” – http://nyti.ms/62TKeb
Substituting the words information and ‘print materials’ or other formats for content in this quote, I think you get an interesting thought: “As the components of [information] — especially [print materials?] — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use [information].”
It is very easy for information professionals to focus on managing objects, ensuring they are in their right place for retrieval, etc.. But the harder, and frankly more interesting work that is likely also much more valuable is collaborating with clients to help solve their questions — being an active services provider. Something we should all keep in mind as we see the increasing pace that information is being made available to all via e-books, Twitter and whatever else is on the horizon in our future. It is not about the format, it is about the information in whatever container it happens to reside. With this bit of a shift in focus, which a number of information professionals across all kinds of libraries and services are already doing, our value can be made that much more evident.