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Core Library Systems

For a list of library system products go the the library technology product directory**

To see what library systems are used by UK HE institution go to the library technology page**


This section covers library resource *management* systems. It does not cover discovery solutions. These are covered in more detail under the discovery entry. Resource management solutions are known in the UK as library management systems (LMS) a term which equates to integrated library system (ILS) which is the term more commonly used in the US. Library management systems can be simply described as an enterprise system used to manage library collections and their associated workflows and processes such as cataloguing, orders made and users who have borrowed items.

Typically library management systems consist of a number of core modules including:

  • acquisitions - ordering, receiving and invoicing materials; funds management for budget profiling. Most systems will enable automated integration with suppliers for ordering via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)
  • cataloguing - for classifying and cataloguing materials (usually based on MARC standards)
  • borrowers / patrons - details of library users grouped into types of borrowers
  • circulation - lending materials based on loan rules linked to borrower types
  • serials - for receipt and management of journals and magazines

Additionally systems may also include modules for or intergation with:

  • Interlibrary loans/resource sharing - for managing document delivery / loans from external libraries. In the UK these may be enabled for automated ordering via suppliers such as the British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSC)
  • Electronic resource management - for managing subscriptions to online content packages.
  • Reading/Resource list management

Library management systems will typically also include some form of OPAC (online public access catalogue); a web based interface allowing end users to search the library catalogue (of predominantly print resources) and access their individual borrower account. These are being displaced by 'discovery services' which enable the integrated discovery of print and electronic (eg journal article) resources

Library management systems were traditionally hosted on premise on an organization's internal server. Hosting provided (sometimes referred to a cloud hosting) by the vendor is now a popular option.

Library service platforms

From around 2010 a new generation of web and cloud based systems emerged. These are termed Library Services Platforms (LSPs). The most widely deployed LSPs are Clarivate/Ex Libris Alma, and OCLC WMS. They were largely developed from the ground up rather than being evolved from past 'legacy' solutions. In functional terms the key differentiation from a LMS/ILS was a fully web based staff interface and *integrated* management of print and electronic resources. This meant libraries did not need a separate electronic resource management (ERM) system or spreadsheets to manage their (predominantly) journal subscriptions and associated licenses.

In technology terms LSPs are fully web based and hosted in the cloud. “A born cloud based system” is essentially a single system with the multiplicity of client libraries being ‘tenants.’ These ‘clouds’ may be regional (e.g. European) in order to meet legislative requirements but, within each multi-tenant environment, there is only one copy of the application software, one operating system and one database supporting multiple libraries. The vendor only has to deploy, develop, maintain and upgrade one copy of the software. There is no option for the software to be supported 'on premise' - on local servers. In contrast a hosted LMS/ILS solution is much less efficient. While the hardware infrastructure may be shared the vendor still has to support a multiplicity of client systems that need to be maintained separately. The efficiency benefits to the vendor of what is in effect one single global (or at least multi-national) library system are clear.

The open source FOLIO library system is characterized as a LSP, being built from the ground up using modern 'microservices' architecture. However unlike Alma or WMS there may be multiple versions - inherent in a open source approach where code is open to be modified. FOLIO can be deployed as a hosted or on promise solution.

Another feature of a LSP it that it comes paired with a ‘discovery service’ - Primo with Alma WorldCat discovery with WMS). Folio does not have a discovery service but is often paired with the Ebsco Discovery Services (EDS).

The evolution of 'legacy' library systems

Rather than take the path of creating wholly new LSPs some vendors such as Innovative Interfaces (now part of Clariate), SirsiDynix and ESS (formerly Capita) maintained their legacy systems but moved to a hosted model and layered web interfaces (eg SirsiDnix BlueCloud) and additional functionality over that.


The transition of library management systems to library services platforms is described in a number of articles

The Future of Library Systems: Library Services Platforms. By Carl Grant. NISO. Information Standards Quarterly. Fall 2012. Vol 24 Issue 4 ISSN 1041-0031
This is a good summary of Library services platforms. The article provides some good definition of what cloud computing means in a Library Services Platform context and useful summaries/analysis of the various vendor offerings

Library management system to library services platform. Resource management for libraries: a new perspective, Ken Chad HELibTech Briefing Paper August 2015

This briefing paper contrasts the library resource management landscape now with the situation in 2008 when the Jisc/Sconul LMS study recommended that the time was not right for libraries to purchase a new library system. In the intervening period a new generation of 'library services platforms' (LSPs) has emerged and the pace of procurement has quickened. Ken analyses the current landscape and looks at the strategic issues around the changing nature of library collections, shared services, workflows and analytics. The paper is made available under a CC-0 license to enable easy re-use.

Library Services Platforms: A maturing genre of products.By Marshall Breeding Library Technology Reports. (ISSN 0024-2586) American Library Association 2015

Abstract: “The genre of library services platforms helps libraries manage their collection materials and automate many aspects of their operations by addressing a wider range of resources and taking advantage of current technology architectures compared to the integrated library systems that have previously dominated. This issue of Library Technology Reports explores this new category of library software, including its functional and technical characteristics. It highlights the differences with integrated library systems, which remain viable for many libraries and continue to see development along their own trajectory. This report provides an up-to-date assessment of these products, including those that have well-established track records as well as those that remain under development. The relationship between library services platforms and discovery services is addressed. The report does not provide detailed listings of features of each product, but gives a general overview of the high-level organization of functionality, the adoption patterns relative to size, types, and numbers of libraries that have implemented them, and how these libraries perceive their performance. This seminal category of library technology products has gained momentum in recent years and is positioned to reshape how libraries acquire, manage, and provide access to their collections as they go forward into the next decade.”

Who is buying library systems ?

See the Procurements page to see who is out to tender and who has bought a library system

next_generation.txt · Last modified: 2024/06/09 12:59 by admin