Events of the last year have reshaped the library technology industry. Previous rounds of acquisitions pale in comparison to the acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate, which has propelled the leading library technology provider into the broader commercial sector of scholarly communications. This deal signals that the gap in size among vendors is widening, as ProQuest businesses Ex Libris and Innovative Interfaces also join Clarivate.
The emergence of such a large business at the top of the industry has accelerated consolidation among mid-level players that aim to increase scale and efficiency to remain competitive. This was a banner year for consolidation of midsize competitors, with more acquisitions than any prior year.
These deals raise concerns about weakened competition, but they may also enable new industry dynamics that will spark innovation and synergy within the broader research and education landscape. Small companies with visions for innovation often lack the resources to deliver, which larger companies can provide. Increased investor and stockholder involvement, however, translates into pressure to maximize profits and growth. The way these competing dynamics play out has important implications for libraries.
Bucking the trends
Certain events in 2021 challenged established trends. For instance, Follett Corporation took a step away from the pattern of family-owned companies retaining businesses indefinitely, divesting Follett School Solutions and Baker & Taylor. The FOLIO project aims to slow the momentum of Alma’s charge through academic libraries, inviting the question: Can a newcomer disrupt the success of a proven solution that has more than a decade of continuous development?
Some disruptions happen more gradually. Library management systems based on open source software show steady growth. Koha, especially when supported by ByWater Solutions, continues to make inroads among US public and academic libraries.
The high-stakes changes in academic libraries contrast sharply with the public library technology sector, where products offer only slight differentiation. Integrated library system (ILS) products serving public libraries tend to evolve rather than transform, with institutions layering on additional products to modernize customer interfaces and build channels for enhanced patron engagement.
Smaller libraries are well served by companies offering affordable, increasingly sophisticated systems. These businesses add important texture to the industry, addressing niche areas ignored by the larger players and delivering systems and services to libraries with modest budgets. While their economic impact is small relative to the overall industry, their practical contributions are invaluable.
Clarivate buys ProQuest
In a move with massive implications for libraries, ProQuest has become part of Clarivate, a large, publicly traded company in the scholarly communications and intellectual property sector. The $5.3 billion transaction, announced in May 2021, exceeds any previous deal in the library space. Clarivate—as well as competitors Elsevier and Digital Science—has a growing interest in scholarly communication workflows and analytics. The merger was pitched to investors as one that could lead to $100 million in cost savings, likely to be achieved by reducing overlapping facilities, sharing administrative systems, streamlining executive structures, and reducing other personnel. Libraries will be on watch as to whether efficiencies are gained at the expense of technology development or support services. ProQuest resides under Clarivate’s Science division, which offers content and analytics products including EndNote, InCites Benchmarking and Analytics, Publons, ScholarOne, and Web of Science.
This move takes industry consolidation to a new level. Mergers and acquisitions in the library tech sector before 2015 mostly involved consolidation of direct competitors, as in the case of SirsiDynix. The next phase saw library technology vendors merge into larger businesses that offered content and different products and services to libraries. ProQuest’s acquisitions of Ex Libris and Innovative followed this pattern. The acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate, however, brings one of the largest library-facing companies into the broader industry of scholarly communications and research.
Consolidation has not created monopolies in these cases, though dominant vendors have emerged. The acquisitions of Innovative by ProQuest and ProQuest by Clarivate both faced scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). An FTC review delayed completion of both mergers; SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and other open access advocates campaigned against the ProQuest merger, predicting harm to libraries through diminished competition. However, the FTC’s ultimate approval of both deals indicates that these moves fall within regulatory bounds and may signal tolerance for other large-scale events.
Business integration has thus been allowed to proceed. Not surprisingly, the executive structure of the companies has been streamlined. Jerre Stead leads Clarivate as CEO, having shepherded the company’s formation through its merger of Clarivate Analytics with Churchill Capital Corp. The dual executive structure of the Intellectual Property and Science divisions has been consolidated from two presidents to a single chief product officer, Gordon Samson. ProQuest CEO Matti Shem Tov left the company following a period in the advisory role of emeritus CEO. Ofer Mosseri has become Ex Libris general manager. Yariv Kursh continues as general manager for Innovative. The question is: Will Clarivate be able to retain the expertise that drove the success of ProQuest, Ex Libris, and Innovative?
The process of integrating ProQuest into Clarivate is expected to take a year or more to complete. Ahead of the merger, both Ex Libris and Innovative reported substantial development efforts and sales.
Ex Libris continues to see strong sales for its Alma library services platform. The 182 contracts signed in 2021 brought total installations to 2,261. More organizations signed deals for Alma than in any previous year. Primo was selected by 176 libraries, bringing installations to 2,910; another 55 libraries subscribed to Summon in 2021, bringing its total to 860. Summon and Primo offer distinctive user interfaces but both are based on the Ex Libris Central Discovery Index (CDI) for article-level search results. Ex Libris made 43 new sales of its Leganto reading list application. The nine sales of Ex Libris’s research services platform Esploro has increased total installations to 37. Supplementary products, either bundled with Alma for new installations or as add-ons for existing customers, represent an important part of the Ex Libris sales strategy.
Ex Libris has made extensive enhancements across its product portfolio, including support for controlled digital lending in Alma, deployment of a new metadata editor, and creation of a Cloud Apps framework that enables customers to create tools and functionality that run within Alma. Significant improvements were reported for Primo and Summon, both of which rely on CDI’s more than 4.5 billion records. Additionally, Ex Libris added new features to Esploro, Leganto, RapidILL, Rapido, and Rosetta, all of which continue to see new sales.
Innovative, part of ProQuest since 2020, operates mostly independently from Ex Libris. Innovative’s products have been widely used in recent years, especially by public libraries. Sierra is used predominantly by public and academic libraries and has wide geographic reach. Polaris targets public libraries and consortia in the US and Canada. Newcastle Libraries in Australia selecting Polaris in January marks the company’s first sale outside North America.
The launch of Vega reflects the drift of Innovative’s customer base toward public libraries. This platform delivers new patron-facing interfaces and services designed specifically for public libraries. Vega operates with Sierra and Polaris, offering expanded capabilities and a much-improved user experience compared with the Encore discovery interface introduced in 2006. The Vega LX suite includes Vega Discovery, which is expanding its capabilities for patron engagement.
Last year, Innovative signed 130 contracts for Sierra and 82 for Polaris, which included some renewals; 45 organizations representing 390 library locations subscribed to Vega. Support continues for the SkyRiver cataloging service, which gained three new subscribers for a total of 20. Seven new institutions joined INN-Reach networks, increasing its reach to 1,700 installations. Innovative offers the Summon discovery service in partnership with Ex Libris. The integration of Summon with Encore essentially replaces Encore Duet, which had offered integration with EBSCO Discovery Service.
Ex Libris reported a workforce of 921, a decrease of 52 positions from last year. Innovative saw its workforce increase from 254 to 270.
Axiell acquires Infor
Axiell, a global company providing technology and digital media products and services to public libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural organizations, continues to expand through both the creation of new products and business acquisitions. In January 2022, Axiell acquired the Library and Information Solutions division of Infor. Not well known in the US, Axiell ranks among the top library technology companies globally. Its workforce of 368 is similar to SirsiDynix’s personnel numbers.
This acquisition further extends Axiell’s reach in the library technology sector, which includes a modest presence in the US and Canada. Infor’s library products, V-smart ILS and discovery service Iguana, further expand the company’s diverse product portfolio. Axiell’s library offerings include a mix of ILS products used mostly within specific regions and countries in Europe, such as Aurora, BIBDIA, BOOK-IT, Mikromarc, OpenGalaxy, and WeLib for school libraries. In 2016, Axiell launched Quria as its strategic next-generation platform for public libraries. Axiell plans to continue long-term development and support for its other ILS platforms while providing Quria as its main offering for new customers. Axiell has also assumed responsibility for development and support of Infor’s former products, which will help libraries using those products to eventually adopt Quria.
Axiell reported 57 new sales of Quria, increasing total customers to 80, representing sites in France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK. The company formed an agreement with Demco Software in 2020 to market and support Quria in North America. Demco’s efforts were not realized, and the agreement eventually dissolved. Although Infor’s presence in the US and Canada was limited, it represents a possible foothold for the introduction of Quria.
Breaking from family business
Francisco Partners acquired Follett School Solutions in September 2021 as it was divested from family-owned Follett Corporation, which has operated since 1873. In a surprising move, Follett School Solutions continues to use the Follett brand despite its organizational independence. Under Francisco Partners, Follett School Solutions operates as two divisions: Paul Ilse oversees technology and Britten Follett leads content, with the latter’s ongoing involvement lending continuity. Both leaders report to a board of directors installed by Francisco Partners. Britten Follett withdrew from the Follett Corporation board.
Following its ownership change, Follett School Solutions discontinued its practice of conducting book fairs, launched in October 2017 as an alternative to the Scholastic Book Fairs service that has been active since 1981. Online book club company Literati purchased the Follett Book Fairs assets in January.
Follett School Solutions is the leading provider of technology solutions in the K–12 school sector. Francisco Partners specializes in tech and has other companies within its portfolio involved in education, including Renaissance and Discovery Education. Francisco Partners owned Ex Libris from June 2006 to April 2008 and acquired VitalSource Technologies from Ingram in June 2021. Compared to the generally conservative business strategies of family-owned businesses, Follett School Solutions may be positioned for more ambitious development and global marketing under its new owner. Partnerships or synergies may arise among the educational technology companies that Francisco Partners holds.
The emergence of such a large business at the top of the industry has accelerated consolidation among mid-level players that aim to increase scale and efficiency to remain competitive.
Meanwhile, Follett School Solutions continues to increase its market share in the K–12 school library sector. The 558 contracts signed in 2021 represent 4,525 school libraries, increasing the total number of libraries using Destiny to 81,098—about eight times the market share of its nearest competitor in the US. The company employs 1,763 people.
In another high-profile move, Follett Corporation divested Baker & Taylor, acquired in 2016, to an investment group led by Baker & Taylor President and CEO Amandeep Kochar. Under Follett, Baker & Taylor ceased distributing books to independent bookstores to focus on its role as a supplier to public and academic libraries. Baker & Taylor offers the Axis 360 ebook lending service for public libraries.
In February, Follett Corporation was itself acquired by Jefferson River Capital, a private investment company. The acquisition included the Follett Higher Education unit, which provides e-commerce and point-of-sale solutions through the virtual and physical campus stores it operates.
Other industry transitions
Soutron Limited, launched in the UK in 1989 by Graham Beastall, and Soutron Global, founded in 2012 by Tony Saadat, have merged under majority ownership of Bloom Equity Partners. Saadat leads the merged company as CEO and is a minority investor. Soutron Global provides technology products for corporate and other special libraries and information centers. Besides its flagship Soutron ILS, the company has recently launched an AI-based enquiry management and document summarizer tool and continues to enhance its Discovery product. Soutron made 28 new sales for its ILS product, bringing total installations to 307.
In April 2021, Lucidea acquired Bailey Solutions, a UK company offering the Simple Little Library System and KnowAll Matrix. This transaction marks Lucidea’s first expansion outside of North America. The company, formerly known as SydneyPLUS, had previously acquired brands in the special libraries sector, including Cuadra Associates, Eloquent Systems, and Inmagic Canada Software, as well as companies offering technologies for law firms, such as Incite Software Solutions, LawPort, LookUp Precision, and Questor Systems. Bailey Solutions will continue to operate as a separate business, with customer data stored in the UK. More than 3,000 organizations in 50 countries have implemented Lucidea products to date. Recent developments include the launch of the PrestoWorks knowledge management application and PrestoWorks Publisher for web publishing, representing the latest products in the Inmagic family. Lucidea is privately owned by its founder and CEO, Ron Aspe.
EnvisionWare, a company providing sorters and other automated materials handling equipment, self-service kiosks, and other RFID products, was acquired by Volaris Group in July 2021 from its founder Mike Monk. Volaris Group is an operating company of Constellation Software, a large, publicly traded company that has acquired more than 400 companies across six operating units. Monk continues as CEO of the EnvisionWare brand.
Education Software Solutions (ESS) is a UK-based company acquired in August 2021 by ParentPay. ESS offers Library Management Cloud, which is used by public and academic libraries in the UK and was formerly branded under the product names Capita LMS, Soprano, and Talis. ESS was previously owned by Capita, which specializes in local government software and services, from 2011 through 2020. The sale of ESS was supported through an investment by Montagu Private Equity.
Insight Informatics, a privately owned company in Australia, was acquired last August by Knosys Limited, a public company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Insight Informatics offers the Libero ILS used in Australia and Germany.
Baratz, a Madrid-based company that offers the AbsysNet ILS, was acquired in June 2021 by Total Specific Solutions, another operating unit of Constellation Software. Prior to the acquisition, Baratz spun off Albadoc, its archive management line. Baratz is developing ODA, a new catalog and discovery service that the company plans to finalize and release in 2023. Following that split and under new ownership, Baratz reported 30 employees in 2021, down from 61 in the previous year. The 42 new sales for AbsysNet increased total installations to 3,031.
Rounding out the top tier
EBSCO Information Systems has a broad portfolio, including database, content, and technology products. EBSCOhost ranks as one of the foremost subject-oriented citation and full-text database platforms. EBSCO Discovery Service is the leading index-based discovery service, covering the complete body of scholarly literature. Employing a global workforce of almost 2,000 people, EBSCO ranks as one of the largest library-focused companies.
Rivals EBSCO and ProQuest both hold many content and technology offerings, but EBSCO was the larger company prior to the Clarivate acquisition. EBSCO’s business strategies center on its database, content, and discovery offerings, while ProQuest has deeper ties to technology, especially following its acquisitions of Ex Libris and Innovative. In contrast to ProQuest’s aggressive expansion, EBSCO has made smaller-scale acquisitions, including Stacks in 2019 and Zepheira in 2020. ProQuest’s tech products are part of its core business, whereas EBSCO focuses on technologies that expand and maintain its database and content business.
EBSCO is a major force behind the development of open source platform FOLIO, collaborating with a broad range of libraries and companies. Those efforts are bearing fruit as more libraries implement FOLIO, either as a full replacement for an incumbent ILS or for the management of electronic resources. FOLIO competes with OCLC WorldShare Management Services, Ex Libris Alma, and other proprietary library services platforms. EBSCO does not own or control the FOLIO software but it is a major stakeholder and has contributed substantial financial and development resources.
EBSCO offers hosting and support services for more than 50 libraries using FOLIO, both directly to libraries and through business partners. ByWater Solutions, for example, provides support for some libraries that use EBSCO FOLIO hosting. The growing number of libraries using FOLIO remains a small fraction compared with those that have implemented Alma or WorldShare Management Services. EBSCO’s revenue opportunities are diluted by other providers; for example, Index Data offers independent commercial services and providers for implementing FOLIO without hosting or support services.
EBSCO reported 1,669 new subscriptions for EBSCO Discovery Service, bringing total installations to 12,700. EBSCO began deployment of an updated version of EBSCO Discovery Service with personalized interfaces and a visual concept map powered by AI. It also introduced Panorama analytics, a tool that taps multiple library and campus data sets to help libraries build and manage their collections and prioritize their services. The company reports progress on an enhanced book-ordering platform that will eventually succeed its longstanding GOBI Library Solutions service and EBSCOhost Collection Manager.
Many of OCLC’s activities fall outside library systems and technology, such as its involvement in the REALM (Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) project that is researching the implications of COVID-19 for library materials and services, its OCLC Research reports, the training and educational activities of WebJunction, and the programs of the OCLC Research Library Partnership. Operating as a nonprofit, OCLC sustains its operations through fees charged for its products and services, grant funding, and returns from its investment portfolio. Its European division operates as a for-profit organization. The overall organization’s 2021 revenues totaled $218 million, a slight increase over $215 million in 2020. OCLC invested $35.5 million in research and development in 2021, 22% of which went to products classified as management services, including WorldShare Management Services (WMS) and OCLC’s multiple ILS products.
WMS, launched in 2012, is OCLC’s main product for academic libraries. It builds on WorldCat with its massive representation of library holdings and bibliographic records, providing comprehensive management for a library’s print and electronic resources. WMS falls into the same product niche—library services platforms for academic libraries—as Ex Libris’s Alma. In a deeply consolidated industry with limited alternatives, it provides healthy competition, even if it has not achieved as large a market share as Alma.
Currently, almost 700 libraries use WMS. In 2021, 44 library locations, split between North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, became new subscribers. Last year OCLC delivered more than 200 enhancements, with more than 70% of those in response to customer feedback. WMS has attained FedRAMP authorization, a qualification needed for serving some US government agencies. A new partnership with Talis, a product of SAGE Publishing, enables full integration between WMS and Talis Aspire, a course list application.
OCLC offers Wise as its strategic platform, or community engagement system, for public libraries. Its design integrates patron-centered personalization and marketing with the core capabilities of an ILS. Wise builds on the bicatWise technology acquired from HKA in 2013, used by most public libraries in the Netherlands. Cultuurconnect in Belgium selected Wise in 2018 as the library management system for almost all public libraries across the five provinces of the Flanders region and Brussels. Cultuurconnect serves more than 300 library locations and 7 million residents, ranking as one of the largest consortia in Europe. These libraries share a single instance of Wise, and a phased implementation of the project continues.
OCLC launched Wise in the US in March 2018 and attracted nine libraries as early adopters. By February, seven had placed Wise into production. No additional US sales were reported.
WorldCat Discovery provides the patron-facing interface for libraries using WMS and can be used independently. OCLC completed a redesign of WorldCat Discovery in 2021, including interface improvements to better comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Agreements with 11 new content providers have increased the central index to 377 providers, expanding its coverage to 4.3 billion items. Additionally, the release of a new Premium API package for WorldCat Discovery has enabled libraries to create customized interfaces and workflows.
Recent events have reshuffled the mix of ownership arrangements, and public companies represent a larger share of the industry than ever before.
OCLC’s current portfolio of resource-sharing products includes WorldShare Interlibrary Loan; ILLiad, which automates processing for interlibrary lending and requests; and Tipasa, a web-based service for managing those requests. In 2021, an additional 26 libraries implemented Tipasa, increasing total subscribers to 373. Further, OCLC recently launched Express, a new digital delivery program with more than 1,000 libraries participating, as part of WorldShare Interlibrary Loan. The program enables fast delivery of materials to its suite of resource-sharing products using smart fulfillment. As of last July, more than 160,000 digital copies have been delivered through the service, with an average turnaround time of 10.4 hours.
OCLC acquired Capira Technologies in 2020. Development of CapiraMobile continues, including a specialized CapiraCurbside option for contactless pickup of library materials. OCLC has also made improvements to its remote access and authentication utility EZproxy. Many libraries using locally hosted instances of EZproxy are shifting to OCLC’s hosted service. OCLC recently launched EZproxy Analytics, implemented by 56 libraries in 2021.
From midsize to open source
Index Data has a long history of involvement with open source technologies in libraries and has developed open source components used within many library products. The initial architecture for FOLIO was developed by Index Data and funded by EBSCO. The company also provides hosting and support services for FOLIO independently from EBSCO. Some of its FOLIO clients include Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and University of Chicago (both migrating from now-defunct Kuali OLE), Simmons University in Boston, and institutions associated with the Fenway Library Organization consortium. Spokane (Wash.) Public Library recently migrated from Horizon ILS with support and hosting services from Index Data.
Index Data has been a participant and key developer for Project ReShare, a resource-sharing initiative supported by software based on the FOLIO code base. Consortia implementing ReShare with services from Index Data include the Partnership for Academic Library Collaboration and Innovation and ConnectNY. Index Data led development of the Library Data Platform reporting and analytics tool that can be used with FOLIO and in other environments.
SirsiDynix is one of the largest companies in the industry focused on technology products and services. Unlike competitors Ex Libris and Innovative, it has remained an independent company, under the ownership of ICV Partners since 2015.
With Symphony and Horizon as its core ILS products, SirsiDynix developed BLUEcloud, a suite of applications that provide modern, web-based interfaces for staff functions, including Enterprise, a patron-facing portal. BLUEcloud applications support both ILS products, an important strategy to retain libraries concerned that support for Horizon may wane in favor of Symphony. Horizon installations are falling, but not precipitously (777 last year, compared with 813 in 2020 and 1,719 at its peak in 2004). The company issued 91 contracts for Symphony in 2021, including some renewals, and reported 2,374 total installations—a bit lower than the 2,423 in 2020. Sales last year were strong for add-in products, including Enterprise (82), BLUEcloud Mobile (46), and eResource Central (36).
SirsiDynix continues to market and support EOS.Web, used mostly by special libraries. Used in 850 libraries, EOS. Web installations are down from a peak of 1,137 in 2014, as special libraries have been hit hard by the consolidation of corporations and medical facilities.
Although academic libraries represent only 22% of Symphony’s customer base, they are a critical component of its business. In 2021, SirsiDynix tapped into the realm of open access scholarly content, creating CloudSource OA as a new discovery service. CloudSource enables libraries to assemble collections of open access content, including open educational resources that can be easily discovered and accessed by patrons. The service is based on an enhanced version of Enterprise and an index of open access resources derived from sources such as Unpaywall and Crossref. Copies of PDF documents reside in the SirsiDynix cloud, eliminating the need for link resolvers or other authentication barriers that complicate access. CloudSource does not require that a library be a Symphony or Horizon customer.
SirsiDynix positions CloudSource as a service that can significantly reduce a library’s costs in content and discovery services. Development is under way for CloudSource+, which will include results from a library’s subscription-based content. CloudSource comes bundled with BLUEcloud Course Lists, which enable instructors to easily incorporate open access materials in the classroom. SirsiDynix reports that 41 libraries have subscribed to CloudSource, including 29 added in 2021.
Last year, SirsiDynix delivered 23 new product releases. The company is making enhancements to Enterprise to improve underlying technical architecture and add new features.
The Library Corporation (TLC) continues to be owned and managed by the family that founded it in 1974. TLC’s stability contrasts sharply with the drastic changes impacting other entities in the industry. The company employs 118 people, a slight increase from last year.
TLC specializes in technologies for public and school libraries, including Library•Solution for public libraries and schools and CARL•X for larger municipal libraries and consortia. Nine library systems representing 46 locations selected Library•Solution in 2021. The company reports that 46 customers also migrated from earlier versions of Library•Solution that use client software to the current web-based product, TLC•Cloud Services. This hosting solution was launched in 2020 and is based on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Last year, one additional library selected CARL•X. Another seven libraries (representing 258 locations) shifted to cloud installations of CARL•X.
TLC partnered with Solus for the creation of its new mobile app TLC•GO!, which features branding and customizations for each library. Besides catalog search and patron features, the app supports curbside pickup, digital library card registration, and online payments.
Civica, part of a larger technology business serving local government agencies, offers the Spydus ILS for public libraries and schools. Spydus has some business in the US but is a major player in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the UK. The recent selection of Spydus for Libraries Ireland further boosts its presence there. In 2021, six new library systems in Australia selected Spydus. Civica’s library business has 497 employees, many of whom are involved in supporting school libraries in Singapore. Recent enhancements to Spydus have included new capabilities for managing library-sponsored book groups and improvements to the archives module for managing digital and physical special collections.
Auto-Graphics develops and supports the interlibrary loan system SHAREit and the VERSO ILS. One of the oldest companies in the industry, it was founded in 1950 and has 32 employees. Auto-Graphics is publicly traded under its parent entity Agent Information Software Inc.
VERSO, used mostly by small and midsize public libraries, saw five new contracts in 2021, increasing total installations to 543. No new installations of SHAREit were reported last year; 6,200 library locations currently use the service. Auto-Graphics reported ongoing development for both SHAREit and VERSO, including search enhancements to improve performance and related results suggestions on both platforms. VERSO now supports the latest version of the OverDrive API and supports content enrichment from Syndetics Unbound.
BiblioCommons, part of Volaris Group since February 2020, specializes in user experience technologies for public libraries. Its suite of products includes BiblioCore (a web catalog with integrated social sharing features), BiblioWeb (for the full deployment of a library website), and BiblioEmail (for automated marketing), along with BiblioEvents and the BiblioApps mobile app. The company’s Digital Experience Platform bundles BiblioWeb, BiblioEvents, and BiblioEmail as an integrated offering. New subscriptions made in 2021 include 13 for BiblioCore, 14 for BiblioWeb, 11 for BiblioApps, four for BiblioEmail, and 14 for BiblioEvents.
Last year, BiblioCommons created a new version of the main page that displays titles in BiblioCore and updated default sharing settings to address privacy issues. The company also added a Personalized Promotions feature in BiblioWeb in partnership with Chicago Public Library. A new version of BiblioApps has been developed and deployed to subscribers. BiblioEmail now comes bundled with BiblioWeb at no additional cost.
Equinox Open Library Initiative—a provider of hosting and support services for Evergreen, FulfILLment, Koha, and other open source library products—has been a nonprofit since 2016. The company recently expanded its portfolio of supported products to include CORAL, an open source electronic resource management application, and SubjectsPlus, a tool for management of staff directories, research guides, and other library website components.
Equinox supports 815 library locations using Evergreen, with eight installations added in 2021; most of those customers participate in consortia. The company completed 23 Evergreen development projects last year. Additionally, Equinox supports Koha for 52 library sites. Equinox engages in initiatives to support open source communities, and recently launched its equinoxEDU educational program.
ByWater Solutions entered the open source arena in 2009, offering hosting and support services for Koha. The company has become the established leader in this niche, providing services to 1,485 library locations, with 36 contracts added in 2021. ByWater Solutions continues to make inroads with new customers that span a range of library sizes and types. In recent years, larger libraries have selected ByWater Solutions for Koha and Aspen Discovery. Reflecting this growth, the company added five new positions in 2021, increasing its workforce to 35. ByWater Solutions works closely with the global Koha community that collaboratively develops this software.
In 2019, ByWater Solutions had expanded its services to provide support for Aspen Discovery, a catalog interface based on the VuFind code base that is optimized for public libraries. Aspen Discovery was designed to provide a more advanced and user-friendly discovery environment than a catalog built into an ILS. When ByWater Solutions acquired Aspen Discovery three years ago, the product was used in 128 libraries; installations now stand at 590. Recent implementations of Aspen Discovery include Coastline Libraries, a consortium in Oregon (Koha); MAIN, a consortium of 49 public libraries in New Jersey (Polaris); Porter County (Ind.) Public Library System (Sierra); and SWAN Library Services, a consortium of 100 libraries in Illinois (Symphony).
PTFS provides technology products for libraries and government agencies. Bibliovation, launched in 2015, is used by public, academic, school, and research libraries, including some in the US government. The company’s content management system Knowvation includes full-text discovery and support for geospatial data.
PTFS reported 23 contracts for Bibliovation—including 21 new customers—increasing total installations to 471. Last year the company also completed Bibliovation 7.2, which features the ability to support a union catalog with members in multiple time zones and better integration with Knowvation’s digital content management module. Based in Rockville, Maryland, PTFS employed 102 people as of 2021.
TIND was launched in 2015 to commercialize software developed by CERN; the company currently employs 15. Kari Paulson joined TIND as its chief operating officer last year. In 2021, Matt Hall was appointed as vice president for business development and Andrew French as vice president for product development. New clients include the Folger Shakespeare Library, which selected the TIND ILS to replace Voyager, and East Hampton (N.Y.) Public Library and Charlotte (N.C.) Mecklenburg Library, both of which selected the TIND Digital Archive.
Despite similar names, no ownership relationship exists between PTFS Europe and PTFS, the US-based company. PTFS Europe was originally formed as a distributor for ArchivalWare, a digital archiving solution from PTFS, and its library services are based on the community-developed Koha. Libraries implementing Koha with support from PTFS Europe last year include University of West London and Manchester (UK) College.
PTFS Europe’s business analytics platform Metabase has been implemented in about 10 libraries. The company also recently launched services for Aspen Discovery, with Newcastle (UK) Libraries as its initial customer. PTFS Europe partners with EBSCO Information Services to support FOLIO and continues to support Knowvation.
The high-stakes changes in academic libraries contrast sharply with the public library technology sector, where products offer only slight differentiation.
Keystone Systems develops software and services for libraries that serve people with visual disabilities. The company’s Keystone Library Automation System (KLAS) supports specialized workflows for these libraries, which serve patrons through delivery services as well as onsite. Keystone offers Scribe, an appliance for duplicating talking book cartridges and a core service of many of its customers. Recent development has focused on integration between KLAS and the catalog of materials provided through American Printing House.
CyberTools for Libraries specializes in technologies for health organizations, smaller colleges and universities, law firms, and other special libraries. Recent developments include enhancements to the CyberTools single-search portal and automated corrections of vendor-supplied data for subscriptions to improve search reliability.
Prima, based in Brazil, develops and supports the SophiA ILS used by libraries in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Spain. Prima was acquired by Volaris Group in 2018.
Softlink Information Centres develops and supports the Liberty ILS and illumin research management application designed for legal and corporate information centers. Its sister company Softlink Education offers the Oliver ILS and LearnPath digital publishing platform and does not have a major presence in the US. Softlink completed nine releases with more than 250 new or improved features for Liberty in 2021; illumin has seen 100 enhancements. Volaris Group acquired Softlink in 2013 as its initial foray into library technologies.
Specializing in smaller libraries
Biblionix supports small and midsize public libraries with its web-based Apollo ILS. The company is privately owned, debt-free, and directly manages the server infrastructure supporting Apollo, with no current plans to use public cloud-hosting services.
The 39 libraries that selected Apollo in 2021 increased total installations to 874. Many libraries that select Apollo migrate from larger-scale products with complex functionality not needed for smaller public libraries. Biblionix offers a resource-sharing option, recently rebranded as FlexShare, which gives libraries using Apollo options for their patrons to search or borrow from neighboring libraries that also use Apollo. Biblionix offers FlexShare at no additional cost and reports that it is used by 45% of Apollo subscribers. The company developed a new gallery view option within the Apollo catalog to present results with cover art instead of the original tabular format.
Book Systems develops and supports the Atriuum ILS used mostly by schools and smaller public libraries. The privately owned, midsize company employs 61 and is based in Huntsville, Alabama. Though 72% of installations are in school libraries, Book Systems has reported growth in public libraries.
Recent developments include mobile apps Librista 2.0 and Librista CheckIT, the latter offering patrons touchless self-checkout. Book Systems has used the Flutter development platform to accelerate the creation of its apps.
New features in Atriuum include automated workflows for quarantine protocols involving materials, integration with Hoopla, support for Comprise SmartPAY, and enhancements to features for acquisitions and interlibrary loan. Atriuum has implemented WebGL to render graphics in its Quilt catalog for children, making for a more engaging interface.
COMPanion, which offers the Alexandria ILS for schools and small libraries, has been owned and led by founder Bill Schjelderup since 1987. Alexandria is a web-based ILS used by 10,568 school libraries and 258 public libraries. The platform meets WCAG and ADA standards for compliance. Alexandria was selected by 149 organizations representing 448 library locations in 2021.
In addition to the Alexandria ILS, COMPanion offers KeepnTrack to track and report on visitor activity, a capability relevant to K–12 school libraries. Textbook Tracker extends Alexandria to help libraries and schools manage textbook inventory.
LibraryWorld, known for the web-based ILS of the same name, has begun rolling out a new system, WikiLibrary. Under development for the past year, the program will be beta tested by 483 libraries. With sales beginning in November 2021, the company reported 21 paid customers by the end of the year; the product is free to libraries with fewer than 500 catalog records. WikiLibrary has been developed on a platform where new libraries can be added with minimal additional resources, resulting in a low-cost service. The company reported 49 contracts for LibraryWorld, increasing installations to 2,921.
Mandarin Library Automation offers the M5 ILS, which is used mostly by small school and public libraries. The company is based in Boca Raton, Florida, and has 20 employees. In recent years, Mandarin has shifted customers away from local installations to its M5 hosted service, now used by 70% of its customers. Recent developments focus on new features for the M5 online catalog, circulation, and cataloging.
Media Flex develops and supports the open source OPALS ILS used mostly by school libraries, but also with many installations in church, synagogue, and special libraries. Additionally, the company partners with other organizations, such as the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services in New York, to deploy and support OPALS.
Recent events have reshuffled the mix of ownership arrangements, and public companies represent a larger share of the industry than ever before. The businesses acquired by public companies have settled into seemingly permanent ownership arrangements, though post-merger integrations will play out over the next few years.
Private equity continues to make gains in the library technology sector, with Follett School Solutions and Soutron Global entering the fold. Many organizations have found exits into public companies. Moreover, private equity firms usually look to hold their portfolio companies temporarily, selling to other investors or companies seeking expansion through strategic acquisitions.
Most small and midsize companies continue under the ownership of their founders or families. Will these arrangements endure? Or will these companies eventually transition to private equity ownership or get acquired by larger entities when their founders retire?
The stage seems set for other transitions, including further consolidation that will play out over the next year or so. Expect more strategic acquisitions into aligned businesses rather than lateral changes in ownership.
About the report
The 2022 Library Systems Report documents ongoing investments of libraries in strategic technology products in 2021. It covers for-profit and nonprofit organizations that offer strategic resource management products—especially integrated library systems and library services platforms—and comprehensive discovery products.
The vendors included have responded to a survey requesting details about their organization, sales performance, and narrative explanations of accomplishments. Additional sources consulted include press releases, news articles, and other publicly available information. Most of the organizations provided lists of libraries represented in the statistics reported, allowing for more detailed analysis and validation.
Updated May 3, 2022.