2023 Library Systems Report

The advance of open systems

May 1, 2023

An image of 24 icons representing different technology devices and processes for the 2023 Library Systems Report
Illustration: ©Good Studio/Adobe Stock

In recent years, business acquisitions have brought high-stakes changes to the library technology industry, creating seismic shifts in the balance of power. But other events in 2022—primarily advances in open source software—have even bigger implications for the market. Although proprietary products continue to dominate, open source alternatives are becoming increasingly competitive.

Interest in open systems has been growing within the library world for at least 15 years, and recent procurements reflect important breakthroughs. The selection of the open source library services platform (LSP) FOLIO by Library of Congress (LC), the MOBIUS consortium, the National Library of Australia, and others has solidified FOLIO’s position as a major competitor in the market. With 1,575 installations for Koha, ByWater Solutions has become one of the strongest competitors for mid-sized and large public libraries in the US. Public libraries are increasingly turning to Aspen Discovery for a replacement catalog interface.

Most libraries still use proprietary software for their core systems. In the US, about 10% of academic libraries and 17% of public libraries use an open source integrated library system (ILS). But the barriers to these products—real and perceived—have largely collapsed. Functionality gaps have narrowed across major open source products like Koha, Evergreen, and now FOLIO, after long periods of development. To remain competitive, proprietary systems will have to deliver similar interoperability, innovation, and flexible APIs at moderate pricing. Ultimately, libraries will not choose products based on an abstract preference for a development model. The success of any product will depend on a vendor’s demonstrated performance in delivering exceptional customer service.

The pandemic did not necessarily slow libraries in the selection and implementation of new systems. Rather, many libraries were already in a holding pattern, deferring selection of major systems until the dust settled on major industry events. In previous years, FOLIO was anticipated as a viable alternative system, but many academic libraries held off on choosing it pending more evidence. Now that FOLIO has met critical thresholds of functionality and sustainability, interest in the system extends beyond organizations favoring open source solutions. FOLIO is now part of the competitive arena of routine procurement for academic and research libraries.

With all the cards now on the table, we can anticipate a new wave of procurements among academic libraries that have held onto legacy ILS products. This next round will include consideration of FOLIO along with proprietary products Alma and WorldShare Management Services.

A focus on patron needs and discovery

Public libraries are increasingly investing in technologies that deliver resources and services directly to patrons. Systems that automate staff functions and physical collection management processes remain important, but those products have become less differentiated.

For the last decade, BiblioCommons has established itself as the premier provider of advanced patron-facing technologies. Its catalog and website products reflect extensive research into users’ interests and needs, and more than 520 public libraries have implemented the platform. The costs of investing in these interfaces on top of maintaining an ILS remains beyond the reach of smaller libraries, however, unless they acquire them via consortium.

The open source arena has also presented options for more affordable online catalog replacement. Aspen Discovery, which offers a modern user experience (UX) and advanced patron features, has emerged as a strong choice for public libraries. ByWater Solutions is the leading provider of services for Aspen Discovery, now supporting 694 libraries.

Aspen Discovery is commonly used with Koha but has been implemented by libraries using CARL•X, Evergreen, Polaris, Sierra, and Symphony. Equinox Open Library Initiative offers support for Aspen Discovery at three consortia using Evergreen, representing a total of 82 libraries. PTFS Europe provides support services for Aspen Discovery in the UK and Ireland. Pika, an open source discovery interface based on the VuFind codebase, is developed and supported by the Marmot Library Network in Colorado.

Naturally, ILS vendors resist the replacement of their products. Yet, they provide APIs and other connectivity mechanisms that enable their catalogs to be replaced, responding to customer demand for flexibility and openness. Growing interest in more sophisticated discovery interfaces can drive ILS vendors to improve their offerings or create new ones.

Innovative, for example, launched Vega in 2020 as a suite of patron services to succeed its aging Encore interface and ward off incursions from other products. In retrospect, Primo’s development as a discovery interface compatible with all major ILS products used by academic libraries proved to be an effective strategy in Ex Libris’ advancement of Alma, once it became available in 2012.

EBSCO signs big deals for FOLIO

EBSCO Information Services, a family business with more than 2,000 employees and a total annual revenue exceeding $2 billion, is a longstanding provider of disciplinary databases, subscription management services, and other core offerings. In recent years, EBSCO has moved beyond proprietary products and invested heavily in the development and support of open source software and linked data. The company’s product strategy aims to enable a more open technology ecosystem for libraries.

EBSCO Discovery Service, now installed at more than 16,000 libraries, is the most widely used index-based discovery service. Recent product enhancements include a new interface with improved UX design and personalization features. The index has recently expanded to include JSTOR Open Community Collections and the Directory of Open Access Journals. Integration with database Unpaywall provides users additional pathways to the full text of resources.

EBSCO enables interoperability among its proprietary products through open APIs. Examples include the integration of EBSCONET with Alma and the discoverability of Talis Aspire content resources through GOBI Library Solutions. In June 2022, EBSCO partnered with Clever to enable single sign-on between K–12 school networks and their electronic resources. Additionally, EBSCO’s Panorama analytics service can combine disparate data from systems across different vendors and providers.

Multiple products and services from EBSCO use BIBFRAME, positioned as the successor to MARC 21 for bibliographic data. In 2012, LC enlisted Zepheira to assist in the development of BIBFRAME and create mappings from MARC. EBSCO acquired Zepheira in 2020, which included the service now known as BiblioGraph. EBSCO made this move to leverage BIBFRAME and linked data technology to improve the discoverability of library resources by connecting web searches to library catalogs. EBSCO’s holdings and expertise will be instrumental in the development work planned for LC’s implementation of FOLIO, which will include a strong emphasis on BIBFRAME support in its cataloging and record distribution workflows.

EBSCO, in partnership with the Open Library Environment and multiple academic libraries, supported creation of FOLIO, with development beginning in 2016. FOLIO has become a viable alternative, thanks to a development community comprising vendors and a large number of libraries, of which EBSCO is a part. The development model embraced by open source projects typically involves one or more libraries financially sponsoring specific development tasks that also benefit the broader community using the product.

LC’s selection of FOLIO and EBSCO to help create its new Library Collections Access Platform propels FOLIO to a new level of sustainability and solidifies its status in the LSP space. This multiyear contract of up to $25 million includes a major software development component that will replace LC’s existing infrastructure and support BIBFRAME as its primary bibliographic format. The contract allocates $7.8 million for its initial phase, and enhancements made for this project will help other libraries using FOLIO.

EBSCO FOLIO is positioned as a comprehensive hosted solution, with FOLIO as its foundation and a suite of modules that address core library workflows. Additional proprietary components include EBSCO Discovery Service, EBSCO FOLIO Electronic Research Management, EBSCO Knowledge Base, Locate (as a dedicated catalog), and hosting and support services. Eighty-five libraries have signed contracts for EBSCO FOLIO, including 61 commitments made in 2022.

The MOBIUS consortium, which includes major academic libraries in Missouri, selected both EBSCO FOLIO and ReShare last year to replace Sierra and INN-Reach. In December, the National Library of Australia chose EBSCO FOLIO to replace its Voyager ILS.

EBSCO also partners with other vendors to support EBSCO FOLIO. Five libraries have signed with ByWater Solutions for EBSCO FOLIO, including one added last year. Other companies offer hosting, support, migration, and development services for FOLIO independently from EBSCO, and some libraries have plans to implement FOLIO on their own, with limited support from vendors.

The growth of open source support

For-profit companies and nonprofit organizations have both contributed to the ongoing development of open source products and their long-term sustainability. Since the mid-2000s, commercial services for open source software have been a routine part of the library technology industry and are increasing the impact of the sector.

ByWater Solutions, a privately held company, provides hosting and support services for several open source library products, including Aspen Discovery, CORAL, and Koha. The company was founded in 2009 and has steadily expanded to its current workforce of 40 employees.

Last year, ByWater Solutions pulled public libraries away from proprietary ILS products such as Horizon, Polaris, Sierra, and Symphony—as well as open source products including Evergreen and self-managed Koha implementations. Academic libraries that selected Koha services from ByWater Solutions in 2022 left Alma, OCLC WorldShare Management Services, and Sierra.

Aspen Discovery, an open source discovery environment, has attracted public libraries using Koha and proprietary ILS products. ByWater Solutions leads the market in development and support implementations for Aspen Discovery. In 2022, the company signed 48 support agreements for Aspen Discovery, covering 110 library locations and expanding total installations to 694. ByWater Solutions also signed 47 support agreements for the implementation of Koha, representing 93 library locations. Most of ByWater Solutions’ clients are public libraries (64%), though the company also serves academic (14%), school (6%), and special (3%) libraries.

Ever more libraries are selecting Koha alongside ByWater Solutions support. In 2022, three consortia moved from proprietary ILS products to Koha and Aspen Discovery supported by ByWater Solutions: Black Gold Cooperative Library System in California, Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing in Massachusetts, and Ocean State Libraries in Rhode Island. Additionally, ByWater Solutions gained one academic library client for its FOLIO services, two for the CORAL electronic resource management system, and 12 for its Koha hosting and support services.

Equinox Open Library Initiative, a nonprofit founded in 2017, is another organization supporting open source library software. Evergreen, an ILS developed for library consortia, represents a large portion of the organization’s contracts. For libraries not part of a consortium, Equinox offers Koha services.

Five of Equinox’s 21 employees are devoted to software deployment. In 2022, the company completed 30 development projects for Evergreen and FulfILLment. Equinox developers have also contributed to the development of Aspen Discovery, CORAL, and VuFind. The organization offers free educational events, community programs, and webinars as well as fee-based workshops.

Last year, seven libraries representing 12 locations contracted with Equinox for Evergreen services, increasing total installations to 837. Three support service contracts for Koha have extended its total installations to 53.

Equinox recently launched services for Aspen Discovery, signing three support contracts that cover 82 library locations. One additional library selected Equinox to support VuFind, while 334 libraries use FulfILLment, an open source resource-sharing environment based on Evergreen.

Index Data, cofounded by Adam Dickmeiss and Sebastian Hammer in 1994, is a pioneer in open source software and services for libraries. The company was enlisted by EBSCO Information Services to create the microservices infrastructure and interface framework for FOLIO starting in 2015. Index Data continues in the collaborative development of FOLIO and has led the creation of the ReShare resource-sharing service based on the FOLIO infrastructure.

In 2022, Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation contracted with Index Data for its BorrowDirect resource-sharing initiative, while the CAVAL network in Australia and the Triangle Research Libraries Network in North Carolina are among the organizations partnering with Index Data on ReShare. Index Data also offers hosting and support services for libraries implementing FOLIO. The company signed 10 agreements for FOLIO in 2022, representing 98 locations.

Naseej, a major technology provider for libraries and cultural organizations in the Middle East and North Africa, has spent the past three years developing MEDAD as a comprehensive platform for libraries using FOLIO for management capabilities.

Currently, a version of FOLIO for Chinese libraries called Yunhan is under way. Shanghai Library, a massive public and research library, has plans to implement this platform to replace its Horizon ILS. Once completed, Yunhan will become an option for thousands of public and academic libraries in China.

TIND, a startup created in 2015 by the CERN research facility in Switzerland, offers products based on the open source Invenio codebase, including its digital archive product TIND DA, TIND ILS, institutional repository product TIND IR, and research data management platform TIND RDM. Last year, two libraries selected TIND ILS, including one migrating away from Alma and a national consortium. Five organizations selected TIND IR, bringing total installations to 26. Four selections of TIND DA increase its user base to 18. The company noted that 60% of its new clients acquired multiple products. Overall, TIND made 66 new sales in 2022.

Media Flex develops and supports OPALS, a web-based open source ILS for K–12 schools and other small libraries. Many libraries in New York continue to implement OPALS through arrangements with cooperative education boards in partnership with Media Flex.

Although proprietary products continue to dominate, open source alternatives are becoming increasingly competitive.

Integrations at industry giant Clarivate continue

Last year’s report announced the purchase of ProQuest by Clarivate, a London-based, publicly traded corporation with an anticipated annual revenue of more than $2.5 billion. The $5.3 billion acquisition of ProQuest in December 2021—which included ProQuest companies Ex Libris and Innovative—still stands as the largest business event ever in the library technology industry. A consolidated Clarivate is led by CEO Jonathan Gear and chairman Andrew M. Snyder.

The integration of the former ProQuest businesses is well under way. Both Innovative and Ex Libris now report through a single general manager, Yariv Kursh. The two library divisions of Clarivate collectively employed 1,084 people in 2022, with 836 reported by Ex Libris and 248 by Innovative.

Clarivate brings massive scale and deep resources to the industry. So far, the integration of Ex Libris reflects an ongoing emphasis on technology development that has long been a hallmark of the brand. Innovative is making a concerted effort to develop Vega as a suite of patron-facing services to strengthen its position in the public library space.

Ex Libris continues its focus on academic and research libraries and higher education institutions. Its sophisticated products have been implemented by institutions of all sizes. Alma, available since 2012, has become the most widely implemented LSP among academic and research libraries. Last year, 139 organizations contracted for Alma, bringing total installations to 2,365 libraries. Ex Libris recently shifted from monthly to quarterly feature releases for Alma. Recent enhancements to the platform have included improvements in electronic resource management, namely updates to the overlapping analysis features.

Libraries using Ex Libris products require interoperability and flexible access to data and services through APIs. Ex Libris has developed a Cloud Apps framework that enables non–Ex Libris programmers to create applications that run within the Alma platform, enabling libraries to add features without the source code. To date, developers have made 57 Alma Cloud Apps that have been activated for more than 7,000 staff accounts across nearly 1,000 institutions.

Ex Libris supports BIBFRAME and other linked data concepts within its product suite. Alma is capable of importing and publishing BIBFRAME records. In addition, Ex Libris’ Linked Open Data Working Group is currently working to integrate the Marva editor developed by LC and Sinopia. Marva is an alternate linked data creation environment that supports comprehensive cataloging and discovery workflows based on BIBFRAME. Development plans for Primo, Ex Libris’ patron-facing discovery service, include the implementation of Author Info Cards that present creator information linked from Wikidata.

In 2022, Ex Libris developed support for controlled digital lending (CDL), which will ensure the number of simultaneous digital lending transactions for a particular resource does not exceed the number of physical copies owned. Alma Digital has been enhanced to support CDL for course resource management. Forty new libraries implemented Alma Digital last year, increasing its deployment to about 600 institutions.

Primo and Summon, Ex Libris’ discovery services, both rely on Central Discovery Index. The index includes 5.1 billion records, representing a 10% increase from the previous year. Primo installations currently total 2,629 library locations, including 129 installations added in 2022. More libraries are opting for the version of Primo fully unified with Alma, with 180 libraries making this transition last year. Of the libraries using both Alma and Primo, 78% now use this unified version.

Ex Libris continues to develop and market Summon, which can be used with Alma or other proprietary or open source ILS products. Fifty additional libraries selected Summon in 2022.

Ex Libris offers many other products for academic and research libraries. The company’s resource sharing technologies include Rapido, which builds on Alma to manage borrowing and lending workflows, and RapidILL, which builds on a resource sharing service for articles and book chapters acquired from Colorado State University in 2019. To date, 112 institutions have selected Rapido, with 90 currently in production. About 600 libraries spanning 27 countries participate in RapidILL.

Leganto, used for managing resources for academic courses, has reached 321 installations, including 37 contracts signed in 2022. A new user interface is in development for the platform. Two national libraries implemented Rosetta, a comprehensive digital asset management and preservation system, last year. This expanded total installations to 261.Three sales of Esploro, the company’s research information management product, increase total installations to 38.

Innovative Interfaces, now part of Clarivate, has a diverse line of products that have been adopted by all types of libraries. In recent years, the company especially made gains with public libraries, complementing the academic and research library focus of sister company Ex Libris.

Innovative’s Sierra ILS continues to be supported and developed, though sales have dropped from its heyday of 2011–2016. In combination with the company’s INN-Reach resource-sharing system, Sierra provides a well-established environment for large-scale consortia. Sierra’s six contracts in 2022 increased total installations to 1,129.

Polaris, acquired by Innovative in 2014, remains a major ILS product for public libraries in North America and has only recently seen international sales. The selection of Polaris by the National Library Board of Singapore—for both the country’s national library and its public libraries—represents a major boost for the product. The 15 sales of Polaris to new clients have increased its user base to 601.

For the past two years, Innovative has focused on the creation and development of Vega, a suite of patron-oriented products that can be used with either Sierra or Polaris. Vega Discover incorporates linked data technologies to produce more relevant search results. It has been in general release for Sierra users since December 2020 and for Polaris users since July 2021. The 53 contracts for Vega Discover in 2022 has increased installations to 89.

Innovative has expanded the Vega product suite with additional modules and options. Vega Program provides event and room management, allowing staff members to create events and patrons to discover and sign up for programs. The platform includes payment and refund processing capabilities as well. Vega Promote offers targeted email marketing and related outreach. The LX Starter feature, which enables visually appealing circulation and patron notices instead of text-only messages, is offered without cost to Sierra and Polaris customers.

The next line of large companies

A step down in size from the biggest competitors is a set of companies that have an undeniable impact on the library technology industry, albeit with revenue in the hundreds of millions rather than billions.

OCLC, a nonprofit based in Dublin, Ohio, supports its members and the broader library community in many ways. Last year, the organization employed 1,229 people, with 563 devoted to product development. During fiscal year 2022, the organization brought in $220 million in revenue, up slightly from the previous year, and spent more than $11 million on research and development.

OCLC’s WorldCat database serves as the foundation for many of the company’s products and services. The database included 545 million records representing 3.2 billion library holdings by the end of 2022, with more than 26 billion searches performed that year.

A new iteration of WorldCat.org, a version of OCLC’s bibliographic database openly available on the web, launched in 2022. The revamped site offers a new interface and improves the exposure of library materials. A new arrangement with Google made last year leverages data feeds from WorldCat to present library holdings in knowledge panels as part of Google Search results.

OCLC also released Choreo Insights, a new analytics service that compares a library’s local collection with collections of other libraries represented in WorldCat. Choreo Insights can help libraries assess their collections for areas of academic focus, overlap among institutions involved in collaborative collection development, and efficacy in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

WorldShare Management Services (WMS), OCLC’s LSP for academic, special, and government libraries, gained subscriptions from the 27-member Appalachian College Association along with 36 other libraries in the US, 11 in Europe, four in South Africa, three in the Asia Pacific region, two in Canada, and one in Latin America. OCLC reported that it made more than 200 enhancements to its WMS product in 2022. In total, more than 780 libraries across 33 countries are subscribers.

WorldCat Discovery is bundled as the default patron interface for libraries using WMS but can also be used independently. Enhancements last year included a new interface compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, an option for an Arabic-language interface, and technical upgrades that have improved system response time by 45%. New publisher agreements have resulted in the addition of 43 collections from 17 content providers to grow the platform’s central index. This expands WorldCat Discovery’s coverage to 384 publishers and 3,150 ebook collections, for a total of 4.8 billion index records.

OCLC Wise, the organization’s strategic product for public libraries, includes patron engagement capabilities such as email marketing and event management. There have been many installations of the platform in the Netherlands, where it was developed, and through Cultuurconnect, a large consortium in the Flanders region of Belgium. Cultuurconnect brought 58 additional libraries to OCLC Wise in 2022, with 39 more anticipated in 2023. The product launched in the US in 2018, in collaboration with eight library systems. Bucks County (Pa.) Free Library and Roanoke Valley (Va.) Libraries went live with OCLC Wise in 2022.

On the linked data front, OCLC has worked toward the creation of a shared entity management infrastructure, funded in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Through this project, OCLC has released more than 150 million WorldCat Entities with descriptions of people and creative works for free public access. Development on this project will continue with entity management tools and an API for the resource.

In a move to protect WorldCat, OCLC filed a lawsuit against Clarivate in June 2022 regarding the record exchange service that Ex Libris was developing at the time, MetaDoor. OCLC alleged in the lawsuit that Ex Libris urged potential MetaDoor users to violate their contracts with OCLC that restrict WorldCat records from being shared with organizations that are not OCLC members. Clarivate denied allegations of wrongdoing and terminated its MetaDoor project following an out-of-court settlement with OCLC in November.

Follett School Solutions has operated as an independent company since Francisco Partners acquired the business from Follett Corporation in September 2021. This move was part of the comprehensive divestment of Follett businesses that has included book wholesaler Baker & Taylor and Follett Education, which operates physical and virtual college bookstores.

Follett School Solutions includes two business divisions, with Britten Follett serving as CEO for content and Chris Porter serving as CEO of software. The company reported 1,763 employees in 2022, ranking as one of the largest workforces in the industry.

Under Francisco Partners, Follett School Solutions has sharpened its focus on educational technologies. The company sold its Follett Book Fairs business to Literati in January 2022 and has exited its textbook distribution business. This has allowed Follett School Solutions to build its position as the leading provider of technology products to K–12 school districts. The company’s Destiny Library Manager serves more than 71,000 school libraries, with 2,934 locations added last year. The company also offers the Aspen Student Information System, which was enhanced in 2022 with integration of gradebooks from Google Classroom.

In December 2022, Follett School Solutions expanded internationally with the acquisition of New Zealand–based Accessit. The company’s Accessit Library is an ILS used in school libraries in more than 40 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. This acquisition presents an opportunity for Follet to market its content and other technology products to the Accessit Library customer base.

Public libraries are increasingly investing in technologies that deliver resources and services directly to patrons.

Rounding out the middle tier

A collection of companies that were once considered some of the larger players in the arena now comprise the middle tier of the library technology industry. These companies have not diminished in size but have been eclipsed by established and growing businesses.

SirsiDynix, owned mostly by private equity firm ICV Partners since 2015, employed 363 people in 2022. The company has expanded through rounds of business acquisition and remains centered on library technology products and services, in contrast to some of its larger, more diversified competitors.

Products from SirsiDynix include the ILS products EOS.Web, Horizon, and Symphony; the BLUEcloud suite of web-based applications that work with Horizon and Symphony; and the Enterprise discovery layer. The company continues to develop, support, and market all three ILS products, though most of its newer functionality comes via the BLUEcloud suite. New sales for Horizon in 2022 mostly included libraries joining existing implementations. New contracts for Symphony included migrations from Horizon, renewals of existing implementations, and customers leaving other vendors. Symphony sees usage from all kinds of libraries, though about half of users are public libraries. The 13 contracts for EOS. Web were from special and small academic libraries.

CloudSource, SirsiDynix’s most recent offering, strengthens the company’s position in the academic library sector. The product comes in two flavors: CloudSource OA, a discovery service focused on open access electronic resources, provides convenient access to full text. CloudSource+ builds on CloudSource OA, but with an extended index that includes resources not available as open access and anticipated coverage of more than 200,000 articles. SirsiDynix launched the CloudSource products to help libraries take advantage of the growing body of open access scholarly resources. In concert with document delivery and interlibrary loan, these products may reduce libraries’ need for subscriptions to proprietary content.

The Library Corporation (TLC), owned and operated by founder Annette Harwood Murphy since 1974, has a long track record of developing and supporting technology products for public and school libraries. The company reported 103 employees in 2022.

Library•Solution, the company’s ILS for mid- to large-sized public libraries and school districts, saw six contracts last year. CARL•X, an ILS for large public library systems and consortia, extended its tenure in four organizations with multiyear contract renewals. The company has loyal customers, with its products lasting an average of about 15 years in libraries.

There were new releases across the entire product line in 2022, including for Library•Solution and its associated LS2 PAC patron interface, as well as the CARL•Solution suite (CARL•X, the CARL•Connect staff interface, CARL•Connect Discovery, and the CARL•Solution APIs). The company established an Oracle-based cloud hosting environment in 2020 and has since migrated 72 of its customer sites to this industrial-strength service. A recent partnership with IBM Cognos Business Intelligence has enabled the company to offer more advanced capabilities for CARL•Solution, Library•Solution, and Library•Solution for Schools. Collaborating with its subsidiary Tech Logic, TLC assisted two school districts in deploying RFID technologies for self-checkout and more efficient inventory management.

BiblioCommons, part of Volaris Group since 2020, specializes in providing modern web interfaces for public library patrons. BiblioCore provides a catalog replacement environment that includes social sharing options and patron collaboration characteristics. BiblioCommons does not offer its own ILS but is interoperable with most major products used by public libraries. BiblioWeb provides a content management and presentation environment that allows public libraries to build and manage their websites. BiblioApps delivers an experience similar to BiblioCore and BiblioWeb, but as a native mobile app.

Six new library systems subscribed to the full BiblioCommons suite in 2022, including Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library, Glenview (Ill.) Public Library, Harris County (Texas) Public Library, Palm Beach County (Fla.) Library System, and Timberland Regional Library and Kitsap Regional Library, both in Washington. On top of that, nine new library systems launched implementations of BiblioCore and 11 new library systems added BiblioEmail for messaging and marketing.

BiblioCommons is currently developing a metric and data service with four major library systems that seeks to assess and improve patron engagement. The company will transition its clients to Google Analytics 4 ahead of the sunset of Google Universal Analytics, announced for July.

LibLime, a division of PTFS, offers Bibliovation, a library management system used in public, academic, school, and government agency libraries. Bibliovation is offered as a cloud-hosted solution based on MySQL. The company reported 33 sales for Bibliovation in 2022, expanding total installations to 504. Recent developments for Bibliovation have included integration with PayPal for patron payments, enhancements to offline circulation functions, new reporting options, and improvements to patron search, including the option to search by Lexile measure.

Technology supporting smaller libraries

The larger companies—nonprofits included—have not been especially successful at creating product options within reach of smaller libraries. Yet companies that operate on a smaller scale have developed streamlined products and continue to meet the needs of small libraries at affordable prices.

Book Systems, a company started in 1989 that is still owned and managed by its founders, has seen its Atriuum ILS implemented in more than 5,149 libraries. Last year, Atriuum found considerable success among public and small academic libraries. Book Systems onboarded 37 new clients, including some that were previously using Library•Solution, Koha, and VERSO. Among its own customer base, 84 libraries migrated to Atriuum from Concourse, the company’s legacy ILS. Atriuum was recently enhanced to improve mobile support without the need for a dedicated app.

Auto-Graphics offers the VERSO ILS, used mostly by small and mid-sized public libraries. The company also offers SHAREit, an interlibrary loan platform that has been implemented by large-scale and statewide networks of public libraries. Last year, two contracts of SHAREit brought 115 new installations into the fold, expanding total installations to 6,240. Auto-Graphics reported only one sale of VERSO, which is now used at 543 library locations. The company made developments that updated acquisitions, self-registration, and reporting for VERSO, as well as streamlined its integration with SHAREit. In 2022, Michael Willis joined as VERSO’s new vice president of sales.

Biblionix, a small privately owned company, offers Apollo, a web-based ILS designed for smaller public libraries. The 56 sales of Apollo in 2022 bring total installations to 921. The platform’s FlexShare configuration option offers participating libraries some of the benefits of sharing resources in a consortium, though with less complexity.

Also in 2022, Biblionix launched Artemis, a variant of Apollo designed for K–12 school libraries. Biblionix has dedicated separate resources for the support of Artemis, to avoid drawing attention from Apollo. In its first year, Artemis was implemented at eight school systems.

LibraryWorld is a longstanding provider of a low-cost and fully web-based ILS for small libraries. The LibraryWorld ILS drew 41 contracts in 2022, bringing total installations to 2,835. About 65% of its customers are school libraries. The company recently developed WikiLibrary as its next-generation ILS based on modern cloud technology components and development tools. Libraries can start with the free version of WikiLibrary, limited to 500 records and one staff account. (A standard subscription supports up to 25,000 collection records and the premium service supports up to 50,000 records.) In 2022, WikiLibrary was offered to about 60 libraries during its soft launch phase.

Mandarin Library Automation, a relatively small company with 20 employees, offers the Mandarin M5 ILS used in K–12 public and private schools and other small libraries. The company offers free or low-cost upgrades from its legacy Mandarin M3 and Oasis products. Installations of Mandarin M3 have declined from a peak of 3,273 in 2011 to 1,450 in 2022, while installations of Mandarin M5 rose to 2,472.

Solutions for special libraries

A subset of companies serve the specialized needs of special libraries. For instance, Keystone Systems, a company with 16 employees, works primarily with libraries serving people with visual disabilities. These libraries usually provide materials to patrons through delivery rather than in-person. Keystone’s KLAS ILS is designed for this type of distinctive service. A total of 118 libraries use KLAS, up one from 2021. Keystone Systems is established as the leading vendor in a niche market that has been too small to interest larger-scale companies.

Soutron Global, which offers the Soutron ILS primarily to corporate and other special libraries, continues to expand its customer base. Last year, Soutron signed 15 contracts, expanding total installations to 320. Soutron has enhanced its ILS to create more efficient workflows that better connect thesaurus terms to catalog records. A new API supports organization-wide taxonomies, enabling real-time access across a library’s multiple divisions or departments. Soutron Global’s Client Advisory Group has helped to shape the direction of the company’s products.

Softlink Information Centers, part of Volaris Group since 2013, develops and supports the Liberty ILS for corporate and special libraries and the illumin knowledge and research management system. Its customers include governmental libraries and those in law or consulting firms. Softlink Education offers the Oliver ILS widely used in Australian schools.

Watching the international scene

Library technology is becoming an increasingly global industry. As some products from outside North America gain traction abroad, we can expect to see companies’ increased efforts to expand into the US and Canada, perceived as the most lucrative markets.

Civica, with its Spydus ILS, is a strong competitor in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the UK. Spydus has seen development for 40 years and is now a fully web-based product for both its staff and patron interfaces. Spydus 11 includes a new discovery interface incorporating BIBFRAME linked data and a reworked UX. Last year, 17 libraries contracted with Spydus, spanning 189 locations. In 2021, Civica won the bid to serve Libraries Ireland and its 170 public library locations; the migration was completed last year. The Libraries and Education division of Civica employs nearly 500 people.

Axiell has grown steadily through acquisitions and organic expansion. With 371 employees and several products for libraries, archives, and other cultural organizations, the Swedish company is a major competitor globally and throughout Europe. Last year’s acquisition of Infor brought in customers from Canada and the US who use the V-smart ILS. Axiell continues to support and market V-smart, and reports sales made last year in The Hague, Netherlands, and to municipal library systems in France and Canada.

Northern Ireland’s Libraries NI—the largest library authority in the UK with 96 locations and 26 mobile libraries—selected Axiell’s OpenGalaxy Spark and Arena discovery environment to replace its existing SirsiDynix Symphony environment. Meanwhile, Quria, an LSP launched by Axiell in 2016, continues to expand its reach in public libraries across Europe. New commitments include Viken County Library, a consortium of 22 municipalities in Norway, and Dala Libraries, a consortium of 15 municipalities in central Sweden’s Dalarna County. Eighty-seven contracts were signed for Quria last year, expanding its reach to 166 installations.

Also in 2022, Axiell acquired Enisoft, a Finnish company that produces mobile apps for libraries. Other milestones reported by Axiell include the introduction of Quria Digital Agreements for registering patrons and plans to develop Quria School, a solution for school libraries based on Axiell’s WeLib ILS.

Systematic, previously specializing in enterprise software systems for government and military organizations, entered the library technology space in a big way with Cicero, an ILS initially developed to support all public and school libraries in Denmark. Created in 2018, Cicero has since been marketed to other library types, with a reported 2,414 total installations and 62 million collection items in 2022. Last year, 12 libraries representing 50 facilities selected Cicero. Recent product releases from Systematic have included Cicero Mobile, which provides functionality for staff entirely through web interfaces, and Cicero Explore, a new business intelligence module. The privately held company is based in Aarhus, Denmark, and employs 67 people in its library and learning division.

Baratz, part of Volaris Group, develops the Absys library management system, used widely throughout Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Absys can be installed locally (AbsysNet) or hosted by Baratz (AbsysCloud). Last year, 29 libraries representing 80 facilities signed contracts for Absys, expanding its presence to 3,006 locations. Baratz continues to enhance AbsysCloud’s content enrichment services, such as cover images and platform SMS, along with the new ODA discovery interface.

Prima, a Brazil-based company that is also a part of Volaris Group, develops and supports the SophiA ILS used mostly by public and academic libraries, as well as the Philos ILS used by school libraries. Last year, Prima made 31 sales for Philos, expanding its customer base to 483; the 23 sales for its SophiA ILS bring total installations to 758. Additionally, 20 contracts were signed for SophiA Web, a web-based ILS, in 2022. New developments for the SophiA line have included enhancements to carousels for selected collections in the online catalog, PDF indexing capabilities, and new features to import bibliographic records for ebook collections and other digital content providers.

Technologies to watch in the coming year include artificial intelligence and analytics.

Looking ahead

Following a surge of aggressive business transactions, 2022 was calm on the mergers and acquisitions front. High interest rates may have made leveraged buyouts less attractive. And it may take time to see the results of the latest round of transitions. But private equity ownership arrangements mean that new business transitions will be inevitable, even if timing and structural outcomes remain uncertain.

We can anticipate continued momentum on the open source front. FOLIO will become an even stronger contender for academic and research libraries, especially with the LC project injecting substantial new resources into its development. Nevertheless, Ex Libris Alma and its associated product suite remain formidable, especially with a decade’s head start and Clarivate’s massive resources behind it. Koha, especially when combined with Aspen Discovery, stands to continue making gains at the expense of established proprietary products that may have once hindered the development and support of open source.

Technologies to watch in the coming year include artificial intelligence and analytics. AI-powered chatbots and text-generation services have enormous implications for educational institutions and libraries. Library search services enhanced with AI will likely improve discovery of library resources yet may also bring unintended biases and consequences.
Library companies consolidated under global corporations with highly developed analytics will face new opportunities and challenges. Though library customers may benefit from increased insights into their resources and services, they must vigorously defend user privacy.

About the report

The 2023 Library Systems Report documents ongoing investments of libraries in strategic technology products in 2022. 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.

Additional personnel information, sales statistics, and vendor-provided narratives are available at Library Technology Guides.


Library System Report

2022 Library Systems Report

An industry disrupted

Daphene Keys, public services librarian at Houston Community College, with the Baker & Taylor mascots

A Marketplace of Ideas

Vendors appreciate a return to in-person networking at a smaller Annual Conference