Acquisition Dashboard from Impelsys: Results of an Experiment

February 5, 2014

As I often say, this is a time of experimentation. (If you know something’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.) But it’s not enough to try and fail, or even try and succeed. Either way, we have to report out to our colleagues.

A little over a year ago, Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries teamed up with content delivery provider Impelsys to devise a new acquisitions system to make it easier to manage the new streams of digital content coming from independent, small, and self-publishers.

Here’s what happened: It didn’t work. Why?

There were several reasons. First, the system had rigid requirements for publishers. They had to stick very closely to the ONIX (Online Information Exchange) XML format for the book trade, and many smaller and independent publishers struggled with that.

Second, after the original connection and orders with publishers, it proved to be much easier for DCL to order from short spreadsheet files. The bulk of the work happens upfront, with the first order. Subsequent orders are easier.

In short, the acquisitions dashboard introduced more problems than it solved, and, in practice, the perceived problem of being overwhelmed by divergent publisher systems wasn’t that overwhelming after all.

A third factor was communication with an international, non-US-based software development team (​New York City–based Impelsys also has an office in Bangalore, India). Surely, this will become more common, and we’ll all need to work out more effective strategies to deal with it. But language barriers and conflicting time zones complicated workflow issues.

Bottom line: DCL isn’t using Impelsys’s system anymore, and it doesn’t appear that anyone else has adopted it.

But that’s not to fault Impelsys. The firm stepped up to help libraries at least try to tackle these emerging issues. If all the problems were known, and all the answers clear, we wouldn’t have to experiment, would we?

Next experiment!