The Fortuitous Dis-integration of an Integrated Library System

November 20, 2013

Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) has been a strong player in the integrated library system (ILS) field for many years, but its new take on ebook management could thrive in the new field of dis-integrated services.

As more big library systems turn to external discovery platforms and other extended digital services, the future of the all-in-one ILS looks increasingly iffy. Part of the problem is the unending struggle between innovation and stability. The back-end inventory management systems need to be rock solid stable, but libraries are also realizing the need for a more user-focused display for patrons. We need to keep up with the Joneses, Googles, and Amazons.

If we are moving away from using the stock display packaged with our inventory management software, though, then why would we want to use the front-end from our ebook license management platform? Well, until recently, we pretty much had to, but now there is another option.

III has developed a new ebook discovery and management platform for users. Encore gives users a way to find, checkout, and access eBooks from multiple providers on one easy site, says Senior Project Manager Sarah Hickman-Auger. The firm worked with 3M and OverDrive to have API access allowing everything to happen from within a library’s site, or at least through the library’s III Encore site.

This service could also thrive as a stand-alone offering. The problem is that APIs are only as good as the last update. I would gladly pay for a service that worked closely with ebook systems to ensure API integrity, which is important for a couple of reasons—most notably, privacy and ease of access. Libraries using Encore provide patrons a higher level of privacy and data security. No patron information beyond an anonymous ID is passed to ebook services. All patron data stays within the library system. Secondly, Encore provides a common interface for accessing ebooks from multiple platforms. Patrons won’t even know (much less care) where ebooks are coming from, an important feature in this time of exclusive deals, pilots, and different offerings.

I just hope Encore’s ebook management might become available to non-III customers in more of a dis-integrated model. It looks like a great solution.