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Integrated Library Software: A Guide to Multiuser, Multifunction Systems

From the "Introduction and Scope"
This issue of Library Technology Reports provides an in-depth analysis of multiuser library automation systems and the companies that produce them. These systems automate the routine operations of a library, provide library users information about the library's collection, and serve as a channel for delivering key library services.

The term integrated library system, or ILS, describes the software that automates the many diffferent library work categories. This common application is tied together with data residing in common databases (as much as possible) that are related to many different tasks. An ILS automates many library tasks that would otherwise be repetitive, labor intensive, and inefficient.

The acquisition and maintenance of an ILS is a major investment for a library. These systems are not inexpensive, either in the up-front costs involved or in the ongoing budgetary requirements. The hardware, software, and personnel costs associated with the library's automation effort can represent a substantial portion of its annual budget. These expenditures, however, offset a much larger set of labor costs that the library would incur without automation.

In today's world of a highly connected public, the capabilities of the ILS determine the library's ability to deliver relevant services. The ILS must operate within a world that is becoming ever more digital and where the delivery of services over the Web may rank just as high in importance as services delivered within the library building. A library's overall ability to meet its users' expectations for high-quality services can be either fulfilled or hampered by the choices it makes in selecting a library automation system.

Multiuser Systems
This report provides information on the current state of library automation systems designed for many simultaneous users. Thse multiuser systems would be used by medium-sized and large libraries or by library consorita. Small libraries might be users of these systems through a shared implementation but likely would not operate one of these systems independently.

The dividing line between PC-based systems and multiuser systems has become blurred in the last few years. Today's personal computer delivers the same level of computing power as high-end servers and mainframes of not that long ago. With such powerful hardware, systems originally designed for small libraries can extend their reach to larger libraries and groups of libraries.

This report does not cover the personal computer-based programs designed for small libraries. The May/June 2003 issue of Library Technology Reports ("Integrated Library System Software for Smaller Libraries," 39:3) provides detailed information on PC-based library automation systems.

Focus on the North American Scene
This report focuses on the library automation systems available in North America. Although the library automation market is becoming increasingly internationalized, many systems that have proven to be popular in the United Kingdom, Europe, and other parts of the globe have little, if any, presence in North America.

These international systems include the OLIB system from Fretwell Downing, Spydus from Civica, Concerto from Bibliomondo, CAIRS Total Library from the United Kingdom-based CAIRS, DS Galaxy from DS (not to be confused with the legacy Galaxy system developed by GIS Information Systems), the 2020 system from Soutron, the Talis Library Management System from Talis Information, Ltd. (based in Birmingham, United Kingdom), and numerous others.

To be included in this report, the system must have a sales and support facility in North America and have implemented products in many libraries.

This report cannot present any conclusions for a library on what library automation system it should acquire. At best, it serves as a guide to help a library considering a new ILS to understand what products to consider and the issues and process that surround that decision. The specific needs and circumstances of each library vary widely.

About the Author
Marshall Breeding is Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Jean & Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University and is responsible for strategic planning for technology and digital library projects. He serves as the Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. In his twenty years at Vanderbilt, he has been involved with network administration, library automation, database development and a wide array of technology projects. He has served as principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to his work at Vanderbilt, Breeding is an independent consultant, analyst, and writer in the fields of networking and library automation. He is a regular speaker and teacher at library conferences, having given more than one hundred presentations or workshops. Breeding has authored the annual "Automated System Marketplace" feature in Library Journal for the last four years; is a contributing editor to Smart Libraries Newsletter published by ALA TechSource; writes the "Systems Librarian" column published monthly in Computers in Libraries. Breeding also is the author of TCP/IP and the Internet: A Buyers Guide for Micro-based TCP/IP Software, and The Essential Guide to the IBM-PC: Vol. 31: Integrated Library Systems and Integrated Library Systems for PCs and PC Networks: Descriptive and Analytical Reviews of the Current Products. He edited Library LANs: Case Studies in Practice and Application and MecklerMedia’s Official Internet World World Wide Web Directory, 1996 ed. He was a freelance analyst and writer for the DataPro Information Services division of the Gartner Group from 1992 through 2000, covering CD-ROM and DVD networking and SAN/NAS technologies. His articles have appeared in Network Computing, Information Today, Computers in Libraries, Journal of Library Administration, Library Hi-Tech, Library Software Review, CD-ROM World, and CD-ROM Professional. He contributed chapters to both editions of ALA’s Cybrarian Manual. He created and maintains the Library Technology Guides ( and lib-web-cats ( Web sites. From 1992 through 1998, Breeding was editor-in-chief of Library Software Review. Breeding has authored three previous issues of Library Technology Reports.

Contact the author by e-mail at or visit him on the Web at