Will Industry Consolidation Bring Better OPACs

Another big ILS vendor merger made the rounds on library discussion lists today. Francisco Partners, owners of ExLibris, announced that they purchased Endeavor Information Systems from Elsevier. Francisco will merge Endeavor with ExLibris to create one of the industry’s leading ILS vendors. I’m not with either one of these systems so I can’t provide much insight into what factors brought about the merger, or how it’s likely to impact on the library profession (if any of our readers would like to provide details or insights please leave a comment).

I had heard some talk that Endeavor was having some financial struggles and that it was hampering development efforts, but I don’t know that for certain. I imagine that what’s in it for ExLibris is picking up all of the Endeavor customers. They’ll either go with ExLibris or start the long and sometimes painful migration process with another company – and for academic libraries the choices are starting to get awfully thin. If you don’t like ExLibris you can take either Sirsi-Dynix or Innovative. Sounds like the winners here are Endeavor customers because if they’ve been unhappy with Voyager they may find greener grass with ExLibris, a vendor that’s been aggressively developing new products. The losers, I guess, are all libraries since this industry consolidation is reducing the choices we have. We’ll have to wait and see if consolidation leads to more competitive pricing and a drive to improve the products.

The big money question is “will any of this lead the ILS vendors to make a better OPAC?” It’s ironic that with all this manuevering in the ILS industry, that The Charleston Advisor gave the library OPAC its “Vaporware/Lemon Award” in their Sixth Annual Readers Choice Awards. They wrote:

The Library OPAC- The traditional library catalog has never seemed so constrained and old fashioned. It is the most expensive piece of software typically licensed by a library and yet is shackled in its frequent limitations.

Not very encouraging is it.

7 thoughts on “Will Industry Consolidation Bring Better OPACs”

  1. As the commercial software options become fewer and fewer, perhaps open source ILS solutions like Koha and the Georgia Evergreen project will become more attractive. Both are in use by libraries of varying size. I’m sitting down now to spend most of the day making some cosmetic changes to our Innovative OPAC, and I find myself wondering how much more difficult an open source ILS would actually be to run.

  2. Good point, Chris – I sense that’s where it’s going. Considering how libraries have embraced open source projects and genuinely want to make things better for users, our reliance on a few ILS vendors who seem to be as responsive as the Titanic when it needs to avoid an iceberg has reached a point where many libraries are saying “there has to be a better way.”

    A few projects such as the XC catalog and the implementation of Endeca at NCSU have been covered here before. What other projects should academic librarians be following?

  3. I worked at an Endeavor library earlier this year and noticed they were outsourcing a lot of added functions with outside companies, as if they didn’t have the resources to develop them internally, so perhaps in the short term Ex Libris equivalents could be slotted into these gaps.

    In the longer term of course, two of the three leading ILS vendors (SirsiDynix and Ex Libris) now have multiple competing ILS products to support, and they will probably spend a lot of time and resources naval gazing while merging product lines and migrating customers.

    Libraries are fighting to make themselves relevant to our patrons in a fast-changing information environment. We need new and better systems and I agree with Chris Strauber: open source solutions look better every day.

  4. The post asks the question: “Will Industry Consolidation Bring Better OPACs” – to which the obvious answer is another question: which commercial sector ever benefited customers from consolidation? The airline industry? Food industry? Others?

    Consolidation could be argued to bring the benefit of focussing limited resources, but then the nasty CONTROL element of consolidated marketplace remains. Vendors will continue to use their exclusive hold on the marketplace TO THEIR ADVANTAGE, in the familiar ways IMHO.

    But look at it this way – this merger is GREAT for library systems and here’s why: by accelerating the growth of the cancer even further, library administrators will be even more open to looking at real alternatives as Chris points out. Evergreen, Koha, and the OSS et al are very impressive – and one more round of investment by first generation implementers will bring them the visibility they deserve, and re-open up the marketplace to competition.

    I say: Vendors keep merging!!!

  5. Consolidation could be beneficial if there would be more resources focussed on innovating rather than duplicating existing functions in another vendors system. But in both of these mergers, both merged products will supposedly be supported – how can that support more innovation?

    What all these systems need is
    1) more modularity – platforms not integrated systems.
    2) more openness – for customer created innovation – possible because of the modularity.
    3) better information – the interfaces created in 1) need to
    be actually documented in order to make 2 possible for ordinary mortals, not reverse engineering demi-gods.

    Combining cluelessness with cluelessness does not create cluefulness.

    Just my 2 yoctocents.
    Rick

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