Library Automation

Consolidate or Innovate; Which is Better for Libraries?

More and more companies in the library technology space are electing consolidation over collaboration. Content providers like ProQuest and OCLC have been eating up other peripheral companies for years so this is nothing new in the space we all operate within. For many reasons this may make business sense from a corporate perspective, but does it make sense from a library perspective? If a company cannot compete with others in the market we are seeing them take the path of acquisition and absorption rather than the path of re-invention. As we all know, re-invention promotes sustainability and innovation, something that libraries are constantly battling for in this current fast paced technological environment. How would libraries react to the idea of being bought out by their largest competitor, Amazon? I am guessing this would not be a popular move. Why? Because having one large company control everything is scary and takes control out of the user's hands. The bigger the conglomerate, the less control you have. Not to mention the fact that the support you will receive is bound to be fragmented and of a lower quality.

Should this corporate business approach really have such a predominant place in the library world? While on the surface, it may seem like less work to throw all of your eggs in one conglomerate basket but how does that affect stability, value and innovation in library technology? How does it affect your end user's experience? What is a better alternative?

This is where open source technologies shine. With solutions like Koha, FOLIO, Aspen Discovery and Coral you can have the best of both worlds. You can pick and choose who to use for the different solutions your library offers while still retaining autonomy and cohesiveness in your "technology quilt". Where has this been demonstrated in the past? Koha, the world's first open source ILS, was web based 20 years ahead of any of its competitors. 20 years!!! The innovation and functionality that has been added to Koha has been exponentially growing to the point where proprietary products will not be able to compete for much longer. The same is starting to be true for the FOLIO LSP, and many other open source innovations that have quietly been taking over more and more market share in the library world based on their merits not their resources.

The recent acquisition of Innovative by ProQuest is an excellent opportunity for us to view which model is more effective. EBSCO has taken the path of innovation with their heavy investment and support in the FOLIO LSP, bringing in hundreds of outside partners to help promote, install, and support a product created to be in direct competition with the present leader in the Academic LSP market, Alma. ProQuest, on the other hand, has put all of their investment in purchasing already existing companies. Rather than investing in innovation they are investing in marketshare. Time will show which model proves to be more beneficial to libraries.