Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of posts excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries."
The simplest way to understand a 3D printer works is to imagine it as a machine that makes bigger things out of smaller blocks. In some cases the “blocks” are a powder, in some they are melted plastic, or they may be a ultraviolet light sensitive resin, but always the process is large things being made from smaller substrates. A 3D printer is a simple sort of robot that understands how to manipulate the raw material it’s working with in three dimensions rather than just two, as an inkjet or laser printer does. This type of manufacturing is also called additive manufacturing, as opposed to more traditional subtractive manufacturing, where material is removed from a larger sample to create custom shapes in a process like milling, lathing, or CNC (computing numerical control) machines.
Imagine an inkjet printer that instead of printing ink extrudes hot plastic that cools quickly. Think of it like a hot glue gun where the plastic is solid, then gets heated to a liquid state, and then cools again into a solid. If it printed this plastic on a piece of paper, you’d end up with a slight raised design being “drawn” on the paper by the printhead moving back and forth across the paper (the X dimension) and the paper being moved through the print area (the Y dimension). Those of us old enough to remember the days when color printing was very expensive might recall hot wax printers that did basically this.
With a 3D printer, you add the last of the spacial dimensions, height, by moving the printhead and printing substrate (usually called the build platform in this case) apart from each other. In our inkjet analogy, imagine that you put the printhead on an elevator that could move it closer and farther away from the paper. If you do that while the printhead is putting down plastic, you can just keep them moving farther and farther apart, layer after layer, in the Z dimension. Over time, you end up with an object made of very thin layers of this plastic. That’s what most 3D printing is like.
This is the basis for almost all of the 3D printing that you have seen in media over the last few years, and almost all 3D printing that libraries have been involved with. Called fused deposition modeling, it isn’t the only type of 3D printing, just the most affordable.
In future posts in this series, I’ll describe other 3D printing types: selective laser sintering, stereolithography, laminated object manufacturing, and electron beam melting. While many of them are well beyond the means of most libraries, prices are likely to go down dramatically as soon as patents expire on the core technologies behind the printing methods. This is central reason that fused deposition became inexpensive so quickly during the past five years. Most people that follow 3D printing believe that laser sintering will follow suit shortly, as a key patent to that technology expired in January of 2014.
The next post in this series will be about the printing technology most central to libraries at the current time, fused deposition modeling, and then we’ll take a look at the other options that may be coming in the next 3-5 years.
Editors Note: This post is an excerpt from Improving the Visibility and Use of Digital Repositories Through SEO, by Kenning Arlitsch and Patrick S. OBrien. The authors, along with Montana State colleagues Jason Clark and Scott Young, will be teaching the online course/workshop Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Libraries, which starts July 17.
Metadata schemas are powerful frameworks for organizing content, and libraries have long used them to describe their holdings (think MARC). Numerous schemas exist for academic disciplines: CDWA is used for art, Darwin Core for biology,
EML for ecology, DDI for social sciences, and so on. Dublin Core is probably the
most heavily used schema in digital libraries, and it is perfectly adequate for many
applications, but the problem with any metadata schema is that most website
developers don’t use any at all, and search engines can’t count on the metadata
being applied consistently in those that do. The result is that general-purpose
search engines like Google tend not to use the metadata even where it is applied
Some specialty engines, like Google Scholar, do make extensive use of metadata. Google Scholar, however, wants metadata schemas that can express bibliographic citations specifically and accurately, which Dublin Core does not do very well.
Because search engines crawl the web pages that are generated from databases (rather than crawling the databases themselves), your carefully applied metadata inside the database will not even be seen by search engines unless you write scripts
to display the metadata tags and their values in HTML meta tags. It is crucial to
understand that any metadata offered to search engines must be recognizable as
part of a schema and must be machine-readable, which is to say that the search
engine must be able to parse the metadata accurately. For example, if you enter
a bibliographic citation into a single metadata field, the search engine probably
won’t know how to distinguish the article title from the journal title, or the volume
from the issue number. In order for the search engine to read those citations
effectively each part of the citation must have its own field. Making sure metadata
is machine-readable requires patterns and consistency, which will also prepare it
for transformation to other schema. This is far more important than picking any
single metadata schema.
We invest a great deal of time and money creating digital collections, and we usually create web pages that describe the collection’s purpose, what it contains, its contributors, and so on, to give visitors some context they can use to understand
the collection. We also take great pains in creating metadata that describe each object in the collection to give it meaning and allow users to reference or discuss
the item. While humans can understand and associate the concepts they read,
search engines have a very limited capacity for interpreting the meaning of the
information we so painstakingly provide.
To help search engines understand the context and meaning of our digital objects we must provide structure to our content using additional tags in our HTML. These tags will say to search engines directly, for example, “this information
describes a specific digital object as a scholarly paper, written by an author who
works at an academic institution, published by an organization on a certain
date.” Sounds easy enough, but communicating with a machine requires an
up-front agreement on the specific language and precise vocabulary being used to
communicate. The word “bloody” has very different meanings to a person raised
in the United States and a person raised in the United Kingdom. Search engines
do not understand the regional variations, sarcasm, humor, hand gestures, facial
expressions, body language, tone of voice, inflection, and so on that humans rely
on heavily to communicate meaning.
Enter schema.org. In 2011 Google, Bing, Yandex (the largest Russian search engine), and Yahoo! “joined forces to create a common set of schemas for structureddata markup on web pages” with the aim of helping search engines to better
understand websites. Originally, schema.org was planned
to use only HTML microdata as the mechanism, or language for
implementing schema.org structured data vocabularies. But it has also recently
added support for RDFa as an alternative “language” that developers using “RDFbased
tools and Linked Data” can use to implement the schema.org vocabulary.
We think it’s important for repository managers (and especially catalogers) to be aware of these developments because they hold great promise for fulfilling the potential of the semantic web. Sites that already
offer microdata provide a great benefit to Google’s users through its “rich snippets,”
which display additional details about web pages in the search results.
Another example of Google’s use of microdata appears in its “recipe search,” where
metadata about recipes provide a faceted navigational search. If Google
can do this for recipes, imagine what it could do for library digital repositories that
already have rich metadata describing the objects. The bridge that will get that rich
metadata to be understood by search engines is the techniques recommended by
schema.org, and putting those techniques into place in digital repositories is the
responsibility of librarians and archivists.
Innovative Interfaces has acquired Blacksburg, VA-based VTLS as part of its strategic expansion strategy. This move follows the acquisition of Polaris announced in April 2014. The acquisitions were conducted in parallel, with different schedules for closing. The acquisition of VTLS significantly expands Innovative’s international reach and brings a number of new technology products under its corporate umbrella. VTLS had been the longest standing company remaining under the ownership and management of its founder in the library technology industry. VTLS and its precursors have been active since 1974, initially through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University--better known as Virginia Tech--and since 1985 as an independent company.
VTLS was privately owned by Dr. Vinod Chachra who has now sold all interest in the company to Innovative interfaces for an undisclosed sum. Chachra will continue to serve for an interim period as the Vice President of Global Expansion for Innovative Interfaces, assisting with the smooth transition to the new corporate organization. Key executives in VTLS will become part of Innovative’s management structure and the overall workforce and operating locations will remain intact.
Dr. Chachra has been an active participant and supporter of the business community. The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a resolution in February 2014 recognizing his accomplishments. Vinod Chachra received his Ph.D in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Virginia Tech in 1972 and served in a number of academic and administrative roles for the university, culminating in his appointment as Vice President for Information Systems in 1982. Dr. Chachra left Virginia Tech in 1985 when he became the President and Chief Executive Officer of VTLS as it became a independent company.
Innovative’s acquisitions of Polaris and VTLS expand the scale of the company in terms of revenue potential, workforce, and customer libraries. The 2,100 client libraries of VTLS expands Innovative’s total customer base to around 9,500 libraries. At the end of 2013 VTLS reported it employed a total of 77 employees and Polaris employed 97. Prior to the merger, Innovative itself employed 410, not counting those employed by its distributors. The combined company is expected to employ more than 500, approaching the size of Ex Libris, which remains the largest in the industry with 536. (Statistics from Library Systems Report 2014, American Libraries.)
The offices of VTLS will become operations centers for Innovative. Through the launch of its own facilities and those of its acquired companies, Innovative has created a network of operations centers that give it considerable domestic and international coverage:
- Emeryville, CA (Headquarters)
- Syracuse, NY, former headquarters of Polaris
- Blacksburg, VA, former headquarters of VTLS
- Dublin Ireland, established by Innovative in January 2013
- Noida, India, established by Innovative as a development and support center in September 2013
- Barcelona, Spain, former office of VTLS
- Selangor, Malaysia, former office of VTLS
VTLS Product and Services
VTLS offers a variety of technology products and services for libraries and has been active in providing services to assist libraries in the creation of websites and digital resources with the open source Drupal content management system. The company has also been proactive in the implementation of new standards, including RDA, FRBR, and Bibframe. While VTLS has been offering its products as hosted services in recent years, the vast majority of its customers rely on local server installations.
VTLS-Virtua, the company’s flagship integrated library system, initially launched in 1998 as the successor to classic VTLS that operated HP mainframes. Virtua is based on a multi-tier client/server architecture, using Oracle as its relational database management system and Apache SOLR for its indexing and search engine. In recent years Virtua has been engineered with more sophisticated consortial support, allowing the consolidation of many previously separate installations of Virtua into a single instance. Its functionality is organized according to the traditional ILS modules, including cataloging, circulation, serials management, and acquisitions. Virtua’s metadata management modules natively support FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) hierarchies and RDA (Resource Description and Access) cataloging rules.
VTLS-VITAL provides highly customizable digital asset management system on the open source Fedora repository platform. First introduced in 2004, VITAL has been implemented by libraries and related organizations to support institutional repositories and digital collections. A specialized version, VITAL Media, supports streaming media in multiple channels and formats and has enhanced the native support in Fedora in the way it handles linked data RDF triple stores.
VTLS-Chamo Discovery is VTLS’ discovery layer product designed to deliver access to a library’s collections, enriched through a variety of features from the realm of social networking. Chamo was initially introduced in 2009, and re-launched in 2012 as Chamo Discovery. In a consortial implementation, Chamo Discovery allows patrons to maintain multiple borrowing profiles when associated with multiple libraries or institutions. Chamo offers APIs which facilitate integration with a Drupal-based library Web site. VTLS bases many of its patron interface products on Drupal and offers consulting services to assist libraries with creating customized applications based on this open source content management system. Chamo Discovery enables a library to provide access to its print and digital collections, events, and any licensed and free data for which it has access to metadata.
VTLS-MozGo, a mobile application for libraries was launched in 2012, available for Android and iOS devices, includes capabilities such as searching of a library’s collections, ability to view account details, including items charged, due dates, and fines owed, as well as presenting information about the library, such as opening hours, program, and location maps.
All the products of VTLS will continue to be supported and developed. Even as Innovative proceeds to develop new generation products, it has a strategic interest in maintaining the loyalty of the libraries that rely on all of the incumbent products. Ongoing support and development of these products will be essential to retaining the client libraries of the acquired companies and therefore preserving the value of its investments.
A Global Customer Base
Though based in Blacksburg, VA in the United States, the vast majority of VTLS customer libraries reside in other international sectors. The acquisition of VTLS extends Innovative’s International presence. While Innovative also had even broader international involvement, VTLS operated in a number of countries that did not overlap. VTLS has libraries using its products in 43 countries. Prior to the acquisition, Innovative was active in 50 countries, which now expands to 66.
Some of the international strongholds of VTLS include Poland, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, Pakistan, and Russia. The national libraries of Morocco, Ireland, Pakistan, Wales, Slovakia, Switzerland, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and India all currently use Virtua. Bibliotheca Alexandrina implemented Virtua in 2000. Virtua finds use in many types of libraries, including national, academic, public, and in many large consortia.
VTLS has seen success in placing Virtua in two of the busiest municipal libraries in the world. The Hong Kong Public Library signed a technology contract in March 2010 with Hewlett Packard that included Virtua as the library automation component. This implementation of Virtua was completed in March 2012 with full acceptance by the library. The Virtua system in the Hong Kong Public Library serves its 3.8 million library patrons through 67 branches with annual circulation transactions exceeding 59 million. VTLS broke into the major municipal library arena with Virtua in 2008 when it was selected by The Queens Borough Public Library of New York City to replace its aging DRA Classic system.
Virtua has also been implemented in many specialized environments. ISSN International Center in Paris relies on a customized version of Virtua for managing the ISSN-L. The Library of Congress uses Virtua for its materials acquisition operations throughout many international locations.
Leveraging Corporate Scale
The acquisition of VTLS fits within the strategy of expansion seen by Innovative since its transition to new ownership. Polaris strengthened its position among public libraries in the United States; VTLS expands its global footprint, adding many prestigious libraries to the fold of many different types and sizes.
From a technology perspective, the consolidation of these three companies will enable an efficient mechanism toward the development of products based on cloud computing technologies and Web-based interfaces. Each of the three companies had made initial forays into this modern technology paradigm. Sierra, developed by Innovative provided a major transformation of Millennium into a more open environment based on a services-oriented architecture. Polaris had begun the initial development of LEAP, a set of Web-based interfaces for the staff functions that will operate with the Polaris server component to complement the current Windows-based staff client. VTLS has begun its initial development of Open Skies, which brings its current automation systems into a new services-oriented platform. Yet each of these companies also faced an even more ambitious development initiative to produce new platforms based on current cloud computing technologies. One of the benefits of this consolidation will involve the ability to leverage the development personal, technology expertise, and other resources of the three companies into a single development initiative with significantly more capacity together than any of the companies would have individually.
The Dominance of Private Equity
This move further solidifies the dominance of private equity ownership for the large companies in the library technology industry. Since 2006, a steady stream of private equity acquisitions and other transitions have transformed the industry from one that was fragmented, with a larger number of companies competing with overlapping products for a limited universe of potential clients, to one that has become highly consolidated. The roster of companies currently owned by private equity firms includes:
- Innovative Interfaces (HGGC and JMI Equity)
- Ex Libris (Golden Gate Capitol)
- Infor Library Solutions (Golden Gate Capital)
- SirsiDynix (Vista Equity Partners)
- Civica OMERS Private Equity
- Bibliotheca (One Equity Partners)
The Library Corporation, under the ownership and management of Annette Murphy, founded in 1974 remains as the last major company owned and operated by its founders.
VTLS Corporate History
VTLS traces its beginnings to the Newman Library of Virginia Tech, which in the early-1970’s was interested in automating its operations with one of the computer based circulations systems which were just beginning to be implemented in large academic libraries. Although the leading systems under consideration, including CLSI, offered much of the capabilities the library required, the providers of the systems were not willing to implement some additional features the library considered important. This impasse led the university on a path to develop its own system, which began in 1974 by the Systems Development Department of Virginia Tech under the direction of Dr. Vinod Chachra. The personnel of the Newman Library were active participants in the development of the system, lending their expertise toward in many aspects of the project. The original system, known as CFS, or Circulation and Finding System, the precursor to the VTLS integrated library system, was completed and placed into production for the Newman Library in September 1975. The software was originally developed to operate on Hewlett Packard mini computers.
Initial phase of commercialization through Center for Library Automation
The Systems Development Department continued to develop the software, resulting in a complete automation system that included cataloging, serials control, and a public access catalog. In 1980 the Center for Library Automation was established under the Systems Development Department, working closely with the Newman Library to market and support VTLS to other libraries. By 1983, the university had sold VTLS to 31 additional libraries and 60 installations were reported by 1985. Acquisitions and Fund Accounting modules were completed in 1989.
VTLS, Inc. launched as a separate company
Following the success of the Center for Library Automation in marketing and supporting VTLS, on July 1, 1985, the project was spun off into a separate company. Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties operated as a non-profit corporation to facilitate the transfer of technology created within the university to commercial applications. VTIP facilitated the creation of VTLS as for-profit company. VTLS, Inc. initially operated in space within the Newman Library and later moved to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center as its first tenant. The new company was led by Vinod Chachra as its President and CEO. VTLS, Inc. was initially co-owned by Chachra and VTIP. By 1990 the company reported $3.6 million in revenue.
In April of 1994, Chachra acquired full ownership through a $2.64 million buy-out of the equity of VTIP. This 20-year chapter of private ownership came to a close with the acquisition of VTLS by Innovative.
VTLS saw strong adoption in the United States during this phase, and later attracted interest in many libraries in international regions. Domestically, many academic libraries and consortia of public libraries implemented VTLS. The public libraries of West Virginia, for example, were part of a statewide automation project based on VTLS. Other major libraries acquiring VTLS included the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Iowa State University, University of Alabama, the College of William and Mary, and many others.
VTLS enters the client-server arena
As technology evolved away from the minicomputer or mainframe terminal-oriented systems upon which the original VTLS software was based, the company saw the need to develop a new system more consistent with the technologies coming in to play during that era.
Virtua was first announced in August 1996, as its new generation system supporting relational database management, Unicode, client-server architecture, and data warehousing, and APIs. The development of Virtua saw some delays, resulting in some libraries that had initially shown interest to instead select other systems. University of Kansas, for example, selected Virtua in 1996, but ended up purchasing Voyager from Endeavor Information Systems. In May 1998 L'Universite Catbolique de Louvain became the first library to implement Virtua in production.
During the transition from the classic version of VTLS to Virtua, the company saw a diminished presence among libraries in the United States as adoption in libraries in international regions strengthened.
Open Skies: consolidating products into a library services platform
In March 2013 VTLS announced the launch of a new product suite, called Open Skies, which builds on its major products into a more unified library services platform. Though development was largely complete at the time of its acquisition, no sales of Open Skies had been announced.
The company has been lead since its inception by Vinod Chachra, except for a five-year period from March 2003 through February 2007 when industry veteran Carl Grant served as its President and Chief Operating Officer. Following the completion of his contract, Grant exited the company and Chachra resumed the title of President in addition to the role of Chief Executive Officer that he retained during Grant’s tenure.
Business transitions such as this acquisition of VTLS and Polaris by Innovative always evoke some degree of concern among the libraries that rely on the products and support of the acquired company. In these circumstances, one can expect a mix of continuity and change. In the short term, support and other practical issues generally remain intact. Lessons learned in previous consolidations demonstrate that it is counterproductive to disrupt current technology products. Longer term changes may revolve around whether the product which the library has selected and implemented will continue to be developed in the indefinite future. But that question applies even in the absence of a business transition given the need for companies to refresh their product lines to meet the ongoing changes in the nature of library collections and their services and the need to keep up with the changing cycles of technology. As libraries become more deeply engaged with digital and electronic resources in addition to print resources they will benefit from the development of new systems shaped around those realities. In this case, all three companies were already on some course toward developing new generation products. A consolidated company potentially has greater capacity to produce the ambitious developments that libraries need relative to what would be possible through each of the incumbent companies individually. Whether the library community benefits from this consolidation hinges on whether the technology produced is compelling enough to balance the narrowing of choices in the marketplace.
In a move that further consolidates the library automation industry, Innovative Interfaces, Inc. has purchased Polaris Library Systems. Innovative, one of the largest companies in the industry, with a presence in many international regions, and with customers from all types of libraries significantly strengthens its presence in the US public library arena by acquiring the company that has performed well in this sector, winning the majority of municipal library procurements in recent years. The acquisition marks further expansion of Innovative since it was sold by co-founder Jerry Kline to private equity investors. Previous expansion included opening international offices in Dublin, Ireland and Noida, India.
Innovative, employing 410 at the end of 2013, ranks as one of the largest companies in the industry. A mid-sized company, Polaris employs just under 100 total employees, but has seen strong momentum in the public library automation sector, primarily in the United States, with a growing presence in Canada. In addition to its key clientele of public libraries, Polaris has been selected by some smaller academic libraries. Even with the acquisition of Polaris, Ex Libris remains the largest in the industry when measured by personnel employed with its workforce of 536.
Through a mid-sized company, Polaris has been able to achieve a disproportionate impact in the public library automation sector. In recent years, Polaris has been selected by many major municipal libraries, including Boston Public Library, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Phoenix Public Library, and Miami-Dade Public Library. Last year both the Salt Lake City Public Library and the Salt Lake County Public Library separately selected Polaris. The Illinois Heartland Public Library System, the largest consortium in the United States selected Polaris and completed its implementation of Polaris in 2013.
The acquisition of Polaris Library Systems significantly strengthens Innovative’s position in the public library automation sector. By the end of 2013, there were over 400 installations of Polaris serving 1,225 libraries representing a total of 2,811 branches. Innovative reports over 1,300 libraries using Millennium and 336 using Sierra. While Polaris focuses primarily on public libraries, Innovative’s products are used by all types. Prior to the acquisition, the majority of Innovative’s customers were academic libraries. The addition of the libraries using Polaris results in roughly equal numbers of public and academic libraries within the company’s customer base.
Throughout its business history, Innovative has followed a pattern of organic growth by adding new customer libraries year-by-year rather than through business acquisitions. Its only previous acquisition took place in 1997 when it purchased SLS Information Systems, a UK-based company that developed the LIBERTAS ILS. The acquisition of Polaris as well as its international expansion confirms that under its new ownership Innovative has entered a new and more ambitious chapter of business development.
According to Kim Massana, President and CEO of Innovative, “Combining the two companies will have a positive impact for libraries. Both share key values, that of collaboration with customers, providing excellent service, and delivering high-quality products and services. Technologies from each company can work together to respond to key trends happening in libraries today, especially related to delivering library services through Web-based technologies.”
Products and Technology
Any business acquisition in the library automation industry raises concerns with libraries using the products of the companies involved regarding their ongoing support and development. Innovative asserts its commitment to continue to develop and support the products of Polaris as well as its own for the foreseeable future. It is in the company’s own interest to do so, since libraries are likely to move to the competition should their automation strategies see abrupt disruption. Rather, Innovative plans a longer term development agenda that will result in a new platform that will be advantageous for its library customers.
The long term strategy for the combined company will include the creation of a next-generation product that will eventually replace the strategic automation systems of both companies. Innovative has developed Sierra as the successor to its Millennium ILS and has seen enormous success in its adoption. The planned multi-phase development cycle for Sierra is still underway. Sierra, for example, still relies on graphical Java-based staff clients, with Web-based interfaces planned for a subsequent phase. Polaris has already initiated development on a new set of Web-based clients for Polaris, branded as LEAP. The design and development efforts that Polaris has devoted to LEAP will provide Innovative with technologies consistent with its own product roadmap. While Innovative mentions its intentions for a new unified platform, no specific technical details or development roadmap has been charted at this early date. In the interim, Sierra and Polaris will continue to be developed, supported, and marketed.
Polaris’ launched LEAP in February 2014 to provide Web-based staff interfaces in addition, or instead of, the Windows-based staff client software. LEAP was designed to operate with the server component of the Polaris ILS. Libraries will be able to use the Web-based LEAP modules in parallel with the traditional Windows-based Polaris staff modules.
In the shorter term, a first step of integration between the products of Polaris and innovative will involve making the LEAP circulation client operate with Sierra. Polaris is well underway with the development of the Web-based LEAP circulation module which remains on track for release in 2014 as previously scheduled. (See the December 2013 issue of SLN for more information on LEAP.) According to Bill Schickling, LEAP was designed to operate via the APIs of Polaris and can be extended to also work with Sierra APIs.
The two companies have historically built their products for different operating environments: Innovative has built Millennium and Sierra for Linux and other variants of Unix while Polaris has relied on Microsoft technologies. The Polaris ILS, launched in 1997, is based on the Microsoft components, including the Microsoft SQL Server as its relational database and the .NET services-oriented architecture. The staff client interfaces have also been deployed for the Microsoft Windows family of desktop operating systems.
The companies have both recently implemented similar development methodologies, having both moved to Agile, where software is developed in short well defined sprints rather than building large blocks of functionality in what is often called the waterfall method. Both companies have also implemented the same framework, called Scrum, and Jira for tracking and managing software development tasks.
Transition of Ownership
Through a transaction that closed on March 31, 2014, ownership of Polaris changed hands from its Syracuse-based private investors to Innovative Interfaces, which is in turn owned by private equity investors, HGGC (formerly Huntsman Gay Global Capital) and JMI Equity. Financing for the purchase of Polaris was executed by Innovative Interfaces without additional investment from its private equity owners.
Polaris was previously majority owned by Jim Carrick and Andy Gorelik, with current and former Polaris executives holding partial equity. Polaris executives with minority stake in Polaris included Bill Schickling, Jim Mieczkowski, and Kevin Bryans. This group of investors gained ownership of the company in December 2009 from The Croydon Company, an entity that retained ownership of the library automation division of Gaylord Bros. after it was sold to Demco.
Carrick and Gorelik exit their involvement with the company following this transaction. Prior to their investment in Polaris, Carrick and Gorelik were CEO and COO, respectively, of Syracuse-based Strategic Computer Solutions which was acquired in September 2007 by Sirius Computer Solutions, Inc. Kevin Bryans was also associated with Strategic Computer Solutions as its Chief Financial Officer.
Going forward, Polaris will no longer operate as an independent company, but its executives, personnel, products, and services will become part of Innovative. Administrative functions such as finance and personnel will be subsumed shortly after the sale, as is common with any business acquisition. Product development, support, and sales will be integrated over a longer period.
Bill Schickling, President and CEO pf Polaris Library Systems, will join Innovative’s executive management team as Vice President, Public Library Products. Schickling has been with the company since 1987. Scott McCausland, VP of Sales for Polaris will now report to Christopher Le Blanc, Innovative’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales. Other Polaris executives will also continue, including Jim Mieczkowski, and Jodi Bellinger, though their specific roles for Innovative have not been announced. Andy Gorelik, Polaris Vice President responsible for business operations will depart from the company. Neil Block, a former Innovative executive that joined Polaris in January 2013, has recently left Polaris to join EBSCO Information Services as Vice President of Discovery Innovation, Academic Libraries, USA & Canada.
The workforce for Polaris, including sales, marketing, and development are expected to remain largely in place. The Syracuse, NY office that served as the headquarters for Polaris will function as the east coast operations center for Innovative. At least for the near term, customer support for Polaris products will continue to be provided by the company’s personnel in Syracuse. How development, sales, and support are integrated into Innovative’s processes in the longer term has not yet been finalized.
One of the key strengths of Polaris lays in its customer support capabilities. The company has consistently been ranked at the top performer in the mid-sized to large public library category by its customers in the annual “Library Automation Perceptions Report” conducted through Library Technology Guides (http://www.librarytechnology.org/perceptions2013.pl).
Polaris Company Background
Polaris ranks as one of the pioneers of the library automation industry, founded in 1974 as a business of Gaylord Bros. a large company that manufactured and sold library furniture and supplies. Gaylord Bros., founded in 1896, created in the 1930s one of the earliest automation devices for library circulation, the Model C Book Charger, a mechanical date stamping system. The company’s computer-based automation division, Gaylord Information Systems, was established in 1974 by Morris Bergreen.
Gaylord Information Systems became established as a major provider of computerized library automation systems for public libraries, beginning with the Gaylord System 100. This product included computer equipment installed on site in the library for managing real-time circulation transactions supplemented by a mainframe computer housed at Gaylord’s headquarters that handled daily batch processes.
The company introduced its first fully integrated library system, called Galaxy, in 1989. Development of Galaxy was led by Bill Schickling. Galaxy operated on the VAX/VMS platform, a mid-range computing environment offered by Digital Equipment Corporation commonly used for business applications from the mid-1970-s through the late 1990’s. Interest in VAX/VMS declined as Unix rose to become a the dominant operating environment.
With the demise of VAX/VMS, Gaylord launched the development of an entirely new system rather than port its existing Galaxy ILS to a new operating environment. Launched in 1997, the Polaris ILS was developed using the client/server architecture which was emerging as the preferred computing environment to succeed the terminal-based systems of the previous generation. Gaylord chose to develop Polaris using Microsoft Windows technologies, which had become a preferred platform in the mid-sized business sector, rather than Unix which as favored for larger-scale business and academic computing at that time. Polaris has been continually enhanced over its 17 years of subsequent development and has proven able to sustain the transaction load of some of the largest and busiest public libraries in the United States. Recent developments include the integration of the discovery and lending of e-books into its online catalog interfaces.
On the business front, Gaylord Information Systems saw a major change in May 2003 when its parent company, Gaylord Bros. was sold to Demco, a competing library furniture and supplies company. The library automation division was not included as part of the sale, but remained under the ownership of The Croydon Company, a holding company owned by the families of Martin Blackman and Morris Bergreen. Since the Gaylord brand was transferred to Demco, the automation company was renamed to GIS Information Systems. Shortly after this business transition, Bill Schickling, previously responsible for product development, was named President and CEO. In May 2005, the company began doing business as Polaris Library Systems, tapping the strength of the brand of its flagship product.
Polaris Library Systems saw its next business transition in December 2009 when a group of private investors, led by Jim Carrick, acquired the company from Croydon Company. Positioned as an employee buy-out, Schickling and other Polaris executives also participated in the acquisition and became minor shareholders in the company. (For additional information on this acquisition, see the April 2010 issue of SLN.)
Innovative Corporate Background
Innovative Interfaces was founded in 1978 by Jerry Kline and Steve Silberstein to develop technology-based products for libraries. The company’s initial product was developed to transfer records from OCLC to the LIBS100 circulation system from CLSI, a major library automation product of that era. Innovate continually expanded the product to include additional capabilities. In 1982 the company launched INNOVAQ System 100 to handle the acquisitions of library materials. INNOPAC was launched in 1997, initially providing an online catalog and expanding over time to become a full-fledged integrated library system.
With the advent of the era of the client/server architecture, Innovative interfaces launched Millennium in 1997, which included a new set of Java-based graphical clients to replace the terminal interfaces of INNOPAC. Innovative launched Sierra in May 2011, providing the company’s next-generation flagship automation system with the mature functionality of Millennium through a new technology platform based on the services-oriented architecture.
In addition to its flagship automation products, Innovative has developed the INN-Reach resource sharing environment (launched in 1991), the Encore discovery interface (2006), Content Pro digital collections management system (2008), and Decision Center collection development application (2012). SkyRiver, was launched as a separate company in 2009 to provide bibliographic services and was folded into Innovative in 2013.
Innovative operated under the ownership of its co-founders Jerry Kline and Steve Silberstein from 1978 through 2001. That year Kline gained full ownership acquiring Silberstein’s shares of the company.
In March 2012 two private equity firms, Huntsman Gay Global Capital and JMI Equity acquired majority ownership of the company with Kline retaining a minority stake. In a subsequent transaction, Kline divested his remaining interest in the company in February 2013, ending his involvement with the company he co-founded.
Innovative Interfaces now operates under the leadership of Kim Massana, appointed in August 2012 as President and CEO, reporting to a board of directors representing the interests of HCCG and JMI Equity.
John Dove’s article in the eContent Quarterly December 2013 issue “Online Reference Systems: Putting the User at the Center of Design” includes the list of resources below, for which he shares credit with Terry Winograd, Erin McKean, Jodi Wing, and Josh Orum. Though compiled with reference systems in mind, the list includes resources helpful for any Web interface.(Subscribe to eContent Quarterly in the ALA Store. )
Classics of Reference Content and Reference Librarianship
Green, Samuel. 1876. “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers.” Library Journal 1 (October 1876): 74–81.
Green’s article never really mentions the word “reference,” but it clearly visualizes a set of a dozen or more library patrons and identifies the right service interaction to have with each. In some cases, these imagined patrons learn a skill for future self-service at the library; in others, it’s about quickly pointing out the one book in the library that will delight them or be useful in their research.
Janes, Joseph. 2003. Introduction to Reference Work in the Digital Age. New York: Neal-Schuman.
Before describing the challenges and opportunities that the digital world offers to implementation of good reference services, Janes provides an extensive survey of the history and theory of reference and user services. Especially valuable for the design of online reference systems is his description of the work of Robert Taylor from the 1960s, identifying five elements of context surrounding the reference interview. These are just as relevant to today as they were in the predigital age.
McArthur, Tom. 1988. Worlds of Reference. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
This book covers the history of reference content over the past 2,000 years. Ever wonder who came up with the importance of multiple learning styles and applied those principles to a reference book in the mid 1600s? Ever wonder why people at the pinnacle of their careers often put their great effort into writing a subject encyclopedia that ends up being a seminal work for the next couple of generations of researchers in that field? McArthur’s vision of the future comes from the vantage point of 1988, so it is not distracted by the specifics of Second Life or other fads. Instead, it is based on human principles relevant at any age.
Ranganathan, S. R. 1961. Reference Services. London: Asia Publishing House.
Ranganathan is most famous for his Five Laws of Library Science and is featured in the first chapter of almost any introduction to library science textbooks. After all, he apparently coined the term “Library Science.” Worldwide he is most recognized for his unique classification scheme based on facets. This scheme has had a rebirth of importance since it is the same approach that underlies most “faceted-based” search models of many modern websites and online tools. In this book, Ranganathan says that as he looked forward in his career he knew his success required three things: coming up with a new classification system, implementing such a scheme in a real library, and creating a library with an effective set of reference services. Reference Services was so important to him that he purposely hid it from view in his first several budgets so he wouldn’t have to advocate for it before stakeholders had experienced first-hand how important it was in the functioning of the library.
Classics of User-Experience and User-Centered Design
Cooper, Alan. 2004. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore the Sanity, 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: SAMS.
This classic shows why it takes an organizational commitment right from the top of the organization to effectively embrace user-centered approaches to design.
Kelley, Tom, and Jonathan Littman. 2005. The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization. New York: Currency/Doubleday.
Kelley is one of the top industrial designers in our time, who previously authored the bestselling The Art of Innovation. Here he shows that design is a team effort bringing together a diversity of talents (e.g., the “anthropologist”).
Krug, Steve. 2005. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
If you read and truly implement what Krug suggests in chapter 9 (“Usability Testing on 10 Cents a Day”) of this book, you will make a big difference in the user-centered development process at your organization—and with very little cost. According to Krug, “User testing—done simply enough—is the cure for all your site’s ills.”
Moore, Geoffrey A., and Regis McKenna. 2006. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. New York, NY: Collins Business Essentials.
This book shows that many innovative products fail to make it into the mainstream because they don’t embrace solving 100 percent of their users’ needs. Moore’s section on Scenarios, aka “Target Customer Characterization,” shows how taking on “whole product management” requires looking at factors beyond the software, including wrapping the tools inside a set of services so that the buyer gets their problem solved.
Morville, Peter. 2005. Ambient Findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Morville, the author of the influential Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, here addresses what has to be a concern of anyone building an online reference resource today: how is a prospective user going to find your wonderful resource? Those who blindly follow the hope of “if we build it, they will come” are almost always cruelly disappointed.
Norman, Donald A. 2002. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.
This classic in designing products that have the user in mind has enduring value. Using metaphors like “the handle and the blade,” Norman’s principles are memorable. Readers will be continually amazed to learn from this book that apparently those who have designed such things as a TV remote and many other gadgets in our lives have never read a book on product design.
Tufte, Edward R. 1990. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 1997. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 2006. Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
Tufte is a towering figure in the field of graphical display of information. His examples transcend media. All four of these books need to be on your shelf and referred to frequently if you are in the business of designing reference products for libraries. Tufte’s one-day course, offered every year or so on the east and west coasts, is also well worth the time and money— and these four books are provided to every attendee.
Winograd, Terry. 1996. Bringing Design to Software. Boston: Addison-Wesley / New York, NY: ACM Press.
This compendium has essays by many of the early leaders in applying principles of design to software including, among others, David Kelley, Don Norman, Sarah Kuhn, Paul Saffo, John Seely Brown, and Mitch Kapor.
Modern Textbooks on User-Centered Design
Goodman, Elizabeth, et al. 2012. Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research, 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann.
Looking for research to back up the principles of design for usability? This is the bible on the subject.
Klein, Laura. 2013. UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Klein, an experienced engineer and designer, focuses on helping startups learn more about their customers, providing an introductory overview of user experience (UX) and discussing ways in which to design an easy-touse, effective product.
Preece, Jenny, et al. 2011. Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
This is the standard text Terry Winograd uses in the introduction to his popular user-centered design course.
Saffer, Dan. 2009. Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Offering perspectives from an expert on the subject of interaction design, this book shows how to use design research to understand behaviors and motivations and create a design strategy that makes a product stand out.
———. 2013. Microinteractions: Designing with Details. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Saffer shows readers how to design effective microinteractions (the small details that exist inside features), learn the triggers that initiative a microinteraction, and help users understand the rules with feedback by using graphics and sounds.
Hot Studio: http://www.hotstudio.com/thoughts/experience-design
Creative Good: http://creativegood.com/blog
37 Signals: http://37signals.com/svn
NN Group: http://www.nngroup.com/articles
A List Apart: http://alistapart.com/topics/user-experience
Smashing Magazine: http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com