Library Technology Reports and Marshall Breeding’s Smart Libraries Newsletter will be open access for another month. Be sure to check them out. And, if you like what you see, please subscribe. Our best offer is on—a 15-month digital subscription is only $99. Your library will save $150 off the regular price. And your purchase will fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.
Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter are on a new hosting platform, using Open Journal Systems. For a limited time, through June, both will be open access.
We’re hoping you will like what you see and get your library to subscribe.
This year brought a new cover design to our Library Technology Reports. Here's what's inside.
David Lee King, who has managed to keep a still up-to-date personal blog, wrote Managing Your Libraries Social Media Channels. Bohyun Kim wrote Understanding Gamification. She will also present a workshop on gamification Wednesday, May 6. If you’ve purchased it or are thinking about it, download her report. For our newest issue, Coding for Librarians, Andromeda Yelton surveyed colleagues to get ready-to-use-or-adapt snippets of code, as well as “deep dive” examples. She set up a companion website on Github. Even if you have the print issue in hand, you’ll want to download the PDF to link directly to the code samples on GitHub.
Marshall Breeding is libraryland’s authority on product development in the library automation industry. His Smart Libraries Newsletter presents news and analysis on both the business and technology side. Breeding recently published vendor responses to a survey on the privacy and security functions of major automation and discovery products. His goal was to increase awareness and start a conversation that might lead to needed improvements. How are your vendors protecting patron privacy? See Smart Libraries Newsletter, January 2015. A regular writer of Library Technology Reports, Breeding’s most recent issue is “Library Resource Discovery Products: Context, Library Perspectives, and Vendor Positions” and his “Library Services Platforms” is our forthcoming May/June 2015 issue.
We migrated the Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter archives from our previous platform. As report titles did not carry over, the archive list is by date of issue only, making findability a little challenging. The author index and search will help. To give you a taste of what's there, I'll point to a few “known-items,” hidden gems, especially for LIS students or anybody looking for background in a new area. Karen Coyle offers remarkably clear explanations of complex concepts, writing the back-to-back reports in 2010, Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata and RDA Vocabularies for a 21st Century Data Environment and then in 2012, Linked Data Tools: Connecting on the Web. In 2013, Mirela Roncevic wrote E-book Platforms for Libraries, surveying 51 vendors. Though product offerings have changed since, the report shows the breadth of the marketplace and various approaches to the business model.
The archives will remain open for Library Technology Reports one year after publication and for Smart Libraries Newsletter six months after publication.
We're joined on the platform by several other ALA publications. See the full list at journals.ala.org.
Nicole Hennig would love to see more librarians reviewing apps.
“Have you noticed how uniformed many of the app-store reviews are?” she asks readers of her recent Library Technology Report "Selecting and Evaluating the Best Mobile Apps for Library Services." Often people write a review without understanding what the app was meant to do. Or they dash off a technical support question. Librarianship has a long tradition of reviewing books. Now is the time to apply those well-honed skills to apps and help your community find what they need in a chaotic marketplace.
For a general guide to reviewing, Nicole recommends the the thorough Elements for Basic Reviews: A Guide for Writers and Readers of Reviews of Works in All Mediums and Genres,from the ALA/RUSA CODES Materials Reviewing Committee (2005).
She supplements that guide with her own checklist for reviewing mobile apps.
Nicole Hennig is busy writing and presenting on all things apps for librarians. She will be leading the ALA ecourse “Apps for Librarians: Empower Your Users with Mobile App Literacy” starting Monday, February 2 (also Groundhog day). In addition to selection and evaluation criteria, she covers a full range of library services, including accessibilty, content creation, and reference. For a taste of what’s covered, check out the recording of her November 2014 webinar. Visit Nicole’s web page for Apps4Librians.com for additional information about the course, a self-study version, and her other offerings.
Jason Griffey reports on what he saw at CES press day-- a few 3D printers, including Ultimaker, a good library option; another small robot programmable in Google's Blockly, a visual programming editor; Samsung's SSD; and a drone. The soundtrack starts rough, but is much better after one minute.
Jason's coverage of CES is sponsored by Spingshare. Visit his blog Pattern Recognition for ongoing reports.
A new era in the corporate history of SirsiDynix, one of the corporate giants of the library technology industry, has begun. After more than eight years of ownership, Vista Equity Partners has sold SirsiDynix to ICV Partners, with Vista retaining and company executives acquiring minority stakes in the company. While it is too early to assess how new investment owners will shape the direction of the company going forward, it is clear that SirsiDynix remains a major force in the industry with a very large number of libraries relying on its success.
SirsiDynix, along with other Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, and Follett Corporation, ranks as a giant in the industry, which also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of mid-sized and small companies. Each of these four companies has earnings in the range of $100 million and develops strategic technology products for libraries. However, they follow quite different business strategies and serve distinct profiles of customers according to type and geographic region. Globally diverse, SirsiDynix supports customers in more than 70 countries.
The acquisition of SirsiDynix by ICV Partners brings to close a fairly dramatic chapter in the history of the library technology industry. In 2006, prior to being acquired by Vista Equity Partners, SirsiDynix was still working its way through its merger. Both Dynix and Sirsi Corporation were large and complex companies with multiple products under their charge through their own development efforts and via previous acquisitions. Any of a variety of courses of action seemed possible.
San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners acquired SirsiDynix from Seaport Capital in January 2007 in a deal with an estimated value of around $260 million. Vista is generally known to follow a “playbook” that outlines an aggressive approach to business integration and operations, which centers on product consolidation and cost reduction. The acquisition of SirsiDynix was made on the premise that considerable savings could be achieved through focusing the efforts of the company on a single platform.
The initial aggressive business strategy executed by Vista Equity Partners proved not to be a great match for the library technology industry, or at least for this particular scenario. The abrupt change in product strategy led to decreased confidence in the company, not only for the Horizon product that was initially abandoned, but also for libraries using Symphony. The absence of a new-generation product in a time when libraries generally felt that their current products were not living up to expectations also proved problematic. In recent years, SirsiDynix has deviated from the more austere version of the Vista playbook, channeling more resources into product development, support, and marketing. These efforts have paid off in terms of increased customer satisfaction, retention, and stronger sales.
SirsiDynix has been able to forge a path forward by making adjustments to its initial product and business strategies. Reasserting its commitment to Horizon has slowed the pace of libraries moving to competing products. More importantly, the development of the BLUEcloud suite provides a path forward that leverages existing ILS implementations, avoids the need for short-term migration, and demonstrates the ability to deliver products based on current technology trends. Vista’s aggressive business integration has paid off in terms of building a more centralized company able to efficiently deliver support and develop new products. The more positive performance in the last few years is likely a factor in the Vista’s ability to sell this long-overdue investment.
ICV Partners was founded in 1998 under the name Inner City Ventures as a minority-owned private investment company. The company continues to operate as a certified Minority Business Enterprise. ICV Partners manages a pool of assets totaling $440 million, considerably less than the $14 billion currently managed by Vista Equity Partners.
No information has been released regarding the value of the transaction. As with other acquisitions of this type, it is likely that it includes both direct investments by ICV Partners as well as bank loans, usually structured as senior debt and secured by the assets of the company. Executives in the company have also contributed to the equity of the transaction, which ensures continuity in the management of the company and indicates that the new owners are not likely to replace the incumbent management team.
It is interesting to consider the sale of SirsiDynix by Vista to ICV Partners in the context of other possibilities could have happened but didn’t. This transaction did not result in additional consolidation, but was a simple transfer of ownership. Had SirsiDynix been acquired by one of its competitors, there would have been another potentially painful round of product consolidations in an arena where the available options have become uncomfortably narrow. The company also was not acquired by an entity in an adjacent industry, such as the acquisition of Geac by Infor or Talis by Capita, both companies with broader interest in business solutions for the public sector. OCLC has been on a streak of acquiring ILS companies, though none approaching the size of SirsiDynix. These theoretical possibilities may not have been practical options given that further industry consolidation may cross the lines of what might pass regulatory approval or push what libraries might tolerate in terms of narrowness of technology choices. Relative to possible outcomes, the sale of SirsiDynix to ICV Partners does not seem to bode toward disruption in the industry.
While ICV Partners remains an unknown quantity in the library technology industry, it opens new opportunities for SirsiDynix to pursue strategies that may go outside the repertoire of its previous owners. Any new investor enters the industry with the benefit of observing the strategies that have previously proven successful in the industry and those that haven’t. It will be interesting to observe how SirsiDynix navigates its course under its new ownership.
Note: This blog post includes excerpts from the February 2015 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, which presents a longer and more detailed account of the acquisition of SirsiDynix by ICV Partners, along with additional background and perspective.