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In June 2012, Serials Solutions fielded a comprehensive survey of 85 libraries to gauge satisfaction with their current integrated library systems (ILS) and to determine what libraries are looking for in their next  system.   It’s very important that we understand exactly what pain libraries are experiencing with their current technology. And, as we develop Intota, our new web-scale collection management solution, we also need to understand the primary drivers for migration to a new system. 

Certainly, at a high level, we know that managing today’s predominantly digital collections with yesterday’s systems is painful.  The ILS was designed to manage a print collection – the collection of the 1990’s and before.  But we wanted to understand exactly where the old technology pinches and what libraries are seeking from the next generation of collection management technology.

The survey was fielded with the assistance of Primary Research Group, a professional research firm that provides survey-based research on many aspects of library collections and operations.  Of the 85 libraries who participated in this survey, two-thirds are academic plus some special libraries also participated. Sizes ranged from less than ten staff members to more than 50.

Because the survey allowed open-ended responses, we got lots of interesting comments.  Many of them were quite explicit about what libraries want in a new system as others were open and wide-ranging.  Here are a few comments from people responding about their existing ILS and what they would like to have in their new management system:

  • “Clunky OPAC, overly complicated procedures”
  • “It is not flexible and lacks the ability to adapt to a workflow”
  • “Greatly improve discovery for patrons, increase staff efficiency, save money, and find more responsive vendor less driven by profit”
  • “Streamlining workflow, discovery system”
  • “Better workflows. Better software and programming”
  • “Overly complicated processes”
  • “Poor search results, non-intuitive OPAC, non-intuitive staff functions, slow development curve
  • Prove that they can streamline our workflows and increase our productivity through true interoperability, etc. and that they can improve the use of and exposure to our resources”

Libraries are indeed ready to consider changing systems, although the timing varies by size and type of library.  Nearly 56% of the libraries sampled said that they would consider replacing their current ILS system within the next four years. College libraries, especially private college libraries, were the most likely to consider replacing their current system; research universities were more likely to consider replacement; larger libraries tended to be more open to replacement of their system than smaller ones. 

The reasons that were listed for even considering a change of systems were common across the libraries.  Grouped by priority, the most important reasons given for choosing a new system were:

Extremely Important:

  • Customer Service
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Functionality
  • Interoperability


  • Management of e-resources
  • Staff Efficiency
  • Communication
  • Price
  • Sales Account Relationship

Over the next several weeks, we will examine these issues and we will continue to share the comments of the survey respondents, specifically addressing concerns around workflow, interoperability and management.  You will want to see how the survey respondents’ feelings match those of your library. 

01 Oct 2012 | Posted by Jane Burke

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