Once upon a time, only a few decades ago, the integrated library system (ILS) began to evolve. Enabled by machine-readable cataloging, MARC records, OCLC, and a general movement towards automating what had been very manual and paper-bound processes, the ILS as we know it began to take shape.
Each of the early ILS systems has its own fascinating history – this chart https://librarytechnology.org/mergers/ takes a colorful (although incomplete) look at the industry’s changes over the last 30+ years. Each of the original ILS players evolved in its own way: III was originally an acquisitions system. CARL was originally an academic library consortium that decided to automate, NOTIS (R.I.P.) was originally an EBCDIC-based circulation system developed at Northwestern University. CLSI was primitive, though powerful, public-library based system. And Auto-Graphics grew from a library book catalog publisher to a publisher of CD-ROM catalog records, to the SHAREit resource sharing and VERSO ILS products we have today.
About 10-12 years ago, the concept of Electronic Resource Management (ERM) arose, as more and more journals began electronic publication, and as printed indexes to those journals began to be published as searchable databases (only). Instead of shelf after shelf of Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (or any of 500 other indexes), libraries made available similar indexes from ProQuest, EBSCO, Gale, and many other providers. Patrons could search electronic indexes, retrieve full text articles, all from a single computer workstation in the library. Federated searching, such as Auto-Graphics’ SEARCHit and its competitors, made broadcast searching all the more efficient.
ERM began with lofty goals – manage the access, purchasing, copyright use rules, subscription information, and a dozen other factors relating to electronic resources. The book Electronic Resources management in Libraries (Yu and Breivold) http://www.igi-global.com/book/electronic-resource-management-libraries/329 laid out many of the issues. Another important work was Electronic Resource Management Report of the DLF ERM Initiative https://old.diglib.org/pubs/dlf102/, which acted as the ‘bible’ for early ERM systems.
And then things became complicated.
The ERM initiatives concentrated almost completely on electronic journals and little attention was paid to e-Books. ERMs and standalone tools were quickly out-of-date as the library and publishing worlds turned to digital books and other materials.
A number of digital management tools were developed, and the choices continue to grow. Auto-Graphics released MONTAGEdc in Spring 2016 as a digital collections manager. Older systems, such as OCLC’s CONTENTdm, continue to exist. One or two open source solutions also exist in the digital collection marketplace.
Services such as MONTAGEdc deliver all types of digital material: documents, photographs, speeches, videos, etc. – all part of the library’s extended collection. Thirty years ago, libraries primarily made physical books available to the public – now the scope of library services ranges from books to other physical media, then to electronic indexes and periodicals, then to eBooks in various formats, and most recently to other digital materials and sources.
What’s the future?
It’s hard to guess. One primary role of libraries is to be the agent that connects patrons with information needs, to the resources that supply those needs. As technology produces new information formats(?), vendors like Auto-Graphics will be at the forefront of satisfying those needs.