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Who will be here five years from now? Those vendors that help libraries thrive in a mixed print/digital environment
This report analyzes data gathered from 29 vendors that responded to a survey distributed at the end of 1996. Two new vendors are covered in this review. In addition to the statistical data, the survey requested statements of accomplishments and goals, perceptions of Java and network computers, and issues and trends to be considered by library administrators.
The ongoing shift from automating library technical processes to developing ways to enhance access to electronic information now dominates vendor offerings. Through client/server technology and web-based products the library will be positioned as a one-stop, seamless gateway to information resources. The integrated library system, no longer just an online catalog, becomes the centerpiece for library resources and services.
Automated system vendors have a vested interest in the transition of libraries to a mixed digital/print environment. Many see their own survival dependent upon their ability to help libraries thrive in this mixed arena. Web OPACs supporting Z39.50, electronic forms, and hypertext links are evidence of the investment vendors are making in this scenario. The companies in this survey that are still doing well five years from now will be those that have helped libraries in developing digital resources and services.
The 1996 revenues
Estimated library systems revenues for 1996 are $400-$450 million, more or less unchanged from 1995. Of the 22 firms reporting library-related revenue, the largest reported revenues of $60 million. A second company reported revenues of $35-$40 million, another in the $30-$35 million range. Two were in the $20 $25 million range, and four in the $10 $15 million range. Five firms reported $5-$10 million in revenues, with five in the $2.5-$5 million range. Seven companies would not disclose revenue figures. To determine an overall market figure, revenues for nonreporting companies were estimated based on sales.
Revenues of 21 responding vendors were broken down by hardware, software, maintenance agreements, and "other" (defined as training, documentation, consulting, database conversion, and additional library products not related to automation). Their answers show they attribute an average of 13 percent of revenue to hardware, 48 percent to software, 25 percent to maintenance, and 14 percent to other products/services.
Server or micro
This year's survey replaced the term "minicomputer-based" system with the wording "server-based" system to reflect more accurately the technology used in these products. Server-based systems were sold by 22 vendors in 1996. More companies are offering server products than ever before. In 1994 only 17 companies offered a comparable minicomputer system. Companies new to the server-based market include COMPanion and TLC. It is difficult to get an accurate count of the number of servers actually sold because some vendors provide inflated data that include CPU upgrades and multiple library locations within an organization using a single server. The most popular server platforms were UNIX and Microsoft Windows NT.
Microcomputer systems were licensed by 12 vendors in 1996, representing a decrease in the number of companies offering microcomputer-based systems. School libraries still dominate the micro market.
The academic library market remains crowded. Innovative continues to have a strong presence in this segment, although it experienced a significant decline in academic sales in 1996. EOSi (formed through a merger between Data Trek and IME) provides systems primarily to academic libraries outside of the United States. Endeavor had a strong year. Ameritech markets both the Dynix and Horizon systems to this segment. DRA, Gaylord, and VTLS are positioning themselves to increase 1997 sales to U.S. academic libraries.
The academic library microcomputer market is quite small, with Brodart and Winnebago having the largest share of this segment. Many academic libraries that had previously used microcomputer-based systems will switch to server-based systems soon.
The public library server-based market is dominated by Ameritech, although DRA, Gaylord, and Geac are strong in public libraries. Sanderson is growing in this market. New systems from DRA and Gaylord should mean more competition for Ameritech. The public library microcomputer market consists of small libraries using products mostly from Brodart, Follett, TLC, and Winnebago.
School and special libraries
School libraries primarily use microcomputer-based systems, but some school districts do use the server-based products. DRA's large numbers in this segment are all attributable to the INFOhio project. The school library microcomputer market is very competitive, with Winnebago and Follett in the lead. Other companies with significant sales to this market include COMpanion, Nichols, and CASPR.
The special library server-based market is equally competitive, with strong showings by Ameritech, EOSi, Information Dimensions, and Sanderson. In the special library micro segment, Inmagic led all sales, but EOSi, Winnebago. Book Systems. Inc., and Brodart hold market share.
Rising user expectations
The history of library automation has been one of purposeful effort by librarians and systems developers to contend with managing the materials in local collections and the massive amounts of data associated with the bibliographic control of those collections and others a user might wish to consult. Despite the magnitude of that task, it was one that most users took for granted in both traditional and electronic formats. Likewise, users know little about the ongoing, sometimes tortuous progress of efforts to forge standards such as Z39.50 for interoperability of databases and search interfaces.
New information technologies make it possible for people to see examples (however inadequate) of the transforming vision that librarians share for the future accessibility of information. While librarians and library system vendors know we're still a long way from perfectly focused information retrieval and content delivery, once users have tried the rapidly expanding capabilities of the Internet and personal computer applications, they demand more functionality out of library systems.
Last year saw important growth in the use of Z39.50 as a mechanism for searching remote databases through the local OPAC. Z39.50 still has limitations but is a definite requirement on both the client and server sides of a system. Vendors also furthered development of ILL modules as a means to assist librarians in expediting users' requirements for access to information beyond the local collection.
Java and NCs
This year vendors were asked to comment on two popular computer concepts that evolved in 1996: Java and network computers.
Developed by Sun Microsystems, Java is an object-oriented, C++--like programming language that provides platform independence and sophisticated network communications. Java programs that interact with web pages are called "applets" and are designed to be downloaded automatically when needed from a server to a user's computer. This design allows for a simple software distribution method. The benefit of Java to libraries is that it can be used to provide more user-friendly interfaces than those found in current web OPACs.
Twelve vendors are actively developing with Java (including Best-Seller, DRA, and Innovative), and an additional nine are investigating its potential uses.
After examining Java, however, Gaylord chose Microsoft's proprietary alternative to Java, ActiveX, for its new Polaris system. Gaylord feels that ActiveX currently offers more functionality than Java applets.
Enabling technologies such as Java and ActiveX are still maturing, but system vendors are developing strategies for building …