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On January 8, 2011, LJ held a roundtable discussion in San Diego with top executives in the integrated library system (ILS) field and expert librarians. It was a revealing and wide-ranging conversation about the future of the ILS and covered a range of topics--from the impact of cloud computing and open source ILSs to issues surrounding user engagement, the digital divide, and declining library budgets. LJ pulled together some highlights.
DAVID RAPP, LJ: What do you think is the single most compelling factor that will have an impact on ILSs and the industry in the future?
CARL GRANT, EX LIBRIS GROUP: I think it's clearly the amount of digital content that we're having to deal with these days in libraries and that, particularly in our customer base, we're seeing 50 percent of the materials budget now going for digital content. But that brings a whole host of new issues to automation systems and particularly in things like how we are going to preserve this and how we are going to make sure we can handle all the licensing issues and the workflows that are associated with that while maintaining all of our current processes.
ANDREW PACE, OCLC: I'll surprise no one by saying I think it's cloud computing. More and more of that content is in the cloud, so it begs the question why we're not running our systems there and why we're not running our services there. Our partners are there, our libraries are there, our users are there. I sometimes refer to this as the metadata irony: Why is the metadata about the stuff the library collects on this local machine either under somebody's desk or in a server room someplace, being maintained library by library by library?
NEIL BLOCK, INNOVATIVE INTERFACES: I think we're all going to be working with libraries that need to do things more efficiently, and they need to streamline and automate workflows and processes because really the staff and people who used to do these things are no longer available at the library. So of course this does mean cloud computing, but cloud computing is just one small component. We really need to wrap our arms around the enhanced and enriched workflows to engage people and also deliver that data, digital content, to where they live in their digital neighborhood, which is really on their phone, on their device, and tap into mobility, which is superimportant right now.
BILL SCHICKLING, POLARIS LIBRARY SYSTEMS: I think our biggest issue is in the past: when we presented automation to libraries, we couldn't present the automation as a way to replace librarians. Well, the librarians are now gone. A lot of libraries have lost a lot of staff, and they need better automation to continue to operate, to bring the services to their communities that they want. And I think being able to link communities is still a big part of what libraries do, and providing software to do that is a big part.
JOHN YOKLEY, PTFS: I'll agree with Bill that library budgets are being cut, and therein lies the reason why I think open source is going to have a big play in the future, providing expert systems and even digital systems to libraries in and out of both the ILS and digital components, as well. These future library systems will include ILSs, but they'll also be combined with digital products, discovery systems, workflow capability, and so forth. And as the library budget gets cut, the librarians are going to be looking more and more for alternative ways to give services with their restricted budgets.
GARY RAUTENSTRAUCH, SIRSIDYNIX: A major trend that we see that requires not only ILS but just technology in general is a trend toward libraries collaborating, cooperating, sharing resources among different libraries. And we see that in things like consortia, statewide library systems, all kinds of ways that libraries have right now of working together for economic reasons, and it just makes so much sense in today's environment.
ANNETTE HARWOOD MURPHY, THE LIBRARY CORPORATION: Beyond the valid points that have just been made, there is an …