Automating Libraries: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

ALA Library Fact Sheet 21

Companies and products listed in this Fact Sheet are named for informational purposes only. ALA does not endorse specific products or companies. Contact companies directly for further information.

The phrase "library automation" has many diverse and unrelated meanings in the literature of librarianship. This fact sheet offers a selection of print and online resources that will provide an introduction to the issues to consider when selecting a tool that organizes yet provides patron access and circulation inventory for your library's collection of books, DVDs, and any other materials. This page includes evaluations and overviews on integrated library systems (ILS) and cataloging software programs.

ALA's American Libraries Buyers Guide offers an entire Automation category of various products and services, with companies listed in designated categories, including Bar Codes; Cataloging; Digital Archiving; Discovery Services Platform; Integrated Library Systems; Library Automated Systems; Inventory Management; OPAC; RFID; and Self-Check Systems.

A list of books on library automation that may be more readily available from your local public and/or community college library than your local bookstore appears at the free, searchable online database of library catalogs from across the country, OCLC's at Library Automation at

See the entire list of Systems and Technologies titles at the ALA Online Store, including books, ebooks, eCourses, ALA TechSource Workshops, LITA Guides, and pertinent issues of eContent Quarterly and Library Technology Reports.

Cataloging Software - Automating Small Libraries and Home Libraries | Annual Overviews | General Resources | Additional System Resources | Open Source Systems | Discovery Services Systems

PLEASE NOTE: Products such as Cataloger's Desktop and Classification Web for the Library of Congress Classification system and such as WebDewey for the Dewey Decimal Classification® system are discussed on ALA Library Fact Sheet 18 - How to Acquire Cataloging Tools, in the section, Cataloging Subscription Services and Other Online Support Tools.

Also see the Computers in Libraries/CIL's Library Resource Guide, an online reference source for day-to-day products and services for the library community, including library systems hardware and software and online databases.

Cataloging Software - Automating Small Libraries and Home Libraries

There are a number of cataloging software programs specifically designed for small libraries (public, school, church, business, organization, etc.) and home libraries, including the list of software companies and products that appears on the Church and Synagogue Library Association Library Software page. Other programs may be found by doing a Google search on the terms "library catalog software". Or, you can check for various smaller book cataloging programs on the CNET web site. Barcode scanners can be used with some of these programs, including with Book Collector for home collections and with Readerware and Primasoft library software for small library collections.

Small and medium-sized libraries may be served by reading "The Birth of a Community Library Automation System (PDF)" article by Beth Wheeler Fox that appeared in the Spring 2008 Texas Library Journal about the Apollo automation service of Biblionix.

Annual Overviews

Breeding, Marshall. "Library Systems Report (2015)." American Libraries. 46, no. 5 (May 2015): 28-41.

The library technology industry provides essential infrastructure upon which libraries depend to support their daily operations and deliver content and services to their communities. Tied to the economy of libraries, the vendors that make up the library technology industry support a stable but highly constrained economic sector, with global opportunities. Library budgets may never recover to pre-recession levels, fueling interest in technology to improve their efficiency and the impact of collection resources. Products able to deliver efficiency, innovation, and excellent user experience are especially well positioned in this phase of the history of the industry. Following a period of intensive development, a slate of new products that aims to align with current strategic priorities has entered a new phase of broader implementation. Index-based discovery services, available since 2009, have become vital components of academic library infrastructure and continue to see strong sales, including both first-time implementations and churn from competitors.

Library services platforms, in production use since 2011, have passed into the realm of routine offerings, especially for academic libraries in desperate need of systems that can manage both electronic and print resources. Many public libraries facing intense demand to present more modern and dynamic services to their communities and deliver seamless access to ebook collections are ready to upgrade or replace incumbent products with ones better able to fulfill current realities and expectations. With broader acceptance of cloud technologies, more libraries are opting for software as a service (SaaS) deployments, especially when they have fewer technical resources to support local implementations. While libraries are able to risk adopting technologies in earlier stages of development, a broader contingent now expects to implement proven and reliable products. Products considered innovative or pioneering two years ago must now be ready for routine operational implementation in order for these products to succeed in this phase of concerted sales.

Also see Breeding's July 23, 2015 report from the 2015 ALA Annual Conference exhibit floor, A Look at Tech: Patron-engaging products in the exhibit hall.

Enis, Matt. "Managing Multiplicity." Library Journal. 140, no. 6 (April 2015): 30-34. Library Systems Landscape 2015.

Selecting a library management system is never an easy decision. Vendors of integrated library systems (ILS) offer solutions tailored to public, academic, school, and special libraries, but even when organized by type, libraries are hardly one-size-fits-all organizations. Choosing a new vendor tends to mean a major investment, with a multiyear commitment to a solution that often will require new training, adaptation, and trade-offs among cost, features, and functionality. Still, it’s a tough choice that many libraries are facing once again. This second edition of Library Systems Landscape, the successor to LJ’s annual Automation Marketplace feature, will examine the impact of recent mergers, the continued adoption of next-generation library services platforms, the emergence of mobile-optimized staff clients, and new partnerships and feature development in the open source arena.

General Resources

Bilal, Dania. Library Automation: Core Concepts and Practical Systems Analysis, Third Edition. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2014.

Covers a wide range of topics, including open source software selection and evaluation, joining consortia, designing and developing in-house integrated automated library systems (ILS), usability principles and assessment methods, and project management. Also covers recent advances in technology such as cloud computing, recent industry standards such as RFID, and bibliographic standards like RDA. Addresses a key question: Should media centers and small libraries focus only on commercially available software, or would it be advantageous to choose open source software? Provides an in-depth treatment of the systems development lifecycle (SDLC) and a six-phase systems analysis and design approach.

Bolan, Kimberly and Rob Cullin. Technology Made Simple: An Improvement Guide for Small and Medium Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 2006.

Visit the companion website for Technology Made Simple: An Improvement Guide for Small and Medium Libraries. Implementing and maintaining effective technology services is a perennial challenge for libraries; for small to medium sized libraries, it can be overwhelming. Often without a technology expert, and with limited resources, they must address customers’ growing appetite for electronic information amid constant technological changes. Not a techie? Not a problem. A librarian and technical expert join forces in this thorough and easy-to-understand primer. Expansive and practical, it offers detailed how-tos, nine reproducible forms, and inspiring stories from libraries that have demystified the technology implementation process. Library leaders, directors, department heads, and trustees can access hands-on tools to offer premium services and save money with reproducible forms; keep the plan dynamic and organized with worksheets for planning, budgeting, and more; use smart staffing tips to cover tech needs; and find the latest resources on the companion web site. For any librarian wanting a comprehensive overview, Technology Made Simple offers clear answers to overcoming libraries’ tech challenges.

Breeding, Marshall. "Lowering the Threshold for Automation in Small Libraries." Computers in Libraries 32, no. 3 (April 2012): 23-26.

Small public libraries previously adopted products designed for K-12 schools, most of which were created or acquired by Follett Software Co., such as Winnebago Spectrum, InfoCentre, Athena, or Circulation Plus, mostly due to their low cost. The delivery of automation systems as web-based services has become a major trend across all library sectors, but these systems are especially well-suited to small libraries. Current trends such as improved internet infrastructure, cloud computing, wider availability of electronic resources, lower-cost tablet computers, and new automation and discovery products offered through software as a service can help libraries with limited means step into a higher plane of technology-based services.

---. Next-Gen Library Catalogs (THE TECH SET® #1) . New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers (in cooperation with the Library Information and Technology Association, a division of the American Library Association), 2010.

Today's Web-savvy users often bypass traditional library catalogs for more interactive, tech-friendly interfaces. Help your library stand out within the crowded landscape of information providers with Marshall Breeding’s new, highly practical guide to interactive next-generation library catalogs. Learn how to give your users access to a wide selection of print and electronic content with this jargon-free, step-by-step guide.

Breeding, Marshall and Andromeda Yelton. "Librarians' Assessments of Automation Systems: Survey Results, 2007-2010." Library Technology Reports 47, no. 4 (May/June 2011).

For the last four years, Marshall Breeding has conducted an online survey to measure satisfaction with multiple aspects of the automation products used by libraries. The results of the four editions of the survey data, along with brief interpretive narratives, have been published on Library Technology Guides. This issue of Library Technology Reports will take a deeper look at the survey data, including an expansion of findings based on the 2010 iteration, an examination of trends seen across the four years, and additional analysis not previously published. For this report, the survey data have been extended with additional fields that provide the opportunity to separate the findings into categories that show some interesting trends not otherwise apparent.

Burke, John. Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion: A Basic Guide for Library Staff, Fourth Edition. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2013.

The fourth edition of Burke's comprehensive resource, newly revised and updated, is a perfect primer for LIS students and should be at the top of the list for any current or future library professional looking to stay at the forefront of technological advancement. This all-in-one guide helps readers contribute to improving institutional performance, boost productivity, and stay connected to the latest library technology topics and tools by offering incisive coverage of library technology basics, with a historical overview providing context, suggested resources for staying up to date, and a chapter on appraising and purchasing equipment and putting systems into operation; technology tools, including computers of all kinds (desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices), office applications, the wireless world, the vast changes and potential of library catalogs and databases, social media, and much more; how libraries put technology to work through adaptive/assistive technology, virtual reference, blogs, screencasting, distance learning, and other day-to-day workflow; building and maintaining technology, offering guidance on spam, spyware, security strips, and other dangers of the cyberworld, plus troubleshooting tips for typical technology problems and advice on making technology environments comfortable for users; and the importance of long-range technology planning and how to take steps to start the planning process.

Cibbarelli, Pamela, R. "Helping You Buy ILS: Guide to ILS Vendors & Products (PDF)." Computers in Libraries 30, no. 1 (January/February 2010).

Each vendor in Pamela Cibbarelli's annual ILS vendor survey was asked to identify the greatest strength of its product(s). We've included the vendors' answers along with full contact information, product release dates, the number of sites it has, and the library markets it serves.

Engard, Nicole C., and Rachel S. Gordon. The Accidental Systems Librarian. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc., 2012.

This new edition of The Accidental Systems Librarian prepares readers to manage the latest library technologies: mobile devices, open source software, social networks, WiFi, ebooks, and much more. Nicole C. Engard's advice on using research, communication, organizational, and bibliographic skills to solve various systems problems is geared to helping both "accidental" and "planned" systems librarians develop the skills they need to succeed and the confidence they need to excel.

Evangeliste, Mary, and Katherine Furlong. Letting Go of Legacy Services: Library Case Studies. Chicago: American Library Association, 2014.
The last few years have proven beyond any doubt that libraries cannot afford to coast along with the status quo. Just as important as proposing and adding new services is the sometimes unpleasant process of critically examining existing realities and letting go of obsolete or less useful programs. But instead of panicking about budgetary and staffing challenges, libraries can choose a measured, proactive response. The contributors in this practical guidebook take readers step-by-step through approaches they've used at their own institutions, offering models that can be adapted to a wide variety of settings.

Knox, Karen C. Implementing Technology Solutions in Libraries: Techniques, Tools, and Tips from the Trenches. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc, 2011.

For anyone seeking a straightforward, hands-on approach to implementing technology solutions in libraries, this is your guide! Created for staff who want to ensure success with a technology project that may consume a significant part of the library's budget, author and IT manager Karen Knox deconstructs an entire project implementation, from planning to evaluation, carefully examining each step. The author has implemented many technology projects over the years—some more successfully than others, as she is quick to admit. In Implementing Technology Solutions in Libraries she draws on her experience to help readers identify the most critical components of any project while modifying and scaling to meet their library's unique needs. The array of tips, tricks, techniques, and tools she shares here are designed to spell success in your next library technology implementation.

Kroski, Ellyssa. THE TECH SET® #11-20. Chicago: ALA TechSource, 2012.

See "10 Great Technology Initiatives for Your Library" article by series editor Ellyssa Kroski, posted February 27, 2013 at American Libraries. Now TECH SET® series editor Ellyssa Kroski brings you the field's hottest tech gurus as they provide practical instructions and advice on everything from planning and development to marketing and metrics. Each title in the series is a one-stop passport to an emerging technology. If you’re ready to start creating, collaborating, connecting, and communicating through cutting-edge tools and techniques, you’ll want to get primed by the next ten books in the TECH SET®, published in collaboration with Library and Information Technology Association (LITA). New tech skills for you spell new services for your patrons: use the latest, cutting-edge technologies; plan new library services for these popular applications; navigate the social mechanics involved with gaining buy-in for these forward-thinking initiatives; utilize the social marketing techniques used by info pros; assess the benefits of these new technologies to maintain your success; and follow best practices already established by innovators and libraries using these technologies.

Lascarides, Michael. Next-Gen Library Redesign (THE TECH SET® #16). Chicago: ALA TechSource, 2012.

While technology has changed what we do and how we do it, the library's mission to provide users with the information they need has not changed. This concise guide will help you choose and implement the techniques and best practices used by today's forward-thinking libraries to create the best possible patron experiences. You’ll learn website clean-up strategies, how to incorporate social media into your site, how to create and offer interactive and collaborative subject guides, promote your librarians with public profiles, and use crowdsourcing to create a collection with user input. And, to make it easier, you’ll find easy-to-understand explanations for technology buzzwords and acronyms.

Nagy, Andrew. "Analyzing the Next-Generation Catalog." Library Technology Reports 47, no. 7 (October 2011).

Libraries have begun a transformation from physical materials to electronic media, and the so-called next-generation catalog is emerging before our eyes. This issue of Library Technology Reports analyzes five different academic libraries to better understand their investments, detailing the outcome thus far and drawing conclusions about the next-generation catalog. Topics include: Defining the Next-Generation Catalog: Open Source versus Commercial Solutions; Deploying the Next-Generation Service; Understanding the Impact; and Case Studies (Wake Forest University, Oklahoma State University, North Carolina State University, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Villanova University).

Webber, Desiree, and Andrew Peters. Integrated Library Systems: Planning, Selecting, and Implementing. Santa Barbara, Calif: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2010.

This book offers everything you need to know about selecting and implementing the best integrated library system (ILS) for your library, whether you purchase and install it yourself or hire a consultant to assist you. Integrated Library Systems: Planning, Selecting, and Implementing is an all-inclusive guide to acquiring a new ILS. Detailed and practical, the book covers every step of the process, from cost-benefit analysis, to evaluating software, writing the request for proposal, and implementation and training. You'll learn about different types of integrated library systems—standalone, turnkey, hosted, software-as-a-service (cloud computing), and open-source—and how to assess your facility and staff to find the best fit. The book also covers evaluation of software and hardware; third-party add-ons, such as RFID; and writing successful budget proposals and justification statements. Even if you're working with a consultant, this book will help you understand the process and make informed decisions.

Additional System Resources

Breeding, Marshall. "The Business Side of Library Automation." ALA TechSource Blog, May 6, 2010.

I think that a library's approach to technology should be more about partnerships than procurements. Acquiring a new technology product isn't necessarily just about the current snapshot of its features and functionality, but also about the alignment between the library's strategic directions and that of its technology partners. It's important to know as much as we can about these organizations in terms of business stability, commitment to the industry, and especially about their broad vision for library technology and a roadmap of where their products are heading.

---. "Can We Future-Proof Library Automation?" Computers in Libraries 30, no. 2 (March 2010): 29-31.

Article is freely available online. ABSTRACT: Librarians today find themselves dealing with collections of ever larger proportions of electronic content. The degree to which that shift has already taken place varies from one type of library to another. Some organizations, especially those involved with specializations in biomedical, scientific, or business, may already handle electronic content almost exclusively. Each component of the collections of academic libraries may vary according to discipline. Public libraries today continue to manage printed materials in very high proportions. In the public library sector, the circulation of physical materials continues as a key activity, supplemented by increased involvement with the delivery of electronic information to users in most of the forms seen in academic libraries. Public libraries have long been in the business of providing access to ebooks, audiobooks, and other digital versions of long-form monographs. While I don’t have precise projections for the proportions of formats that will constitute public libraries in the future, I am confident in a growing shift toward electronic content while maintaining significant holdings in print for the foreseeable future. But more than anything else, I’m sure that the wheels of change we see today will turn ever faster as the years move on.

Waller, Nicole. "Model RFP for Integrated Library System Products." Library Technology Reports 39, no. 4 (2003).

The central tool in the acquisition of a library system is the request for proposal (RFP), a document comprising instructions to bidders, systems and functional requirements, support and hardware specifications, acceptance testing, and reliability requirements. An RFP seeks information from vendors about already-developed systems or systems in development slated for near-term release. A library does not expect any vendor to satisfy all its requirements. After receiving proposals, the library staff selects a vendor whose product strikes the optimal balance between price and desired function.

Open Source Systems

Balas, Janet. "Considering Open Source Software." Computers in Libraries 24, no. 8 (September 2004): 36-39.

Those librarians who have taken giant steps in innovation can encourage those who are only taking small steps by sharing their successes. Many pioneers in library automation have documented their projects on the Web, so librarians looking for inspiration (and maybe a little push to try something new) have only to turn to their colleagues on the Web.

Blowers, Helens. "Determining If Open Source is Right for You." Computers in Libraries 32, no. 3 (April 2012): 27-29.

Should my organization consider open source? What are the benefits and drawbacks? If you or your library is new to considering open source, then FOSS4LIB (free open source software for libraries) is definitely for you. Recently launched by LYRASIS, the website service provides a suite of planning and decision support tools and hosts a registry of open source software solutions available for use by libraries.

Breeding, Marshall, and Casey Bisson. Library Technology Reports, Open Source: Three Issue Set. Chicago: American Library Association, 2007-2009.

Includes the three following Library Technology Reports issues: Opening Up Library Systems through Web Services and SOA: Hype, or Reality? (Marshall Breeding, v45:8); Open Source Integrated Library Systems (Marshall Breeding, v44:8); and Open-Source Software for Libraries (Casey Bisson, v43:3).

Corbly, James Edward. "The Free Software Alternative: Freeware, Open Source Software, and Libraries (PDF)." Information Technology and Libraries 33, no. 3 (September 2014).

Abstract: This paper will introduce the reader to the world of freeware and open source software. Following a brief introduction, the author presents an overview of these types of software. Next comes a discussion of licensing issues unique to freeware and open source software, which leads directly to issues of registration. The author then offers several strategies readers can adopt to locate these software packages on the Web. The author then addresses questions regarding the use of freeware and open source software before offering a few closing thoughts.

Thacker, J. C., Charles D. Knutson, and Mark Dehmlow. SPEC Kit 340: Open Source Software (July 2014). Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, 2014.

This SPEC Kit investigated ARL member libraries’ adoption and/or development of open source software (OSS) for functions such as ILS, discovery layer, electronic resource management, inter-library loan, digital asset management, institutional repository, course reserve, streaming media, study room scheduler, digital preservation, publishing, floor maps, data warehouse, or other library-related purposes. It explored research libraries’ policies and practices on open sourcing their code; the frequency with which research libraries contribute to open source projects; whether research libraries are reluctant to make their code openly available; and the most common benefits and challenges encountered when research libraries open source their code. This SPEC Kit includes examples of OSS contributor agreements, licenses, copyright notices, job descriptions, and organization charts.

Discovery Services Systems

Breeding, Marshall. "Library Resource Discovery Products: Context, Library Perspectives, and Vendor Positions." Library Technology Reports 50, no. 1 (January 2014).

Interfacing with library collections has changed drastically in the past several years, now integrating not only with the ILS but other local and external resources. Offering valuable guidance for effectively evaluating discovery systems, this issue of Library Technology Reports is filled with information on recent trends and the current state of the art in discovery. Breeding surveyed discovery vendors and 396 libraries on overall satisfaction and perceived effectiveness, and this report details his findings and conclusions. Focusing on the dominant index-based web scale discovery systems for academic and research libraries, and the emergent e-book lending functionality for public libraries, this report covers EBSCO, Ex Libris, OCLC, and Serial Solutions’ descriptions of their resource coverage; librarian comments on coverage from eight different products; product profiles of four major web-scale discovery services, six general discovery interfaces, and three integrated discovery and portal services; APIs for e-book integration from Overdrive, 3M Cloud Library, and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360; and insight into the competitive environment that impedes comprehensive article-level indexing.

Hoeppner, Athena. "The Ins and Outs of Evaluating Web-Scale Discovery Services." Computers in Libraries 32, no. 3 (April 2012): 7-10, 38-40.

Librarians around the world are trying to learn what WSD services are and how they work. By now, we librarians are familiar with the single-line form, the consolidated index, which represents a very large portion of a library’s print and online collection. Our end users certainly are familiar with the idea of a single search across a comprehensive index that produces a large, relevancy-ranked results list. Even though most patrons would not recognize the term web-scale discovery (WSD), it is what they have come to expect. More and more libraries are stepping up to meet their users’ expectations by implementing WSD services. Librarians around the world are trying to learn what these services are and how they work, evaluating the services on the market, selecting and implementing a service, and then teaching colleagues and patrons all about it. This is just what I needed to do in my position as the electronic resources librarian at the University of Central Florida. Based on my investigations, this article explains WSD concepts and terminology, shares findings from my interviews with major WSD vendors, and provides a template checklist, which librarians can use during their own exploration of these systems.

Vaughan, Jason. "Web Scale Discovery Services." Library Technology Reports 47, no. 1 (January 2011).

Web scale discovery services are a tool with major potential to transform the nature of library systems. These services are capable of searching quickly and seamlessly across a vast range of local and remote content and providing relevancy-ranked results in the type of intuitive interface that today’s information seekers expect. This report describes in detail the content, interface, and functionality of web scale discovery services developed by four major library vendors: OCLC, Serials Solutions, EBSCO, and Ex Libris. Each of these services is evolving rapidly, indicative of their open framework design and an ongoing expansion of indexed content as additional publisher and aggregator agreements are brokered. Although many similarities among the services are apparent, this report also outlines some observed differences, though these differences are becoming hazy as each vendor adds new functions, features, and content. To help individual libraries evaluate which service will best meet the needs of the library and its community, this report provides detailed evaluation questions and concludes with a section providing additional background information on each service.

Most Recent Resources on Library Cataloging Systems

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Last updated: August 2015

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