Automating Libraries: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 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 section of various products and services, with companies listed in designated categories, including Cataloging; Integrated Library Systems; Library Automated Systems; Inventory Management; 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

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® and the OCLC Connexion® online cataloging tool are discussed on ALA Library Fact Sheet 18 - How to Acquire Cataloging Tools, in the section, Cataloging Subscription Services and Other Online Support Tools.


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.


Overviews/Vendor and Product Evaluations

Breeding, Marshall. "Automation Marketplace 2012: Agents of Change." Library Journal 137, no. 6 (April 1, 2012).

This is the newest edition to Library Journal's annual automation marketplace overview, and it marks a decade of writing it for Breeding. It is an annual source for gauging the trends in the library automation marketplace and includes a detailed profile of the leading vendors in the field. This year's article includes: Three-Year Sales Trends by Category; 2011 Personnel Trends; 2011 Sales by Category; Discovery Trends; and Company Profiles. Additional details, including multiyear figures, appear in Automation Marketplace 2012: The Complete Survey Data.


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

So many small public libraries in rural areas and small towns either rely on outdated systems or have no automation at all. One of the outstanding challenges today is reducing the barriers that impede small libraries with very limited resources from having access to technologies that can help them deliver better services to their communities.


Breeding, Marshall. Next-Gen Library Catalogs. The Tech Set®. 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.


"Buyer's Guide -- Four Ways to Use This Directory: What the vendors enter is exactly what you get." Computers in Libraries 31, no. 6 (July/August 2011).

As stated by Computers in Libraries (on page 35): Various types of hardware, software, supplies, and services related to library automation are listed... We gather new data directly from companies, using online survey forms. With our current system, whatever vendors enter online becomes part of our database, without any intermediaries doing data entry or fact-checking. So what the vendors enter is exactly what you get. For buyers, the online version makes it easier to search by keyword, company, or category. What's more, vendors can now log in to their records anytime and update their listings. So our online version will always be up-to-date. Right now, what you see in print is all of the listings that vendors updated by our print-production deadline. Use the electronic version of the CIL Buyer's Guide at:


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.


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 References

Boss, Richard W. "Negotiating Contracts with Integrated Library System Vendors." PLA (Public Library Association, a division of ALA) Tech Notes.

Libraries and consortia are spending a significant percentage of their budgets on the acquisition and maintenance of integrated library systems (ILS). The sales of new multi-user, multi-function systems, upgrades, and vendor support was in excess of $600 million dollars worldwide in 2009—a figure that does not include expenditures on PC-based systems. Last updated: November 24, 2009.


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.


Breeding, Marshall. "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 issuess: 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).


Engard, Nicole. C. Practical Open Source Software for Libraries. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2010.

Official site for the book at


General Resources

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


Cohn, John M, and Ann L. Kelsey. The Complete Library Technology Planner: A Guidebook with Sample Technology Plans and RFPs on CD-ROM. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010.

Careful and systematic planning is essential to the success of your library's technology implementation efforts. This complete, clear, and easy-to-follow guide takes a highly practical, hands-on approach to thoroughly prepare public, academic, school and special libraries to develop and implement a technology plan in the library. Following a foreword from Executive Director of the American Library Association Keith Michael Fiels, authors John M. Cohn and Ann L. Kelsey provide a comprehensive introduction to the key concepts and elements in technology planning and the changing technological landscape affecting today's libraries. There is clear advice to help you best define your plan’s scope, purpose and funding requirements, along with step-by-step guidance for developing an effective technology plan - from gathering data and identifying institutional needs, to determining priorities, identifying objectives, outlining costs, and writing the actual plan. A five-step model plan is included to provide readers with a start-to-finish example of the development process, and the authors also advise on how to implement the new plan and evaluate its success. The accompanying CD-ROM includes over thirty-five time-saving, sample technology plans and RFPs. Each plan is specifically targeted to public, academic, school, or special libraries, and can be easily replicated or adapted for use in your own institution. An array of figures, checklists, and examples are included throughout the book to help reinforce important concepts, and a comprehensive webliography lists further related resources.


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.


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.


National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF), U.S. Department of Education. Technology Integration 2008-2011,

Information on integrating technology into new or renovated school buildings, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.


Schultz-Jones, Barbara. An Automation Primer for School Library Media Centers and Small Libraries. Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Pub, 2006.

A beginners step-by-step guide to library automation! Learn how to implement an automation system from start to finish. This easy-to-read, thorough guide to library automation systems includes current information on the components of software and choices to make when automating a school library. This book includes information on the various stages of automation conversions and a project planning process guide to assist librarians in a variety of library settings to plan and implement their automation projects. It includes interviews, background information, vendor presentations, and the author's practical experience in implementing an integrated automation system. Also includes a glossary of terms and an index for ready access to information.


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For all other materials, contact the publishers directly, or check the collection at your local public library.

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Last updated: May 2012


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