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.

Most Recent Resources on Library Cataloging Systems

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.

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. "Library Systems Report 2014." American Libraries, April 15, 2014,

The 2014 edition of the annual industry report that I have produced since 2002 has been published by American Libraries. The online version is available now and the feature will appear in the May 2014 print issue. The 2002 through 2013 editions of this report were published by Library Journal. This report describes the current status and trends related to the strategic technology products and services and the organizations that create and support them. It covers the major resource management products, discovery services, and other technologies on which libraries rely internally and make available to their customers for access to their collections and services.

The library technology industry saw sharp competition in 2013, with a wide range of products vying to fulfill ever-rising expectations. Competition has intensified for the applications used by library personnel to manage the collections and automate their operations, including the new generation of library services platforms as well as enhanced integrated library systems. Though a new generation of library services platforms has entered a phase of early adoption, the integrated library system remains viable, especially when extended to manage ebooks.

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.

Breeding, Marshall. 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.

"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.

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 References

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.

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.

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

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

Recent advances in technology such as cloud computing, recent industry standards such as RFID, bibliographic standards like RDA and BIBFRAME, the increased adoption of open source integrated library systems (ILS), and continued shift in users' expectations have increased the complexity of the decision regarding ILS for all types of libraries. In a complete re-envisioning of the previous edition, Automating Media Centers and Small Libraries: A Microcomputer-Based Approach, Dania Bilal conceptualizes library automation in the Library Automation Life Cycle (LALC) that is informed by the systems development lifecycle (SDLC). She explains how the next-generation discovery services supported in the library services platforms (LSPs) provide a single point of access to library content in all types and formats, thereby offering a unified solution to managing library operations. The book covers methods of analyzing user requirements, describes how to structure these requirements in RFPs, and details proprietary and open-source integrated library systems (ILSs) and LSPs for school, public, special, and academic libraries. Up-to-date information is provided about ILS software installation and testing, software and hardware architecture such as single- and multi-tenant SaaS and Paas and IaaS, and usability assessment strategies for evaluating the ILS or LSP. The author concludes by describing what is likely coming next in the library automation arena.

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.

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 2008-2012,

Information on integrating technology into new or renovated school buildings, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community. If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green.

Materials listed in this fact sheet that are published by the American Library Association are available through the ALA Online Store.

For all other materials, contact the publishers directly, or check the collection at your local library using the WorldCat search box below.

Search for an item in libraries near you:

Last updated: April 2014

For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.