Thoughts on Library Technology Guides’ ILS Turnover Report

Marshall Breeding published his “ILS Turnover Reverse report from Library Technology Guides” that lists what ILS products were replaced by libraries in 2010. I am not sure what you can gather form these stats, but still they are interested to look at. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at this report (and when looking at Library Technology Guides in general):

  1. A lot of the information is self-reported.
  2. Switch dates are based on contract signings and not implementation so sometimes a library may have switched in 2010 but signed in 2009, likewise they may be reported as a 2010 switch but did not switch yet.
  3. Although Marshall Breeding tries to make this list as worldly as possible, it still has a heavy slant on English language libraries, and more specifically on ones located in the United Sates.
  4. Consortium are funny things when it cums to these states. Even one consortium changing to a different vendor can really effect the counts, even if it is just one contract switch.

Some things I found interesting:

  • 214 libraries migrated from the various SyrisDynix Systems listed (Horizon (119), Unicorn (77), Dynix(18), Symphony (0)). Of them only 34 migrated to SyrisDynix’s new system, Symphony (Horizon (25), Unicorn (0), Dynix(9)). All-in-all, 46 libraries migrated to Symphony in 2010. That is a net loss of 168 Libraries. On the surface that does not look like good news for SirsiDynix. Of course, if the 12 new customers are larger, it might not be all bad, but still it is hard to see this as anything but SirsiDynix having not done well this past year in the ILS marketplace.
  • 20 libraries are already listing Ex Libris’s next-next generation ILS – Unified Resource Management, as there new ILS even though it is still in the early stages of development. All of them were already Ex Libris customers (Aleph (18), Voyager (2)). They are also all in Australia.
  • As those of you who follow Koha, an Open Source ILS, are probably aware, there has been some controversy involving LibLime and the company (PTFS) that bought them during the last year or so Without rehashing it, lets just say many members of the Koha community (especially those involved with development), didn’t see eye-to-eye with PTFS on a variety of issues. Because of this, I was wondering if anything would show up in ILS provider switching. PTFS (I am counting PTFS, PTFS-Europe, and LibLime together in this case although that may or may not be fair – I don’t really know if there is a difference in support, etc. from the various listings) lost 16 customers. 13 of them switched from PTFS to Evergreen (many of them in what appears to be a consortia move), one switched to ByWater for Koha support, one stayed with Koha but is now running it independently, and another one switched to Horizon. Based on these numbers, I would say the controversy has not lead to librarians choosing another Koha provider, at least not yet. Off course, maybe librarians would like to move but can’t just yet because of contract issues, so maybe any migration would be more of a lagging-indicator of dis-satisfaction.
  • Talking about ByWater, 13 libraries reportedly switched from Koha-Independent to Koha via ByWater. I am not sure if this is an actually switch in service providers, or if maybe this is a switch in reporting.
  • 139 libraries switched to the Open Source Evergreen ILS (Zero switched from Evergreen to something else). That seems to be good news for the future of Evergreen.

What does this all mean? Probably nothing, especially without looking closer at the individual circumstances, but still it is interesting to look at. I have been looking a little more deeply into some of the libraries that switched to Koha from another ILS. That will be a subject of a future post.


  1. Chris Cormack said,

    December 31, 2010 at 22:12:01

    Hi Ed, it was an interesting report.

    A couple of comments on your take on it. As far as I know and I have been told this, PTFS-Europe is a separate company. They certainly work differently, they install Koha not some variants on it and they participate much more actively. Colin Campbell from PTFS Europe is in fact the elected QA manager for the 3.4 release and is doing a sterling job. PTFS Inc and Liblime are of course the same company.

    Re the libraries moving, you may not be aware but 3 consortia recently put out RFP for new koha service providers. Masscat, NEKLS and CKLS … if you read the RFP its fairly clear, in fact its explicitly stated, that they want to move to a support company that works with official Koha releases. So I think you are right about the lag .. most have a few years left on their contracts, but the ones nearing the end seem to be moving.

    One other thing I note, is the reverse and the forward reports don’t quite match, eg in the forward one there is
    Koha — Catalyst (1) OTHER (1)
    But there is no corresponding entry in the reverse, I do note that Catalyst migrated 3 other libraries in 2010 as well, but they have not self reported. And we learnt at Kohacon10 that there are a lot of libraries in malaysia, pakistan and nigeria (three of the speakers were from there) that are also not reported.
    Not to be overly critical, but I’m not sure its a report we can draw any generalised conclusions from, but it does provide some places to start asking questions.

    Happy new year, and from the future I can say 2011 is sunny so far :)
    Im not sure if that is an isolated incident or not.

  2. ecorrado said,

    January 1, 2011 at 12:01:52

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your thoughts and the information about PTFS-Europe. The future post I elude to is probably going to focus on US libraries, so the PTFS-Europe info might not make a difference for my next post but if I do look into European libraries, it will be a good to keep in mind.

    I do think the reports’ coverage of libraries in the United States is rather good (albeit not perfect) but as you elude to, the coverage in other places around the world is not anywhere near as complete.

  3. BWS Johnson said,

    January 1, 2011 at 13:01:37

    Thank you for giving open source a fair shake in this post.

    One of the tricky notions with Koha is the severing of the support monopoly from the product itself. This is a very good thing for Libraries, but for statistical purposes, it’s a nightmare. One can’t have Horizon without having SirsiDynix as their supporter. One can have Koha with 0, 1, 2 or more support providers. The multi support concept was not well supported in the survey since it’s largely an option for open source users and not proprietary ones.

    I don’t think that you’re too early in being troubled by the SirsiDynix mass exodus. We’re more than 5 years past the merger, which I think grants us enough hindsight to see that customer service and innovation weren’t terribly high on the priorities list.

    ByWater, to me, exemplify what ought happen in ILS service provision. If someone isn’t doing a proper job as a construction contractor, you fire them and hire another craftsman. Liblime took their eye off the ball and ByWater stepped up to fill the support void.

    I think it’s safe to say that the numbers don’t accurately reflect the satisfaction landscape just yet due to the lag that you note.

    While it’s all well and good to focus on the States, it further skews one’s picture of Koha. A good measurement of user satisfaction simply can’t be taken without the removal of the US only blinders. 6 of the last KohaCon sponsors were non US vendors.

    Also, a swap from an open source ILS to another open source ILS is still a strong statement against proprietary options.

  4. jonathan rochkind said,

    January 2, 2011 at 22:01:18

    The weirdest thing is ANYONE switching to Horizon. That one Koha customer is the only such reported. There must be some strange story there — or it was actually a typo or a reporting error of some kind. SD has basically made it clear that Horizon has been end-of-lifed, although they backed away from any specific timeline. But I can’t imagine what would bring a library to switch TO it.

  5. MJ Ray said,

    January 3, 2011 at 08:01:40

    I disagree with Chris. As far as I can see and despite the protestations, PTFS-Europe is inextricably linked with PTFS of Maryland and is listed on as their European contact. There are some differences in business practices, but also some similarities.

    As far as Koha is concerned, the survey is still quite imperfect. Only a fraction of Koha providers are listed and the survey is unable to accurately describe common support relationships where there are several companies and in-house staff involved with the ILS. In the current situation, I recommend that our clients list as Koha – Independent, but not all of them do that.

  6. ecorrado said,

    January 3, 2011 at 10:01:25


    I sort of wondered that too about someone switching to Horizon. I guess since I know a number of librarians in that area I should try to figure out why that happened. I think before they went to Koha they had Horizon, so that might be one of the factors. Also, maybe it was a consortia thing. I really don’t know. But it would be interesting to find out.

  7. ecorrado said,

    January 3, 2011 at 10:01:12

    MJ, I understand your concerns but to some degree I am not sure that a significant number of libraries have multiple support vendors – at least in the United States.

    You are right that some will do some in-house and some outsourced support, but how is that different from any other ILS? In the past I have been a paid consultant/support person for three different ILSs (only one of which was Open Source) and have also used outside people to help support proprietary ILSs that were not the ILS vendor even though there was a support contract with the vendor. And as anyone that runs an complicated ILS like Aleph knows, support contract or not, there is a whole lot of in-house support involved. I heard rumors that one large library, for example, has 8 people that support Aleph but yet they still have a support contract. And then of course many consortia offices will have large number of internal support people and still have a vendor contract (which incidentally, I think might be one argument for going Open Source – if you need to support it anyway… but I digress).

    Do you know of any libraries in the US that have multiple support contracts? And by support, I do not mean development contracts, they are a different beast in my opinion.

  8. ecorrado said,

    January 3, 2011 at 12:01:32

    @BWS: I think you do make a good point that “While it’s all well and good to focus on the States, it further skews one’s picture of Koha. A good measurement of user satisfaction simply can’t be taken without the removal of the US only blinders.” However, unless someone else is going out and compiling this type of information from around the world, it is all we have to go on.

    I would love a more complete picture, as I am sure Marshall Breeding would to. Yes, we have to recognize these limitations of this survey as we would any other measure, but for better or worse this is what we have. There obviously is some concern over this type of survey by influential people in the Koha community. Maybe that is something someone from the community should take on. Of course, how to do that, especially without appearing biased, would be a tricky proposition

  9. Chris Cormack said,

    January 3, 2011 at 17:01:57

    I don’t think appearing biased is a problem, as long as that bias is acknowledged. Objectivisim is an overrated and never actually achieved concept. Far better people declare their bias and let the reader make up their own mind, than try to pretend they are capable of being objective.

    I have no specific concern with this survey, as long as its seen for what it is, a small snapshot of libraries, that can only be representative of its sample, not any greater body. And to declare my bias, thats my Statistics studies at university coming through there 😉

  10. Marshall Breeding said,

    January 3, 2011 at 19:01:20

    I’m glad the survey is generating interest and conversation. Let me step in to make a few points.

    The data in lib-web-cats comes from a variety of sources. I’ve been working on building the directory since about 1996. For many countries, the basic data has been derived from external lists or directories. For US public libraries, for example, I have loaded data from NCES. None of the data sources include automation information, so I’ve steadily worked on gathering that information. Methods include e-mails generated to contacts in the library to provide, press announcements of ILS selections, and library self-reporting. I have attempted to systematically gather data for public libraries in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and a few others. When I get time, I occasionally begin a sweep of a new country, but it’s an incredibly time-consuming process. Statistics of libraries covered is here:

    While this thread focuses on Koha, I’m interested in covering all the major ILS products. Each of the open source and proprietary products has its own wrinkles that complicate tracking its adoption in libraries and support arrangements.

    Regarding the Koha > Horizon move, the advance search feature of lib-web-cats will reveal the specific library involved. They were not happy with Koha and ultimately returned to Horizon, which they had prior to Koha.

    The reverse ILS turnover report takes quite a long time to run, so I show only a static version. A few updates have been made since I last ran it on Dec 31, including the one that Chris mentions not showing a Koha — Catalyst migration. I’ll re-run it in a few days to catch up with any changes that have been made since. The main ILS turnover report is generated dynamically.

    I understand that PTFS owns a minority share of PTFS Europe, but that PTFS Europe operates independently.

    I’m happy to respond to any other questions or concerns.


  11. ecorrado said,

    January 3, 2011 at 23:01:30

    Marshall, thanks for the information about how you gather the data and for your other points.

    – Edward

  12. » U.S. Academic Libraries switching to Koha in 2010 said,

    January 4, 2011 at 06:01:35

    […] libraries have switched to Koha in 2010. As commentators in my earlier blog post about my “Thoughts on Library Technology Guides’ ILS Turnover Report” there are some questions about the data. In my opinion, most of the questions – at least those […]

  13. Chris said,

    January 4, 2011 at 12:01:56

    Re the horizon library it is my understanding they weren’t actually using Koha, but Harley from PTFS which is based on Koha.

    This perhaps shows a need for a version column in libwebcats so we can see how many are running 3.0.6 or 3.2.2 or if they are using official Koha at all but some variant like Harley or Liblime Enterprise Koha.

  14. MJ Ray said,

    January 4, 2011 at 14:01:17

    ecorrado, it’s different from other ILSes in that none of the vendors need be the suppliers of the base system at any point. In most cases, you couldn’t fire a provider like Aleph and buy system upgrades from someone else.

    None of our libraries in the US have multiple support contracts, but the co-op is only a very small player in North America. There have been some press releases about multiple-supplier support like but I don’t know if that’s still the situation for any.

  15. Paul Poulain said,

    January 5, 2011 at 05:01:55

    Another glitch in the report : it does not report at all our activity (BibLibre). Afaik, only 1 of our french library, for example, has filed the annual survey before we ask all of them. We took almost a full day to send mail, links and explanations to all our customers for this survey, let’s see if it result in some filing. I’m not fully confident they’ll fill the survey though…

    Ask the libraries to be added to lwc ? don’t imagine one second they’ll do it. That’s why we will do it by ourself now…

    The problem here (for the libraries) is that it’s not in french. Why does the rest of the world not speak french ? 😀

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