Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What is an ILS, anyway?

"ILS" stands for integrated library system. Traditionally, an integrated library system has been an automated system designed to help libraries order, acquire, catalog, circulate, track, and shelve materials, in which software functions are separated into discrete programs called modules. There are usually modules for acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, serials, and the online public access catalog, or OPAC. “Integrated” means that all the modules share a common bibliographic database and work together.

Library automation became widespread in the U.S. between 1970 and 1990. Single-function systems came first, using computers to manage cataloging, or circulation, or acquisitions, but not all at the same time. Integrated systems were developed in the 1980’s. Over the past 25 years, as information technology has developed rapidly and become more important to library services, the role of the ILS has expanded and new functionality has been added. Our new ILS includes components for managing digital collections, online chat reference, federated searching (allowing searching in the catalog, databases, and Internet resources at the same time), automated telephone notification and renewal, and more.

MPLIC and the ILS
Veteran library staff will remember that the Library’s first automated system was ALIS, from a company called DataPhase Systems. MPLIC migrated to the DRA (Data Research Associates) ILS in 1989, and became customers of Sirsi, Inc. when that company acquired DRA in 2001. Sirsi merged with one of its major competitors, Dynix, in June, 2005, becoming SirsiDynix. Later in the same year, MPLIC contracted with SirsiDynix to migrate from DRA Classic to the Unicorn ILS.

For further reading:

Breeding, Marshall. "Re-integrating the integrated library system," Computers In Libraries, January, 2005.

Kenney, Brian. "The Future of Integrated Library Systems: An LJ Round Table," Library Journal, June 15, 2003.

Pace, Andrew K. "Dismantling the integrated library system," Library Journal, February 1, 2004.

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