Friday, March 18, 2011

Are we at the mercy of our vendors?

EBooks are not the only thing vendors have control of in our library systems. As part of the team that implemented a new ILS I find myself defending our decisions (to patrons and staff) quite often to the tune of “well we had to make this switch because the vendor was stopping supporting the old software” or “we are working with the vendor to correct that.” At times I felt powerless to fix integral parts of our system while waiting in hope that our vendor would be able to fix it.

The migration from the old system to the new one did not feel like an optional switch. Our vendor had announced plans to suspend support and development on our old system and all focus would be on their flagship product – the product that we moved to. At the same time, the library needed to upgrade system hardware, which was at the end of its life expectancy. Adding to that, the cost of upkeep and maintenance for the new system is much lower than the old. With this in mind, the decision the decision didn’t seem like a tough one or really a decision at all.

Could we have done things differently? Could we have left our vendor behind? Could we have gone open source and completely customized the ILS to our (and our borrowers) liking? King County Library System did drop their vendor and go with an open source ILS. I’m not sure their experience was much better than mine, but they are no longer at the mercy of their vendor.

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