Evergreen ILS in the Enterprise

We’ve just recently passed our one year anniversary following our first libraries’ migration to Evergreen, and now 3 months past the last of our libraries to migrate.  Our operating environment is a mid-to-large size government department, with an above average technical literacy amongst our clients. We have some serious requirements for interacting with the ILS from certain key internal clients, and I see this enterprise interaction as a bit of a litmus test for the future of the ILS, both in our department as well as elsewhere.

Some examples from NRCan Library:

  • Integration with our Autonomy full text search – like most everyone else, one focus of our Enterprise search team is to expand the indexing of full-text web content to include other types of collections. So when our search team [1] came knocking with an opportunity to include the library catalogue, we were confident that our Evergreen ILS would prove itself well with this integration.  Getting Autonomy to crawl the library catalogue demonstrated to be no problem with little development investment from our part (just a page or two documentation on the SuperCat API and that’s it!). We even had it crawl during business hours and saw little performance hit on the Evergreen server (the bottleneck was whether Autonomy could ingest records as fast as Evergreen could serve them up). Here’s the first e-mail I got from our outside developer – definitely the kind of feedback I like to see and I know with previous ILS systems this would not have been anywhere nearly as easy and pain-free to do. Next step: automating the Autonomy engine with RSS feeds direct from Evergreen (for new vs. modified vs. deleted records, etc.).
  • PeopleSoft / Oracle Integration with Evergreen’s patron database – Part of the weakness of the traditional way we maintained our patron database is that we captured only those who actually walked in to use our library services. Everyone else didn’t make it into the ILS, so we lacked an opportunity to reach a wider audience in marketing “My Account” type services.  By migrating / linking all NRCan employees from our Peoplesoft & MS Exchange directories into Evergreen ILS, we are now better positioned to accomplish two important goals: 1) market the heck out of “My Account” to expose some pretty cool features (like Evergreen’s Bookbags / patron RSS feeds); and 2) getting us a step closer to single sign-on (Evergreen already has some sites authenticating against LDAP, and we want to move in that direction too for our internal clients). My first run at this integration involved a very manageable series of manual SQL interactions, but automating the interaction would be the next step once I’ve done this a few more times and understand all the issues (e.g. I discovered that our internal  staff directory actually had a couple dozen duplicate “keys” that don’t make sense to me – so still need to explore a few issues & implications before fully automating, etc.).
  • Dealing with the Local Requirements (aka the Itchy-Scratchies) – Every library situated in a larger enterprise has them, and you know how frustrating it can be to want a feature that may not be in demand at the moment, etc. The beauty of the open source model is that we don’t have to care if our community wants what you need. It’s better and more fun if they do, but not necessary to move on your must have “killer features”.  In our context, geographic and geospatial search is very important to us, so with Evergreen’s extensible platform, we can say to the world we want FGDC or geographic search indexes, or GeoRSS support NOW and we’re going to get it NOW (Note to map libraries: contact us if you’re interested in collaborating further on this).  Our support for GeoRSS just needs a bit more testing, but should be released within a couple of weeks, and other “geo-related” features coming later on this year.

Notably absent from the equation is the extreme “pay per use” / pay-per-product module approach so dominant in the library automation industry. In some cases, it is about not having to throw money at an out of date, and IMHO overly segmented ‘product’ marketplace (we would have had to buy the “Patron API” from a previous vendor to accomplish the PeopleSoft integration), but in other cases it’s not so much about the money as much as it is about doing business smarter. We’re still making investments, only those investments are paying back more for us and our colleagues.

[1] Just to be clear, NRCan Library doesn’t manage Enterprise search in our department, but we do work with the search team more and more..

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