Joint Integrated Library System Replacement Project

One of the most significant projects for the Bellingham Public Library in 2018 is the planned replacement of our Integrated Library System (ILS), which is the software used extensively by most staff members to keep the records on our collections, our patrons and our circulations.

Bellingham Public Library (BPL) and Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) have an agreement to share an ILS, and are undertaking its replacement jointly. In August 2018, leaders from both organizations approved a new ILS contract for Polaris from Innovative Interfaces Inc (III).

Our ILS is critical to library operations, from ordering items for the collection, to communicating with patrons about items they’ve borrowed, to reporting on the work we’ve done. Replacing it is a significant expenditure and commitment of staff time to migrate data and learn to use it. While our ILS is largely a behind-the-scenes tool, it supports everything we do and is essential to quality, timely, accurate library services and communications.

Next Steps

Implementation of the new system will begin late summer 2018, with staff training planned for fall and a full migration target of mid-January 2019.

By the time the project is complete, Bellingham Public Library’s annual expenditure for the ILS and associated services will increase from about $33,000 per year to approximately $55,000. For this cost increase we are receiving much-needed improvements, including:

  • Additional features in the ILS, including improved reports and other improved functions common to modern library system software;
  • An anticipated decrease in the required level of day-to-day IT support compared to our current system;
  • A decrease in training needs for new staff, as the software is much more intuitive and easier to learn and operate. The ease of operation will streamline interactions between staff and patrons at public service points as well.

Patron Impacts

Neither library plans to replace the current patron interface, BiblioCore from BiblioCommons, so the migration process will be mostly invisible to patrons. Potential visible impacts could include:

  • A pause in ordering new materials near the migration, which could delay making some new titles available to patrons;
  • A pause in circulation for a couple days as we freeze the database for migration, and then get the new system up and running;
  • Possibly closing the library during all or part of the circulation pause;
  • Technical issues with integrating third-party services that would lead to some downtime for other online services, such as OverDrive and our databases during and after the migration.

History of Shared ILS

We partner with WCLS in many ways, and sharing an ILS is a cornerstone of this partnership that has been in place since 1992. Our current shared system, Horizon from SirisDynix, was developed starting in 1989 and first came on the market in 1991. BPL and WCLS migrated to Horizon from an older system, Dynix, in 2004.

In 2015, WCLS and BPL published an RFP seeking a ‘next-generation’ ILS to replace or extend Horizon. The responses received did not meet the vision, and the RFP was cancelled.

In 2016, the ILS was moved from a locally-managed installation of Horizon to a system hosted and managed by SirsiDynix. This added a layer of complication to administrative functions and staff use of the desktop client software, but we expected to replace the desktop clients with a browser-based client within six months. That software was launched about 16 months later, but features we require before we can use it are still unavailable after more than two years.

Our current contract for Horizon expires at the end of January 2019. In June 2017, BPL and WCLS reconvened a joint committee to see whether products on the market met our vision for a replacement system. Seeing progress in the marketplace, we proceeded to demonstrations from potential vendors and developed and published a revised RFP in April 2018.

The successful vendor’s product – Polaris from Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) – scored highest in the RFP evaluation process. Contract negotiations began in July 2018, culminating with a signed contract on August 1, 2018.

More Information

For more information, Contact Us.