According to Lufthansa, a Boeing 747 aircraft contains around 6 million parts. Each precision-crafted and built to endure the non-stop operation of today’s airplanes.
The Boeing supplier network which furnishes these parts consists of around 12,000 specialized businesses, each laser-focused on their contributions to the eventual finished plane.
Like Boeing, most assembly lines, car manufacturers, and even apartment-complex builders, rely on an array of specialist suppliers.
Libraries, conversely, are moving toward the single-vendor solution, hopeful that the various non-core aspects attached to the solution are as good as those available from Best of Breed vendors. With today’s communications standards, the ubiquity of APIs, and the inherent benefits of a diverse vendor universe, this is an odd scenario.
An expression which starts with “jack of all trades…” serves as a reminder that focus is important, and that it is challenging to be an expert at everything. Yet, despite an appetite for an ecosystem of choice, libraries are now often putting all of their eggs in one basket – not just for core systems, but for the ancillary solutions that integrate with them.
Are there benefits to the ‘walled garden’ approach? Of course – vendors will point to reduced complexity with billing, with vendor relations, and that the integrations their developers have created are tighter than those available to external 3rd party vendors.
The single biggest disadvantage is lost opportunity. Vendors who are reliant on a single aspect of the entire library ecosystem have a vested interest in remaining experts in that area. The prospect of diluting the potential of a bespoke solution is a limitation which libraries should keep in mind when considering the options available to them.
Another disadvantage is that if the library is eventually dissatisfied with any part of the system, it must replace the entire A – Z of the system. Not happy with circulation, out goes that wonderful electronic resources management module, too.
What’s the solution?
Happily, the library vendor universe includes many platform-neutral providers and solutions, like the Talis Aspire resource list management system (RLMS). The Aspire community includes libraries who base their operations on all major library services platforms (LSP), and the RLMS provides real-time availability, bookmarking, and connectivity with vendors to address fulfillment requirements for items on lists via API.