“We want to emulate the PINES experience”

One of the interesting aspects of working with Evergreen is the phone calls from large consortia or state libraries wishing to start large resource sharing networks like PINES. I believe there was a latent demand by the library community–particularly from library users–for ILS software capable of managing large networks that has now been met by Evergreen.

While Evergreen is happy running on small libraries, it does have a unique niche in large consortia because of its distributed database architecture, the OpenSRF backend, and its robustness. This structure allows small libraries to run Evergreen with one server and large consortia to run Evergreen by adding more servers.

A few days ago I reported on the highest circulations so far in PINES for a day (96,000), an hour (11.300) and a minute (548). What was not mentioned is that these transactions occurred while there were one thousand terminals logged into the database being used by library staff who were checking out those materials, cataloging books, and doing other activities that changed the database. There are 275 library outlets spread across a state using Evergreen and this network circulates about 19 million items a year.

The underlying breakthrough is not only the ability of the database to scale but also the ability to handle a high level of changes from many sources to the database–the heart of so much in the consortium. No other ILS software, proprietary or open source can currently handle this kind of large consortium so gracefully.

In database speak, data silos are relatively small and separate databases that talk to each other with difficulty. Silos are the bane of analysts who have to pierce the spread-out databases to get a coherent picture of, say, the state of a company when each department has its own data in formats that do not integrate with those of other departments. It is similar in the library world: many small libraries that communicate only with difficulty. Any citizen of Georgia can get a PINES card and we know that library patrons are bypassing non-PINES libraries in order to get access to PINES at member libraries. By those actions, they are able to use the materials in a large, virtual library. When library users have a choice, they will break down library silos. Welcome to a long tail world.

Now, the politics is a bit awkward because there are librarians who either do not see the handwriting on the wall or prefer business as usual. In the age of Google, library users have been educated to expect better than that from their libraries.

It is curious that it took leadership from a state library and an open source community to create software with Evergreen’s capabilities and that it never came from legacy vendors.

Bob Molyneux