An integrated library system (ILS), also known as a library management system (LMS),[1][2] is an enterprise resource planning system for a library, used to track items owned, orders made, bills paid, and patrons who have borrowed.

An ILS is usually made up of a relational database, software to interact with that database, and two graphical user interfaces (one for patrons, one for staff). Most ILSes separate software functions into discrete programs called modules, each of them integrated with a unified interface. Examples of modules might include:

Each patron and item has a unique ID in the database that allows the ILS to track its activity.



Prior to computerization, library tasks were performed manually and independently from one another. Selectors ordered materials with ordering slips, cataloguers manually catalogued sources and indexed them with the card catalog system (in which all bibliographic data was kept on a single index card), fines were collected by local bailiffs, and users signed books out manually, indicating their name on clue cards which were then kept at the circulation desk. Early mechanization came in 1936, when the University of Texas began using a punch card system to manage library circulation.[3] While the punch card system allowed for more efficient tracking of loans, library services were far from being integrated, and no other library task was affected by this change.

1960s: the influence of computer technologies

The next big innovation came with the advent of MARC standards in the 1960s, which coincided with the growth of computer technologies – library automation was born.[3] From this point onwards, libraries began experimenting with computers, and, starting in the late 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, bibliographic services utilizing new online technology and the shared MARC vocabulary entered the market. These included OCLC (1967), Research Libraries Group (which has since merged with OCLC), and the Washington Library Network (which became Western Library Network and is also now part of OCLC).[4]

The Intrex Retrieval System ran on CTSS starting in the late 1960s.[5][6] Intrex was an experimental, pilot-model machine-oriented bibliographic storage and retrieval system with a database that stored a catalog of roughly 15,000 journal articles. It was used to develop and test concepts for library automation.[7][8][9] A deployment of three Intrex BRISC CRT consoles for testing at the MIT Engineering Library in 1972 showed that it was preferred over two other systems, ARDS and DATEL.[10]

Interx BRISC "Buffered Remote Interactive Search Console" console showing programmed push-buttons

1970s–1980s: the early integrated library system

Screenshot of a Dynix menu

The 1970s can be characterized by improvements in computer storage, as well as in telecommunications.[4] As a result of these advances, "turnkey systems on microcomputers", known more commonly as integrated library management systems (ILS) finally appeared. These systems included necessary hardware and software which allowed the connection of major circulation tasks, including circulation control and overdue notices.[11] As the technology developed, other library tasks could be accomplished through ILS as well, including acquisition, cataloguing, reservation of titles, and monitoring of serials.[12]

1990s–2000s: the growth of the Internet

With the evolution of the Internet throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, ILSs began allowing users to more actively engage with their libraries through an OPACs and online web-based portals. Users could log into their library accounts to reserve or renew books, as well as authenticate themselves for access to library-subscribed online databases. Education for librarians responded with new focus on systems analysis.[13] Inevitably, during this time, the ILS market grew exponentially. By 2002, the ILS industry averaged sales of approximately US$500 million annually, compared to just US$50 million in 1982.[11]

Mid 2000s–present: increasing costs and customer dissatisfaction

By the mid to late 2000s, ILS vendors had increased not only the number of services offered but also their prices, leading to some dissatisfaction among many smaller libraries. At the same time, open-source ILS was in its early stages of testing. Some libraries began turning to such open-source ILSs as Koha and Evergreen. Common reasons noted were to avoid vendor lock-in, avoid license fees, and participate in software development.[14] Freedom from vendors also allowed libraries to prioritize needs according to urgency, as opposed to what their vendor can offer.[15] Libraries which have moved to open-source ILS have found that vendors are now more likely to provide quality service in order to continue a partnership since they no longer have the power of owning the ILS software and tying down libraries to strict contracts.[15] This has been the case with the SCLENDS consortium; following the success of Evergreen for the Georgia PINES library consortium, the South Carolina State Library along with some local public libraries formed the SCLENDS consortium in order to share resources and to take advantage of the open-source nature of the Evergreen ILS to meet their specific needs.[15] By October 2011, just 2 years after SCLENDS began operations, 13 public library systems across 15 counties had already joined the consortium, in addition to the South Carolina State Library. does an annual survey of over 2,400 libraries and noted in 2008 2%[16] of those surveyed used open-source ILS, in 2009 the number increased to 8%,[17] in 2010 12%,[18] and in 2011 11%[19] of the libraries polled had adopted open-source ILSs. The following year's survey (published in April 2013) reported an increase to 14%, stating that "open source ILS products, including Evergreen and Koha, continue to represent a significant portion of industry activity. Of the 794 contracts reported in the public and academic arena, 113, or 14 percent, were for support services for these open source systems."[20]

2010s–present: the rise of cloud based solutions

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2021)

The use of cloud-based library management systems has increased drastically since the rise of cloud technology started.[21][22][23][24] According to NIST, cloud computing can include a variety of "characteristics (e.g. self-service, resource pooling, and elasticity), management models (e.g. service, platform, or infrastructure focus), and deployment models (e.g. public, private)",[21] and this is also true of cloud-based library systems.[21][22][24]

Software criteria

Distributed software vs. web service

Library computer systems tend to fall into two categories of software:

With distributed software the customer can choose to self-install or to have the system installed by the vendor on their own hardware. The customer can be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the application and the data, or the customer can choose to be supported by the vendor with an annual maintenance contract. Some vendors charge for upgrades to the software. Customers who subscribe to a web (hosted) service upload data to the vendor's remote server through the Internet and may pay a periodic fee to access their data.

Data entry assistance based on ISBN

Many applications can reduce a major portion of manual data entry by populating data fields based upon the entered ISBN using MARC standards technology via the Internet.

Bar code scanning and printing

With most software, users can eliminate some manual entry by using a bar-code scanner. Some software is designed, or can be extended with an additional module, to integrate scanner functionality. Most software vendors provide some type of scanner integration, and some print bar-code labels.

Comparison of open-source ILS platforms

Software Developer Year of release Year of latest stable release Written in Main purpose License
Koha Koha Community 2000 2021 Perl ILS GPL-3.0-or-later
PMB PMB development team 2002 2022 PHP ILS CECILL-2.0
NewGenLib Verus Solutions 2005 2015 Java ILS GPL
Evergreen Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) 2006 2021 Perl, C, XUL ILS GPL-2.0-or-later
OpenBiblio OpenBiblio development team 2002 2018 PHP ILS GPL-2.0-or-later

See also


  1. ^ Adamson, Veronica, et al. (2008). "JISC & SCONUL Library Management Systems Study" (PDF). (1 MB). Sheffield, UK: Sero Consulting. p. 51. Retrieved on 21 January 2009. "... a Library Management System (LMS or ILS 'Integrated Library System' in US parlance)." Some useful library automation software are: KOHA, Greenstone, Libsys, and Granthalaya.
  2. ^ Tennant, Roy (16 April 2008). "Picking When to Jump, Part 2". Library Journal. Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2009. Across the pond they use the term library management systems (LMS) for what we call the integrated library system (ILS).
  3. ^ a b Wallace, Patricia M. (1991). Gary M. Pitkin (ed.). Library Systems Migration: An Introduction. Westport, CT: Meckler. pp. 1–7 [3]. ISBN 0-88736-738-0.
  4. ^ a b Wallace, Patricia M. (1991). Gary M. Pitkin (ed.). Library Systems Migration: An Introduction. Westport, CT: Meckler. pp. 1–7 [4]. ISBN 0-88736-738-0.
  5. ^ Reintjes, J.F. (May 1969). "System characteristics of Intrex". AFIPS '69 (Spring): Proceedings of the May 14–16, 1969, Spring Joint Computer Conference. Joint Computer Conference. New York, NY, United States: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 457–459. doi:10.1145/1476793.1476862.
  6. ^ Marcus, Richard S.; Kugel, Peter; Kusik, Robert L. (May 14, 1969). "An Experimental Computer-stored, Augmented Catalog of Professional Literature". AFIPS '69 (Spring): Proceedings of the May 14–16, 1969, Spring Joint Computer Conference. Joint Computer Conference. New York, NY, United States: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 461–473. doi:10.1145/1476793.1476863.
  7. ^ Overhage, Carl F. J. (1971). "Project Intrex – A Brief Description" (PDF). ERIC. MIT. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  8. ^ Kehr, James E. (September 1972). "Intrex Buffer-Controller Display System Operation and Software" (PDF). ERIC. MIT. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  9. ^ Hurlburt, Charles E. (September 15, 1971). "The Intrex Retrieval System Software" (PDF). ERIC. MIT. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  10. ^ Overhage, Carl F. J. (March 15, 1972). Project Intrex. Semiannual Activity Report, 15 September 1971 – 15 March 1972 (PDF). ERIC (Report). MIT. Intrex PR-13. Retrieved March 17, 2022. Since September 27, 1971, the BRISC has been available at the Engineering Library station on a two-hours a day basis.
  11. ^ a b Kochtanek, Thomas R. (2002). "1 – The Evolution of LIS and Enabling Technologies". Library Information Systems: From Library Automation to Distributed Information Access Solutions. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. p. 4. ISBN 1-59158-018-8.
  12. ^ Kochtanek, Thomas R. (2002). "1 – The Evolution of LIS and Enabling Technologies". Library Information Systems: From Library Automation to Distributed Information Access Solutions. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. p. 5. ISBN 1-59158-018-8.
  13. ^ Boyce, Bert R. and Heim, Kathleen M. "The Education of Systems Analysts for the Nineties." Journal of Library Administration v. 9 no. 4: 69–76.
  14. ^ Ganseman J (2015). Refactoring a Library's Legacy Catalog: a Case Study (PDF). IAML 2015. New York City, US.
  15. ^ a b c Hamby, R.; McBride, R.; Lundberg, M. (Oct 2011). "South Carolina's SCLENDS optimizing libraries, transforming lending". Computers in Libraries. 8. 31: 6–10.
  16. ^ Perceptions 2008: an International Survey of Library Automation. Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
  17. ^ Perceptions 2009: an International Survey of Library Automation. Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
  18. ^ Perceptions 2010: an International Survey of Library Automation. Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
  19. ^ Perceptions 2011: an International Survey of Library Automation. (2012-01-28). Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
  20. ^ Automation Marketplace 2013: The Rush to Innovate. Library Journal on (2013-04-13). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  21. ^ a b c Mitchell, Erik (March 2010). "Using cloud services for library IT infrastructure". The Code4Lib Journal (9). ISSN 1940-5758.
  22. ^ a b Breeding, Marshall (2012). Cloud computing for libraries. The tech set. Vol. 11. Chicago: American Library Association. ISBN 9781555707859. OCLC 783520712.
  23. ^ Liu, Weiling; Cai, Huibin (Heather) (January 2013). "Embracing the shift to cloud computing: knowledge and skills for systems librarians". OCLC Systems & Services. 29 (1): 22–29. doi:10.1108/10650751311294528.
  24. ^ a b Bilal, Dania (2014). "Software architecture". Library automation: core concepts and practical systems analysis (3rd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 133–136. ISBN 9781591589228. OCLC 503073120. Subsections: On-site software hosting; Cloud software hosting; Software-as-a-Service (Saas); Single-tenant software hosting; Remote software hosting.

Further reading