Integrated library system

From New World Encyclopedia

An integrated library system, or ILS, 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 comprised of a relational database, software to act on that database, and two graphical user interfaces (one for patrons, one for staff). Most ILS separate software functions into discrete programs called modules, which are then integrated into a unified interface. Examples of modules include: acquisitions (ordering, receiving, and invoicing materials), cataloging (classifying and indexing materials), circulation (lending materials to patrons and receiving them back), serials (tracking magazine and newspaper holdings), and the OPAC (public interface for users). Each patron and item has a unique ID in the database that allows the ILS to track its activity.

Larger libraries use ILS to order and acquire, receive and invoice, catalog, circulate, track and shelve materials. Smaller libraries, such as private homes or small organizations and institutions (e.g. churches and synagogues), often forgo the expense and maintenance required to run an ILS and instead use a simpler library computer system which has limited functions.

General information retrieval systems have become more advanced. Search engines such as Google and online sellers such as Amazon have created user-friendly interactive systems which appear more attractive to users. Library communities are also making efforts to develop more sophisticated, user-friendly systems equipped with a federated search engines. A federated search engine can retrieve information from multiple subscription based databases (deep web), library holdings, and general web sources with one search query. Library communities are also increasingly looking into open source programs.


Integrated library systems (ILS) were often known as library automation systems or automated systems in the 1970s and early 1980s. Before the advent of computers, libraries usually used a card catalog to index its holdings. Computers were used to automate the card catalog, thus the term automation system. Automation of the catalog saves the labor involved in resorting the card catalog, keeping it up-to-date with respect to the collection, etc. Other tasks automated include checking out and checking in books, generating statistics and reports, acquisitions and subscriptions, indexing journal articles and linking to them, as well as tracking interlibrary loans.

Since the late 1980s, windows and multi-tasking have allowed business functions to be integrated. Instead of having to open up separate applications, library staff could use a single application with multiple functional modules.

As the Internet grew, ILS vendors offered more functionality related to the Internet. Major ILS systems now offer web-based portals where library users can log in to view their account, renew their books, and be authenticated to use online databases.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

An Online Public Access Catalog (often abbreviated as OPAC or simply Library Catalog) is an online database of materials held by a library or group of libraries. Users typically search a library catalog to locate books, videos, and audio recordings owned or licensed by a library.

Early online catalogs

Although a handful of experimental systems existed as early as the 1960s, the first large-scale online catalogs were developed at Ohio State University in 1975 and the Dallas Public Library in 1978.

These and other early online catalog systems tended to closely reflect the card catalogs that they were intended to replace. Using a dedicated terminal or telnet client, users could search a handful of pre-coordinate indexes and browse the resulting display in much the same way they had previously navigated the card catalog.

Throughout the 1980s, the number and sophistication of online catalogs grew. The first commercial systems appeared, and would by the end of the decade largely replace home-grown systems. Library catalogs began providing improved search mechanisms, such as basic keyword searching, as well as ancillary functions, such as the ability to place holds on items that had been checked-out.

At the same time, libraries began to develop applications to automate the purchase, cataloging, and circulation of books and other library materials. These applications, collectively known as an integrated library system (ILS) or library management system, often include a library catalog module as the public interface to the system's inventory.

Stagnation and dissatisfaction

The 1990s saw a relative stagnation in the development of online catalogs. With the advent of the Web, library catalog interfaces gradually transitioned from terminals to web browsers, and would in time incorporate links to online resources, book covers, and other features aimed at improving the interface. The underlying search technology in most library catalog systems, however, did not advance much beyond those developed in the 1980s.

At the same time, organizations outside of libraries began developing more sophisticated information retrieval systems. Web search engines like Google and popular e-commerce websites such as provided simpler, yet more powerful, systems based on probabilistic and vector-based queries.

As library users have grown more and more accustomed to these sites and search engines, they have become increasingly dissatisfied with the difficult and sometimes arcane search mechanisms of older library catalog systems. This has, in turn, lead to vocal criticisms of these systems within the library community itself, and in recent years to the development of newer (often termed 'next-generation') catalogs.

Next-generation catalogs

The newest generation of library catalog systems are distinguished from earlier OPACs by their use of more sophisticated search technologies, in particular faceted search and features aimed at greater user interaction and participation with the system, including tagging, reviewing, and RSS feeds.

They are usually, although not always, independent of the integrated library system, with modules or drivers that allow for the synchronization of data between the two systems. While older online catalog systems were almost exclusively built by ILS vendors, libraries are increasingly turning to next generation catalog systems built by enterprise search companies and open source projects led by libraries themselves.

Union catalogs

Although library catalogs typically reflect the holdings of a single library, they can also contain the holdings of a group or consortium of libraries. These systems, known as union catalogs, are usually designed to aid the borrowing of books and other materials among the member institutions via interlibrary loan. The largest such union catalog is WorldCat, which includes the holdings of over 10,000 libraries worldwide.

Related systems

There are a number of systems that share much in common with library catalogs, but have traditionally been distinguished from them. Libraries utilize these systems to search for items not traditionally covered within a library catalog, specifically journal and newspaper articles and digitized materials.

These include bibliographic databases—such as Medline, ERIC, PsycINFO, and many others—which typically index journal articles and other research data. There are also a number of applications aimed at managing documents, photographs, and other digitized or born-digital multimedia items. Particularly in academic libraries, these systems (often known as digital library systems or institutional repository systems) assist with efforts to digitize archival materials or archive works created by faculty and students.

Library computer system

A library computer system is the software used to catalog, track circulation (where appropriate) and inventory a library's assets. It is intended for home, church, private enterprise or other small to medium sized collections. Larger libraries will typically use an integrated library system to manage the more complex activities such as acquisitions and the reference interview.

Software criteria

Distributed software vs. web service

Library computer systems tend to fall into two offerings: software to be purchased on a perpetual license or purchased as a subscription service. With distributed software, the customer can choose to self install or have the system installed by the vendor on their own hardware and is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the application and the data or can choose to be supported by the vendor with an annual maintenance contract. Some vendors charge for upgrades to the software, and some do not. Customers who subscribe to a hosted service upload data to the vendor's remote server via 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.

Barcode scanning and printing

With most any software, users can eliminate some manual entry by using a barcode scanner. But some software is designed, or can be extended with an additional module, to integrate scanner functionality. While most software vendor provide some type of scanner integration, not all will print labels with barcodes.




Evergreen is an open source, consortial-quality Integrated Library System (ILS), initially developed by the Georgia Public Library Service[1] for PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Services), a statewide direct-lending consortium with over 270 member libraries.

Evergreen development began in 2004, when GPLS determined that no available ILS software could meet the needs of PINES. Evergreen 1.0 went live in September, 2006.

The Evergreen ILS is being used worldwide. Beyond PINES, organizations with live Evergreen implementations include SITKA[2] a library consortium in British Columbia; the Indiana Open Source ILS Initiative; the Michigan Library Consortium[3]; as well as smaller libraries such as Kent County Public Library[4] in Maryland and Marshall Public Library[5] in Marshall, Missouri. Other organizations committed to Evergreen include Project Conifer[6] in Ontario, Canada.

The original core developers of Evergreen have formed a commercial company around the software, Equinox Software[7] which provides custom support, development, migration, training, and consultation for Evergreen.


Koha is an integrated library system (ILS) and was the first open source ILS. Koha was created in 1999 by Katipo Communications for the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand. The first installation went live in January of 2000.


PMB (PhpMyBibli) is a fully featured open source integrated library system. The project was initiated by François Lemarchand in October 2002, Director of the Public Library of Agneaux; it is now maintained by PMB Services (a French Company).


NewGenLib is an integrated library management system developed by Verus Solutions Pvt Ltd and the Kesavan Institute of Information and Knowledge Management in Hyderabad, India. NewGenLib version 1.0 was released in March 2005. On 9th January 2008, NewGenLib was declared Open Source Software under GNU GPL Licence by Verus Solutions.[8]


  • Dynix from SirsiDynix
  • Horizon from SirsiDynix
  • Symphony from SirsiDynix
  • Talis (UK and Ireland)
  • Unicorn from SirsiDynix
  • Voyager from Ex Libris, formerly from Endeavor
  • Millenium from Innovative Interfaces, Inc.
  • Virtua from VTLS
  • ILMU from Paradigm Systems and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)

See also


  1. Georgia Public Library Service, Georgia Public Library Service. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  3. Michigan Library Consortium, Michigan Evergreen. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  4. Kent County Public Library, Kent County Public Library. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  5. Marshall Public Library, Marshall Public Library. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  6. Project Conifer, Project Conifer. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  7. Equinox Software, Equinox Software Inc. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  8. NewGenLib Retrieved January 10, 2009.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Antelman, Kristen, Emily Lynema, and Andrew K Pace. 2006. "Toward a Twenty-First Century Library Catalog," Information Technology & Libraries 25(3): 128-139.
  • Belser, Karl A. 1999. "Integrated Library System Software for Smaller Libraries Part 2., School, Academic and Public Libraries." Library Technology Reports. 35(4): 365.
  • Borgman, Christine. 1996. "Why are Online Catalogs Still Hard to Use?" Journal of the American Society for Information Science 47(7): 493-503.
  • Breeding, Marshall. 2005. "The Systems Librarian: Re-Integrating the 'Integrated' Library System." Computers in Libraries. 25(1): 28-30.
  • Fenner, Audrey. Integrating Print and Digital Resources in Library Collections. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press, 2006. ISBN 9780789028341
  • Karetzky, Stephen.1998. "Choosing an Automated System." Library Journal. 123(11): 42-44.
  • McGrory, Margaret, Margaret Williams, Karen Taylor, and Barbara Freeze. 2007. "The Impact of the Integrated Digital Library System on the CNIB Library." Library Trends. 55(4): 994-1045.
  • Moen, William E., and Charles R. McClure. Shared Integrated Library System Cost Study Final Report Narrative. Madison, WI: State of Wisconsin, Department of Public Instruction, 2006. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  • Rubin, Richard E. Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2004. ISBN 9781555704926
  • Ryan, T. 2004. "Turning Patrons into Partners When Choosing an Integrated Library System." Computers in Libraries, 24: 6-9.
  • Salter, A. A. 2003. "Integrated Library System Software for Smaller Libraries," Library Technology Reports. 39: ALL.
  • Vaughan, J. 2004. "A Library's Integrated Online Library System: Assessment and New Hardware Implementation." Information Technology and LIbraries. 23: 50-57.

External links

All links retrieved March 3, 2018.


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