22. March 2012 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

An announcement by Bibliotheca of a new partnership with Ex Libris came out of a clear blue sky via the excellent Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology Guides earlier today.

In it Shai Robkin makes the following statement:

“We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with Ex Libris, which will enable the worldwide community of Ex Libris users to enjoy integrated access to our growing portfolio of RFID-based solutions. Our partnership with Ex Libris is a win for all parties—Bibliotheca, Ex Libris, and most important, our customers. Bibliotheca has worked with Ex Libris for a number of years now, but this agreement will align our technical developments and integrate them tightly to bring enhanced products to the library community.”

In a library market plagued by proprietary solutions and technology ‘lock-ins’ this may not be the great news it claims to be. RFID has itself has only recently begun to put its house in order by adopting data standards that can be supported, and therefore transferred, between different RFID suppliers. That’s a process that has yet to happen in the USA – and this announcement suggests it may be a long time coming. I have been taken to task by Shai previously when I suggested that NISO were going to recommend the US adoption of ISO 28560-2 (they did) but this time Bibliotheca US seem to be singing from a different song sheet to the UK branch of the family.

As I wrote recently Jim Hopwood – Chief Technology Officer of Bibliotheca wrote a powerful piece in support of a more open approach to LMS(ILS)/RFID integration only last month. In his article Jim said:

“New technology without the ‘lock-in’
Having a framework like BLCF will mean that new opportunities and products can be developed with the knowledge that they can be integrated with a wide variety of systems, without having to resort to proprietary interfaces. To libraries, this means they can implement new technology without fearing lock-in and obsolescence. In fact, the libraries could ask if it is ‘BLCF compliant’.”

…which seems somewhat at odds with the US statement where clients of a Ex Libris look like they are going to have to buy Bibliotheca if they want an RFID solution.

I find this rather puzzling – especially in the light of a meeting only last week at which LMS and RFID suppliers in the UK agreed to work together to develop new functionality within the BIC Communications Framework. (I will be writing more about BLCF, SIP 3.0 and NCIP very soon – as there seems to be some confusion in the land about whether they are in competition or not.) Meanwhile American readers can read the views of my esteemed colleague Lori Ayre of the Galecia Group (her blog is always worth a read) in a forthcoming publication.

Now admittedly Ex Libris have never participated in any of our UK discussions on open standards for data and communication so they might be forgiven for being unaware that the RFID world is trying to move forward to offer better return on investment for and increase functionality by freeing the technology from the constraints of proprietary links and APIs and serial-based communication protocols but the Bibliotheca contradiction seems to require some explanation.

With Capita, Infor, Axiell and SirsiDynix evaluating BIC’s open source approach to RFID/LMS integration Ex Libris may find that their position may prove untenable – at least in the UK. Or perhaps Bibliotheca plan to follow different strategies in different markets? Following  “Think global, act local” – or some other mantra we used to have in Dynix back in the 1990s.

Or perhaps the Atlantic is even wider than we thought.



  1. This so called partnership suddenly shifts what are supposed to be hardware “neutral” ILS vendors directly into the camp of their “preferred” hardware suppliers. The customer can no longer rely on standards that would allow him the ability to choose the hardware solution that he wants and best suits his needs, but rather bow down to the “packaged” solution that will now be offered with ExLibris and ITG cooperation.

    So much for competition, so much for innovation and choice as each one of these players focuses more on optimizing their marketing dollar, rather than deliver truly standards-driven systems that can integrate.

  2. I’m not sure that the US market has really taken to standards yet has it? There’s still no agreement on a common data standard for RFID tags and no US national model – so libraries can find it difficult and expensive to switch RFID suppliers already. In the UK we have library consortia seeking to share their resources that didn’t worry about data standards either – that have now run head first into the problem of reading “foreign” tags.

    So the ‘choices’ offered are already pretty limited.

    Then of course there is the question of how RFID and ILS systems exchange data. Not a big problem right now in the States – where you mostly deal in security bits and barcode numbers – but in the UK public library market in particular we’re about to see an explosion of new services – some library-related and some not – many of which will use the expanded capabilities that the RFID data standard offers. Libraries need to use the standards to keep choice alive.

    But maybe Ex Libris/Bibliotheca clients aren’t in this group. Ex Libris are an academic supplier in the UK – so they may not see standards that will affect public libraries more as being relevant.

    Bibliotheca in the UK have been fully supportive of an ‘open’ approach so far so it’s difficult to see how the news of tighter integration with a single supplier will play with their UK clients – or indeed their other RFID partners like Capita who have been persuaded to support open standards rather than go the proprietary route and “lock clients in”.

    Their US announcement seems to contradict their UK position. But I’m waiting for permission to publish responses I’ve had from Bibliotheca that may clarify matters.

  3. Earlier today I wrote to Jim Hopwood to ask him for clarification of his – and Bibliotheca’s position here. He has replied this evening authorising me to publish his reponse:


    It’s not in contrast/conflict. We have many international clients & ILS’s to service today who want direct integration for the staff functionality.

    Don¹t worry – we are fully behind BLCF.


    I was doubly fortunate to also receive a reply from Andy Chadbourne – Marketing Director for the group. He said:

    “To echo Jim’s point, our strategy of getting closer to the LMS providers is so we can encourage the work of BLCF…”

    This is encouraging although I’m not entirely sure it explains what still appears to be a twin-track approach to RFID/ILS communication. I plan to sleep on it and post a more detailed response tomorrow.

  4. Pingback: RFID in Libraries: A Step toward Interoperability – Lori Ayre | RFID – Changing libraries for good?

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