The FOLIO team and staff at Chalmers Library testing the system.
​The FOLIO team (Lisa Sjögren to the left) and staff at Chalmers Library testing the system.
​Photo: Ellen Åberg.

Chalmers first in the world with a new unique library system

​​The development from printed media to electronic media has gone in staggering speed, and the changes forces the libraries to think in new and different ways.
Old systems and methods need to be replaced, and among the libraries that are at the forefront of the development towards the future is Chalmers Library.
The library systems available in the market for managing the resources of the libraries are often very large, and as a user of them you tend to buy whole system packages. One gets the functions one needs, but one also pays for other functions that one doesn’t use.
The reasons for switching to a new system is that it adapts to the present needs of the libraries, and that it’s technology follows the resent och future developments. In Chalmers' case, it is about managing both the electronic resources and the printed materials that are in the library's collections on the same platform.

Developed in open source

Chalmers new library system is called FOLIO - the Future Of Libraries Is Open - and is developed in open source. The development work is completely transparent and anyone who wants to can follow the process or participate actively. Behind the development of the system are a number of stakeholders gathered under the umbrella organisation Open Library Foundation, which owns and manages the software.
FOLIO is run by members of an international forum, the FOLIO Community, with interest groups from nearly 30 library organizations and a number of IT companies with library knowledge. Together, they develop specifications and functionality.
 Within the interest groups there are librarians who are experts in their fields, UX designers, product owners, IT developers, a product council and future system users who all work together to determine in which direction the system is to be developed. Right now, great focus is on what Chalmers needs, because we will be the first library to go live with FOLIO, says Lisa Sjögren.
She is a librarian at the Chalmers Library, and for a little more than a year she has been a part of the team that is involved in developing FOLIO.
 In this context, we are a library with few transactions, which need a minimum of functions. But what we need right now is what everyone needs to have eventually. Given our size, we have an incredibly large role right now.

Chalmers in the spotlight

So how did a relatively small library like Chalmers end up in the spotlight for a project that has set it’s goal to basically change how a library system can be structured and look like? It began in 2016 when the management of Chalmers Library decided that a system review should be made. A switch from the existing library system was seen as a necessity for several reasons. One of the biggest was that one of the systems that the library used had stopped developing, another was that the traditional system was unnecessarily large and that the library paid for functionality that they didn’t used.
 At this time, we were also interested in open source solutions, but we did not want to spend time and money on running and supporting a new system ourselves. We also wanted to be able to follow the development that makes it easier and more fun to find information resources with the help of so called “linked data”. The library system must therefore be able to handle the new technical formats and be prepared to incorporate new solutions that we may not even know of today. In addition, we wanted a more seamless experience for our users, says Marie Widigson, librarian and one of those who did the preparatory work for what would become a system change.

Unique collaboration

When the holidays were about to kick off in the summer of 2017, Chalmers Library was contacted by EBSCO, an international IT company in the library industry. They asked if Chalmers Library would like to become beta partners in the development of the completely new library system FOLIO. Chalmers would be the first to go live with FOLIO where operations and support are delivered by EBSCO.
 When we got the offer, we had a discussion in the department management group about which way we should chose to go, says Marie Wenander, head of the division of Information Resources at the library. We could choose to go with something completed and safe and with suit that would be too large, or we could take the opportunity to be involved and create something new and be able to influence based on our conditions and our needs. The management group, together with the employees, quite quickly decided that the possibility of being involved in developing something new was too attractive not to take the chance.
Two factors were ultimately crucial for the choice to enter the project: That FOLIO is open source, and that there is a forum to collaborate and network within.

Many benefits

After two years of preparation and development work, FOLIO is soon ready to be launched. Chalmers Library plans to do this in the autumn of 2019, and will then become the first library in the world to use the system.
FOLIO will be a major change behind the scenes, but it will lead to minor changes for those who use the library as the search possibilities on the library's website will be the same.
 The functionality that is most important to us at Chalmers will be there when we go live, and we have confidence that the focus and resources will be on solving any problems. Everyone wants us to be satisfied, to make sure we will be good ambassadors for the new system, says Marie Widigson.
Marie Wenander, head of division of Information Resources, sees several advantages with Chalmers Library entering the work with FOLIO, including the benefit of being part of a large international network that hopefully will also eventually be supplemented by Swedish colleagues. She also highlights many of the challenges it involves working with an international company and as part of the FOLIO international forum.
 There are different time zones, different cultures and needs, and different schedules when you want things ready. We must be chameleons and adapt to different contexts. This is competence development in its best and most exciting form. We have also had reason to think about our workflows so that we do the right things the right way, which is always useful. There is an economic side where we will eventually reduce our total system costs, which is of course an important factor, but it feels like we are winning so much more than money, she says.

About FOLIO

The basic structure of FOLIO is a platform system with various apps that communicate with each other. There are apps for basic functions such as lending and returning books, but also apps with specialized features to manage e-resources from different database providers. As a user of the system it is possible to choose which functionality you need.
FOLIO is developed and built in open source, which allows users to develop their own parts for the system. The development takes place in an international forum, FOLIO Community, with specialists from both libraries and IT companies.
Chalmers Library and two US university libraries are beta partners with the library system provider EBSCO, which offers operation and support service.
During the autumn of 2019, Chalmers library will be the first library in the world to use FOLIO as it’s system.
If you are curious about FOLIO then you can read more at www.folio.org.
If you want to know more about FOLIO at Chalmers, we recommend the library's blog. A good introduction is blog.lib.chalmers.se/2019/02/18/curious-about-folio/

Contact

Ellen Åberg, project coordinator, Chalmers Library
Marie Wenander, head of Division of Information Resources, Chalmers Library

Text: Robert Karlsson. Photo: Ellen Åberg.

Published: Fri 19 Jul 2019.