Monday, September 6, 2021

REVIEW: Library Technology Buying Strategies (nonfiction book) edited by Marshall Breeding

Library Technology Buying Strategies is a nonfiction book I read for work-related reasons. I got it via interlibrary loan.


I read Library Technology Buying Strategies partly to learn more about RFPs (request for proposal) and partly hoping to find tips for evaluating different integrated library systems (ILSs). It provided some of what I was looking for, but not quite in the way I'd hoped, and its organization was odd.

It started with a couple excellent chapters on RFPs - how they're structured, what questions a library needs to answer when writing one, and how to write one, including tips from vendor bid writers. These chapters made me exceedingly glad that I haven't been asked to write an RFP, although they provide excellent information that would make being asked to write one slightly less terrifying (, maintained by Marshall Breeding, is mentioned as a source of RFP examples, as well as lots of other library technology infrormation).

The rest of the book is more of a mixed bag. Chapters 3 and 4 cover resource sharing (interlibrary loan, consortial resource sharing) and the technological issues libraries need to consider. Chapters 5 and 6 cover cloud computing solutions (website hosting, server hosting, data storage, SaaS, ASP, PaaS, the pros and cons of cloud computing vs. local systems management, etc.). Chapter 7 covers library services platforms, which are a type of library resource management system that take a different approach than traditional ILSs. Some examples are Ex Libris' Alma, OCLC WorldShare Management Services, Kuali OLE, and Sierra. Breeding also considers SirsiDynix's BLUEcloud suite to be a library services platform, although at the moment it still relies on libraries to be using either SirsiDynix's Horizon or Symphony ILSs. The final chapter covers criteria to consider when purchasing e-book platforms.

Maybe it was due to the fact that most of the chapters were updated/changed content previously published elsewhere, but the book didn't really flow very well. The last chapter, in particular, felt out-of-place and was not a great way to end the book - I think it would have been much better to end with the library services platform chapter and some sort of brief conclusion. Instead, the book just stops.

I appreciated the fairly clear technology explanations in chapters 3 through 6, although I sometimes had trouble with the overall organization. I struggled with Chapter 7, in large part due to the fact that the only product mentioned that I had personal experience with was SirsiDynix's BLUEcloud, and I've only used the Cataloging portion (which is helpful in some ways but severely lacking in many others). It sounded like Breeding also considered link resolvers, electronic resource management systems, and digital repository platforms to be library services platforms, but it wasn't entirely clear. 

Chapter 8 was more like what I expected the whole book to be: an overview of the criteria to consider when purchasing that particular kind of product, e-book platforms. I suppose other chapters did something similar, but in a more general way.

This wasn't quite what I'd expected it to be, but it was worth reading for the RFP chapters alone, and I plan to spend some time looking through

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