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Date: Thu 30 Jan 2019

This week we will be learning about ERMs and ILS software. First off, what are these?

An ILS is short for an integrated library system. Everyone in this class is already familiar with an ILS from, at least, a user perspective. You use one just about anytime you use an OPAC, or an online public access catalog, or search for a serial, or check out a work. However, an ILS also provides an administrative interface so that librarians may manage those processes, such as acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, and serial and OPAC management, where such things are often referred to as modules. You can read about these modules as they work in the open source ILS called Evergreen, by sifting through some of Evergreen's documentation.

Thus, ILSs generally provide two separate interfaces:

  • an interface to be used by librarians to manage the tasks per the modules
  • an interface for the public to access the works of a library

An ILS is therefore, as Stephen Salmon (1975) put it, a non-traditional way of doing traditional things, such as "acquisitions, cataloging, and circulation." The librarians who would most often work with an ILS include:

  1. Reference -- who would use the OPAC module
  2. Cataloging and Technical Services -- who would use the cataloging module and perhaps also the acquisitions and serials modules
  3. Circulation -- who would use the circulation module
    • Interlibrary Loan department -- if such a department exists because the library is big enough to have one -- they would also use the circulation module

All of those librarians might use multiple modules of the ILS, but might predominately use one module more often than others. For example, when I worked at an academic library for a small college, I worked with the Millennium ILS to check out books to users and to search for works in the OPAC most often when I was working in reference, then used the cataloging module most often when I was doing copy and original cataloging. However, it really depends on the organizational structure of a library. As our reading by Miller, Sharp, and Jones (2014) show, the rise in electronic resources has vastly influenced how librarians structure their organizations, whose structure is often informed by the dictates of a "print-based world". In those structures, librarians may either hold positions where their work is streamlined and focused on one task, such as collections, or on multiple tasks.

With all that said, it begs the question -- what is an ERMs?

An ERMs is short for electronic resource management system. Its function is born out of the need to manage digital assets and provide users with access to those assets. An ERMs may be integrated with a library's ILS software, but the ERM does more behind the scenes work. Like an ILS system, an ERMS is generally divided up into various modules that focus the librarian's work on particular duties and allow librarians to create work flows and knowledge management systems. In an ERMS such as the open source CORAL system, the modules includes:

  • Resources: this module "provides a robust database for tracking data related to your organization's resources ..." and "provides a customizable workflow tool that can be used to track, assign, and complete workflow tasks."
  • Licensing: this module is a "flexible document management system" that provides options to manage licensing agreements and to automate parts of the process.
  • Organizations: this module is a type of advanced directory that manages the various organizations that impact or are involved in the management of electronic resources, including "publishers, vendors, consortia, and more."
  • Usage Statistics: this module provides librarians with usage statistics of digital assets by platform and by publisher. Supports COUNTER and SUSHI -- we'll cover these later in the semester, but in short, COUNTER "sets and maintains the standard known as the Code of Practice and ensures that publishers and vendors submit annually to a rigorous independent audit". SUSHI is a type of protocol to automate collecting data on usage statistics.
  • Management: this module provides another type of document management system but this is aimed at "storing documents, such as policies, processes, and procedures, related to the overall management of electronic resources".

In our readings this week, we have three articles that speak to ILS and ERMS as well as the relationship between the two, and an additional article that offers some organizational context. The first reading, by Miller, Sharp, and Jones (2014) provides some context by describing a case study (the literature review is also helpful) that shows how electronic resources have impacted organizational structure, job titles, budgets, and more. The article by Anderson (2014) lists and describes various ERMS solutions. As I mentioned in a previous lecture, electronic resources is a fast moving area, and even though this article (or chapter) is only four or so years old, some of the products are no longer available or have been merged into others or sold off. Still, the article is helpful in describing:

  • the role of vendors in the ERM market
  • the importance and rise of open source ERMSs as well as the mark that various homegrown solutions have made
  • related software that plays a role, including:
    • Discovery -- federated and indexed
    • Integrated library systems
    • Interlibrary loan software
    • Link resolvers
    • Ticket management software

In the article by Wang & Dawes (2012), the authors describe the "next generation integrated library system", which should meet a few criteria -- including having the ability to merge ILS software with ERMS, the latter having come into creation because of the lack of development among ILS systems, which were stagnating and not responding to changing work flows and work formats (i.e., electronic), at the time. But also, around the time the article was published, more ILS and ERMS software began moving to the cloud, as was common among many software markets. This changed the game, too, because it places a bigger burden on software companies to maintain development of the work.

Despite all the technical aspects of these solutions, at its very basic, both ILS and ERM software solutions are about managing assets so that librarians can organize and so that all can retrieve them. There's no requirement to use any solution offered by a library vendor, and that's the point of the Wilson (2011) article, which shows how regular software can be used to function as a homegrown solution for creating and implementing an ERM work flow.

In a follow up to this lecture, I'll introduce you all to the CORAL ERMs solution and to its various modules and how they work and also to the Evergreen ILS.


Anderson, E. K. (2014). Chapter 4: Electronic Resource Management Systems and Related Products. Library Technology Reports, 50(3), 30–42. Retrieved from

Miller, L. N., Sharp, D., & Jones, W. (2014). 70% and Climbing: E-Resources, Books, and Library Restructuring. Collection Management, 39(2–3), 110–126.

Salmon, S. R. (1975). Library automation systems. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Wang, Y., & Dawes, T. A. (2012). The Next Generation Integrated Library System: A Promise Fulfilled? Information Technology and Libraries, 31(3), 76–84.

Wilson, K. (2011). Beyond Library Software: New Tools for Electronic Resources Management. Serials Review, 37(4), 294–304.

teaching/erms-and-ilss.1600866277.txt.gz · Last modified: 2020/09/23 09:04 by seanburns