Three Takeaways for Academic Libraries from the 2024 Library Systems Report  

Marshall Breeding offers insight into the future of open-source software and AI

A dashboard, such as one for a LSP covered in Marshall Breeding's 2024 Library Systems Report

Independent library consultant Marshall Breeding published his highly anticipated “2024 Library Systems Report” at the start of the month. The report analyzes data Breeding gathered through surveys of for-profit and nonprofit organizations and various sources of publicly available information and highlights the investments libraries are making in technology products, primarily library system platforms (LSP) and integrated library systems (ILS). His report spans the full spectrum of libraries, from public to school to research and academic, both domestic and abroad, so we wanted to draw out the key takeaways of the report for research and academic libraries. 

📑 Read Breeding’s full report 

🐢 The market stays steady. 

The pull-quote summary of Breeding’s report is: “In the absence of major business moves and acquisitions, companies set their sights on executing strategies to strengthen their market position.” The report reflects this quietude, with the AI question lurking beneath the surface (more on that in a bit). In short, Breeding describes a stratified market with no upsets between companies in different sizes and tiers and few notable acquisitions. Projected economic growth over the next year suggests to him that this will not remain true for long. 

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🏃‍♂️ The uphill climb for open-source LSPs continues. 

In last year’s report, Breeding saw an uphill climb for open-source LSPs like FOLIO, which has been proven out. Despite the Library of Congress’s selection of FOLIO in 2022, many major university libraries continue to opt for proprietary LSPs, namely Ex Libris Alma, or have even abandoned open-source software. These institutions include big names like Duke, Yale, and NYU. Duke is the most notable among these three, because it previously had a role in FOLIO’s development. 

The decision of some libraries to move away from open-source software shouldn’t ring the alarm bell yet. This software continues to develop rival capabilities to proprietary alternatives, setting it up to stay relevant and perhaps become more competitive in the future. 

🌊 The AI wave hasn’t hit… yet. 

The open question is how the market will look after different vendors begin incorporating AI layers into their products. This year provides no answers. Breeding reports that large companies such as Clarivate and Ex Libris are developing AI layers for their products. Such moves will, indeed, “strengthen” their market positions, particularly against the possibility of a disruption from new competitors in the market and medium-sized companies.  

Breeding leaves his remarks on AI open-ended. But I would hazard that we may not also be able to take for granted that libraries will rush to choose options that integrate AI into their databases. Unresolved ethical concerns, particularly surrounding privacy, might inhibit adoption rate. As values-centered institutions, libraries might be uniquely less likely than other sectors to opt for AI capabilities.  

At the very least, libraries will prove to be an intriguing testing ground for the AI market going forward.  

📑 Read Breeding’s full report

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