Open Source ILS Market Penetration

This ILS Market Analysis was written by Bob Molyneux


Recently, there has been a steady stream of announcements about libraries committing to open source ILS software. Howard County, Maryland Public Library decided to implement Koha ZOOM with support from LibLime. And Library Journal has a story dated October 1, 2007 about two consortia adopting Koha, again with LibLime support. Ray Tennant reports in his blog that at the just-concluded 2007 Access conference there was a great deal of buzz about Evergreen and discusses how British Columbia's BC PINES consortium is moving to Evergreen and the news that Ontario's Laurentian University's library is also moving to Evergreen. In both cases, there is a relationship with Equinox Software, which employs the "original developers and designers" of Evergreen and which manages the PINES implementation.

My intention to do a more formal—and fuller—analysis on this subject in a few months but for now, these preliminary figures might be of interest to the LISNews audience.

1. What percent of U.S. public libraries currently run open source ILS software? Some figures:

Summary data on U.S. Public Library ILSs

Vendor Systems Population
served Total
circulations Total
expenditures All U.S. Public Libraries 9,207 286,730,444 2,010,777,017 $8,643,027,806           Koha 15 235,755 2,383,624 $7,203,945 Evergreen 47 4,470,670 19,073,650 $66,242,856           Totals for open source: 62 4,706,425 21,457,274 $73,446,801 Open source
as a percent of total
by variable: 0.67 1.64 1.07 0.85

There are a number of ways one might measure the impact of open source ILS software on U.S. public libraries but I think these preliminary figures are suggestive: that few of these libraries actually use open source software as a means of supplying their ILSs. Of course, we know that many more have announced and the market is dynamic. When I revisit these figures, I suspect the numbers will change but the size of the library market is quite a bit larger than the open source community has supplied. Its impact on the market is around 1%, depending on which measure one uses and by the restictive criteria I use here.

2. The Howard County announcement, however, is an important and interesting event. Consider these figures:

Koha and Evergreen Summary Figures

  Systems Total outlets Population
served Total
circulations Total
expenditures Koha 15 23 235,755 2,383,624 $7,203,945 Evergreen 47 255 4,470,670 19,073,650 $66,242,856             Howard County 1 6 264,300 4,682,157 $11,609,745

The numbers in this table reflect facts that are well known and follow from the history of these two sets of open source software. Evergreen was developed to run a large state-wide system and Koha began in public libraries in New Zealand. Koha's U.S. libraries are smaller than the Evergreen libraries—median figures for circulation, population served, and total operating expenditures for the Evergreen libraries are over 10 times the median figures for the U.S. Koha libraries. Howard County's system will greatly increase the totals for all Koha libraries but, moreover, this is a larger system than the other U.S. libraries running Koha. It also reflects that Koha is branching out by adding larger libraries and perhaps we will see Evergreen adding smaller standalone libraries. These changes would clearly be welcome developments for suppoters of the open source model.

3. Other libraries, other countries

Koha's international impact is underestimated by these figures because it is used in many counries and with libraries that are small and whose data are not readily available. For instance, lib-web-cats lists a number of church libraries and libraries at a diverse set of institutions around the world. However, systematic, national level library data are rare outside the U.S. and tend to be concentrated in public or academic settings. It is my subjective impression at this point that these other Koha libraries are also small but I have no objective evidence to adduce at this time.

I have concentrated here on a subset of the entire library universe picking for which we have the best data. This analysis uses information from three sources:

  • There are two sources of data: NCLIS's PLDF3 (data on individual U.S. public libraries) and PUSUM (summary data about public libraries—for U.S. totals). The data are for FY 2004. For reasons too complicated to go into in this setting, these data are not for the calendar year and will include some data from as late as late 2005. The (nominal) FY 2005 data are expected shortly and after updating these two datasets, I hope to revisit this analysis.
  • The invaluable tlib-web-cats is used for sources of ILS software for individual public libraries. Totals differ here from lib-web-cats for three reasons: 1) these totals only reflect libraries actually using the software and, unlike lib-web-cats, does not include those which have announced changes but continue to operate legacy software. 2) These systems have grown since FY 2004 and current total systems are reflected in lib-web-cats but not yet in the NCES/NCLIS data. 3) lib-web-cats lists systems and branches while the PLDF3 and its NCES parent only provide data at the system level. For instance, my current estimate of the number of outlets actually running Evergreen in PINES is about 270, not the 255 reported here from the FY 2004 data. These results still, I believe, are indicative of the market demographics of these these open sources of software.

lib-web-cats lists five academic institutions using Koha in the U.S.. I am working on the Academic Library Survey data now and if I survive the process, I will add these libraries to the quantitative picture. Evergreen has no U.S. academic libraries but will, as we have seen, be adding Canadian public and academic institutions. Canadian library data are spotty being organized at the provincial level—there is no national-level library data collection effort. Ontario, though, has academic and public library data and I have been told British Columbia does, too, so I should be able to extend this analysis to Canadian institutions as they come on line.

Bob Molyneux

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Laurentian and Equinox relationship

To clarify one point: at this point in time, the only relationship that Laurentian has with Equinox is that Laurentian has a contributor to the Evergreen source code repository (me) who works closely on the open-source project at http://open-ils.org/ with other contributors to the Evergreen source code repository, most of whom are Equinox employees. While we have an excellent working relationship as individual members of the community, there are currently no formal relationships between the institution of Laurentian University and the business of Equinox Software.

Re:Laurentian and Equinox relationship

Although an interesting and entertaining comparison, should we also consider the timeframe for adoption between vendors? ...and if so, what criteria would be used to determine exactly when that timeframe should begin? Version 1.0 of each product? I'd imagine this comparitive study would be near impossible due to technological gains, monetary struggles, and other things that are influenced by time. To compare an OS ILS to one which has had a steady customer base for so many years would be difficult. I believe this is why it's getting so much press lately...or perhaps just because it's yet another alternative.P.S. - To fix the huge whitespace rendering issue, remove all newlines (hard returns) within your HTML table code. Your script's converting them to BR tags in incorrect places and causing the gap.

Koha, more potential for growth

More small libraries than large libraries. If it can scale up to meet the demands of a large system then it might be the system to beat in the future. I kinda question if Evergreen can scale down far enough for the small market. Lots of pieces and parts designed to scale it upwards which makes me wonder how a small library with a part time tech will be able to handle it.Please do this every year.

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