Home 9 Uncategorized 9 ATG Interviews Library of Congress and EBSCO Information Services about FOLIO

ATG Interviews Library of Congress and EBSCO Information Services about FOLIO

by | Feb 13, 2023 | 0 comments


Harry Kaplanian & Christopher Spalding, both Vice President Product Management, FOLIO Services at EBSCO Information Services, and Kate Zwaard, Associate Librarian for Discovery and Preservation at the Library of Congress

By Leah Hinds  (Executive Director, Charleston Hub) and Tom Gilson  (Associate Editor, Against the Grain) and Katina Strauch  (Editor, Against the Grain

Against the Grain V34#6

The ATG team was thrilled to conduct an interview with Harry Kaplanian and Christopher Spalding, both Vice President Product Management, FOLIO Services at EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO), and Kate Zwaard, Associate Librarian for Discovery and Preservation at the Library of Congress, about the recent press release regarding the LOC’s plans to implement FOLIO.   Our thanks to Leah Knobel, Public Affairs Specialist at the Library of Congress, and Kathleen McEvoy, Vice President of Communications at EBSCO, for their help in facilitating this interview. 

ATG:  What features and functionalities did the LOC prioritize most when searching for a new platform?

Kate Zwaard

Kate Zwaard:  Generally speaking, the Library prioritized ability to provide a wide range of modern and efficient solutions that would be useful for building a robust platform for the nation’s largest library collection.  The Library sought the ability to assimilate with the Library’s processes as well as the ability to self-correct and ensure that the thresholds of quality could be met throughout the project.

Some of the specific features that we prioritized were:

• Support for multiple metadata formats, such as BIBFRAME and MODS as well as MARC

• Reduce redundancy by consolidating metadata management systems (ILS, ERMS, etc.)

• Efficiency

• Sustainability

• Modern technology

• Ability to conform to our information security practices

• Integration and alignment with the many internal systems that rely on data from our library services platform

• Flexibility

• SaaS implementation

• Unified access to the Library’s collections for our users

We recommend that interested readers view our full set of requirements in the Request For Proposal: (RFP):  https://sam.gov/opp/f4d19b7236f24d46acb2e111d7075d3d/view

ATG:  How will FOLIO be customized to meet the specific needs of the LOC?


• The vendor will be required to build out a system that meets the requirements in our RFP.

• The code developed for the Library Collections Access Platform (LCAP) will be made available to the community.

• We are currently exploring ways that we can make our development and implementation plans available to the public at regular intervals as the project progresses, as we know this is a topic of great interest to libraries both within the FOLIO community and beyond.

ATG:  Why was it important for the LOC to use an open-source product that supports linked open data?

KZ:  While being open source was not a requirement for this contract, FOLIO’s open source, community-oriented philosophy is very much in line with the Library’s Digital Strategy as a whole, and specifically our commitment to drive momentum in our communities: “We will continue to lead and participate in communities developing open formats and standards.  We will make our in-house-developed or commissioned software applications open source, and when choosing software, we will heavily weigh the beneficial community effects of using open source.” 

Support for linked open data in general and the BIBFRAME standard in particular is an institutional priority.  We are eager to exploit the functionality of linked open data to improve the discoverability of our collections for our users.

ATG:  Carla Hayden was quoted in the press release as saying, “We are grateful for Congress’ generous investment in this next-generation system that is essential to the Library’s digital-forward strategy, which harnesses technology to bridge geographical divides, expand our reach and enhance our services.” Kate, can you tell us about your digital-forward strategy and how FOLIO fits in? 

KZ:  This is part of the Library’s overall focus on improving services to users and making the collections available to users where they are.  Our analysis of the Library catalog search logs shows that more than 60% of the searches come from outside the Library.  Fun fact: The Library catalog is the most searched service on the Library’s presence on the web.  As part of our next-generation digital strategy, we are also investing in user research to better understand our users and what they need.  We will be looking for ways to leverage our investments to surprise and delight our users, reducing barriers to access and connecting the American people to the Library of Congress in new ways, whether they are on site or online.

ATG: Harry and Christopher, can you tell us about the FOLIO Library Services Platform and how it differs from traditional ILS’s?

Harry Kaplanian

Harry Kaplanian:  FOLIO differs from the traditional ILS in many ways, but first and foremost it’s a community driven collaboration between libraries, developers, and vendors.  FOLIO allows anyone to build on its core functionality or extend the platform through the development of applications that deliver new services making it adaptable and customizable for libraries and consortia of all sizes.  

ATG:  How do you think the Library of Congress’s adoption of FOLIO will impact the market for library services platforms? Do you expect your market share to grow given LOC’s influence? If so, by how much?

HK:  The Library of Congress’ adoption of FOLIO via EBSCO FOLIO Services will undoubtably serve as an example for libraries to move towards the open-source platform to allow for both flexibility and agency in how an organization delivers services to its patrons.  FOLIO has been primarily concentrated in the academic market with more than 60 institutions live to date.  The Library of Congress adopting FOLIO underlines that the open source LSP is a sustainable option for national and research libraries everywhere.  

ATG:  EBSCO’s Executive Vice President of Library Services and Research Databases, Gar Sydnor is quoted as saying “the work we do for the Library of Congress, …, will indeed have a revolutionary impact worldwide on libraries and their patrons.” What worldwide revolutionary impacts is Mr. Sydnor expecting?

Christopher Spalding

Christopher Spalding:  I believe Gar is pointing out that the work to streamline and support current processes that the Library of Congress delivers to the world, along with delivering a supported Linked Data infrastructure, will lay out an approach for the future of resource description that aligns with and supports the Library’s work on BIBFRAME.  

The FOLIO Project since its inception has been a community collaboration, and as libraries continue to adopt, their input and ideas are welcomed and worked on by our developers.  With a wide range of libraries contributing to the project today, we can continue to offer new technologies for all types of libraries.  An open-source project of this size in our market, with the support of the Library of Congress, has never been seen before.  The overall impact to influence library automation and metadata scaffolding is truly amazing — it’s a profound substantiation of the project.

ATG: EBSCO claims that its work with FOLIO and large systems such as the Library of Congress and consortia such as MOBIUS, exemplify the next generation’s “next gen” — the future gen.  What does that mean exactly?

CS:  The next generation of libraries are operating on open-source solutions.  FOLIO is an acronym for the “Future Of Libraries Is Open.” With the Library of Congress and MOBIUS’s moving to FOLIO, they serve as an example to libraries globally of what that future looks like.  A future of open infrastructure, open-source code, and open dialogue between libraries and vendors delivering to common goals of a global community to better serve the needs of said community, is beyond just the next generation.  

ATG:  In their press release, the Library of Congress noted that FOLIO “will offer researchers a streamlined discovery experience and new ways to access high quality metadata.” Can you tell us more about that aspect of the platform?

KZ:  The Library currently has two separate systems: a traditional integrated library system that generally represents the collections owned by the Library, and an electronic resource management system that contains metadata for the e-resources licensed by the Library.  Users have to search in the two separate systems in order to access our materials.  Our users expect to search across the depth and breadth of the collections without having to anticipate the source or format of the information they need.  We know that librarians and others working at cultural heritage organizations want access to the Library’s high-quality metadata in a way that is easy for them to use and repurpose.  We expect LCAP to enable improved access for users everywhere.

ATG: For anyone unfamiliar with BIBFRAME, can you tell us a little about what it is and how the bibliographic framework will integrate with the FOLIO system to benefit the Library and its users?

KZ:  BIBFRAME is the newly conceived metadata format being developed by the Library in collaboration with research library partners across the U.S.  As a linked data model, BIBFRAME uses identifiers and links between local and distributed resources, not strings that need to be normalized and matched within a single isolated system.  This opens up new exciting possibilities for maintaining, sharing and exploring connections within data sets that are not feasible when working with static MARC records.  While many expect BIBFRAME to eventually replace MARC, the Library plans to support both for the foreseeable future, as many of our internal processes and external partners rely on MARC records.  Because FOLIO is format-agnostic and its architecture allows for the coexistence of multiple bibliographic data stores, it is well-positioned to integrate BIBFRAME in a way that will not only facilitate the Library’s transition away from MARC but establish a foundation on which to grow our offerings.  

ATG: What is the time frame for the rollout? When will users be able to access the new platform?

KZ:  While we are currently working with EBSCO on a final conceptual solution design, we know it will be in production by July 2025.  It is possible that some components may be available to users as soon as December 2024.   


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