OCLC Debuts Wise, an ILS Focused on Community Engagement

OCLC last week announced that Wise, an integrated library system (ILS) currently used by more than 75 percent of public libraries in the Netherlands, will become available to library systems in the United States beginning this summer.
OCLC last week announced that Wise, an integrated library system (ILS) currently used by more than 75 percent of public libraries in the Netherlands, will become available to library systems in the United States beginning this summer. The system was developed by Huijsmans en Kuijpers Automatisering (HKa), a library automation vendor and software developer that has been working with Dutch libraries and cultural organizations for 35 years. HKa was acquired by OCLC in 2013, and during the past two years OCLC has “conducted multiple advisory sessions with U.S. public library leaders and spent time in the field for in-depth discussions and observation” to tailor Wise to U.S. libraries. On the front end, Wise features a customizable website built with the open-source Joomla! content management system (CMS) and integrated with the library’s catalog and other resources. “Out of the box, a library can create a public website with the discovery application built inside of it,” Scott Livingston, OCLC executive director, management services, told LJ. “Libraries have the ability to publish to and surface content from their social media channels. Things like events, recent title acquisitions, library news, a blog—are all integrated into this discovery and content management layer” along with features such as user-generated tags, lists, ratings, and reviews.

Community outreach

OCLC is describing Wise as a “community engagement system." It handles standard ILS tasks such as acquisition, cataloging, and circulation, but also comes standard with integrated outreach, marketing, and collection analytics tools designed to facilitate “the creation and distribution of more personalized and targeted communications” with patrons, according to an announcement. “We really believe it’s going to change how libraries interact with their communities,” Mary Sauer-Games, VP of global product management for OCLC, told LJ. “It has the core features that you see in traditional library systems…but it also brings together a really robust marketing suite driven by the data within the system. Your circulation data helps to inform what you might do in your marketing campaigns.” In turn, the collection analytics features can help librarians spot local trends to consider when making acquisitions, she said. “Most ILSes are philosophically and architecturally designed around the book—the bibliographic record—[and] helping libraries manage their inventories,” Livingston said. By contrast, “Wise is philosophically and architecturally designed around the patron record.” Wise aims to deliver a tailored experience, using a patron’s past behavior to highlight upcoming events or suggest books and other content they might enjoy. “The activities that each patron engages in at the library—whether that’s checking out a book, attending an event, or responding to a newsletter—all of that feeds through the patron record, allowing the system to create highly targeted and customized communication campaigns for the library to engage with each individual member of its community,” Livingston said. For example, if a library is planning a comic-con, Livingston explained, the system’s built-in marketing workbench enables a librarian to search the patron database and send notifications/invites to individuals who have attended similar events, or who have checked out specific graphic novels or comics within a defined period of time, ranging up to seven years. “You can create a list of individuals who would be highly, highly interested in that, and exclude those who haven’t expressed any particular interest in graphic novels, comic books, science fiction and fantasy—however you want to define the category,” he said.

Data collection

Of course, customized, targeted communication requires the collection and retention of data regarding a patron’s interactions with their library, such as reading history, events attended, or click-throughs on newsletters. Livingston emphasized that the system is designed with an opt-out feature for any patron who does not wish to participate. He added that the system was originally designed for European libraries, which required developers to adhere to the European Union’s strict legal standards for consumer privacy and data protection. “We very much recognize, along with public libraries, that while many individuals want that heightened personalization experience [with online services], some subgroups…are particularly at risk and do not want that information accessible to third parties,” Livingston said. The marketing workbench also includes features that don’t necessitate collecting data. For example, Wise can schedule up to four automated emails during marketing campaigns (messages can also be sent on an ad-hoc basis). These emails can be targeted at individuals such as new cardholders—first welcoming them to the library, then a week later offering a general overview of services, then highlighting upcoming events or specific resources. Separately, an integrated collection management suite offers recommendations for acquisitions and weeding at the system and branch level, based on circulation data. “It allows libraries to make much more informed decisions about everything from collection development [to] collection balancing…around the types of subject areas [that are popular] within localized communities in your system,” Livingston said.

Recent import

While the system has been used for many years in public libraries in the Netherlands, some adjustments were needed prior to launch in the U.S., Livingston said. “One of the things that’s fundamentally different…is that the U.S. has a fairly diverse landscape when it comes to book suppliers,” he explained. “In Europe, there tends to be one national supplier, and in the U.S. there are many avenues for libraries to secure physical materials for their collections. So, we’ve made customizations around integrations with companies like Baker & Taylor to aid in the acquisition process. Ebooks [also have] a significant footprint in public libraries in the U.S., in some respects more so than in Europe, so we’ve been actively working on integrations with services like OverDrive and hoopla…. But the core attributes…are part of the existing product line and are used in hundreds of libraries across Europe.” Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, IN, has been working with OCLC for evaluative product testing, and in a prepared statement, Director Greta Southard noted that the partnership had led library staff to reconsider the role that an ILS can play. “We hadn't necessarily looked at or thought about an ILS from a customer-centric perspective,” Southard said. “We've viewed it as a tool to help us manage the collection and circulation, but not as a tool that might also help us connect with our customers in new ways. So, it was a great opportunity for my staff to stretch themselves, and to think differently, and to share that information with each other.” Rotterdam Central Library Homepage

Wise features a Joomla!-based website integrated with the library's catalog and other resources. Above is a recent screenshot of the homepage of Rotterdam Central Library in the Netherlands.

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