At the recent Innovative Users Group Annual Conference, Neil Block, President of Innovative Interfaces, publically announced a new strategic ILS direction for the company and the development of the Sierra Services Platform. Providing complete ILS functionality with the power and scale of modern software architecture and built on a foundation of “open services,” Sierra will provide all the benefits of proven, stable business logic and integrated resource management on which thousands of libraries rely. At the same time, Sierra is designed with unmatched flexibility built in to meet changing needs of libraries and their users.

Several fundamental aspects of the philosophy driving Sierra development include:

Open Access – Innovative is committed to providing open access to key workflow and data in Sierra. Open source tools like the PostgreSQL database and Lucene™ keyword engine give users and developers a familiar manner to interact with Sierra. In addition, Sierra will have a comprehensive library of APIs for 3rd-party and library-developed applications, as well as tools to facilitate interaction with web properties and social networking sites.

Trusted Workflow – Innovative’s renowned, seamless information access and fully-functional workflow/business logic empowers better decisions and unmatched operational efficiencies. Sierra is built on a foundation of complete integrated resource management and offers enhanced e-resource/e-book support.

Library Choice – Sierra gives libraries the freedom to decide how and when they implement new functionality. Libraries can choose from Innovative-developed products, write their own custom applications, or share software among other Sierra libraries. In a services-based approach, each library decides what works in its best interest.

Local or Cloud-based Deployment – Services-based design provides ultimate flexibility in how to deploy Sierra. Options include private-cloud and locally sited implementations.

Accelerated Device Adoption – With Sierra, libraries can quickly connect with technologies more easily than ever before. With discrete software layers for application logic and presentation processing, adding or updating applications becomes a much simpler task.

Response to Changing Demands

A certainty about libraries is that they will change in the coming years in response to changing demands. Users are increasingly looking for resources from their homes, dorms, or classrooms rather than simply going to the library. They want to interact with the library from their desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and now, tablets. While more and more patrons are moving to electronic media, many still prefer to utilize physical materials. In response, leading libraries are finding new ways to connect to their patrons and deliver services and materials in the manner patrons most need. Sierra is proof of Innovative’s commitment to working alongside libraries.

By providing open access to critical features, Innovative’s Sierra enables libraries to respond to these changes more easily and more comprehensively than other solutions. In addition, the flexible workflow at the heart of Sierra allows libraries to rapidly adapt to the needs of their patrons.

Planned Migration Path

Careful consideration has been given to planning the migration of existing Millennium libraries. Jerry Kline, Chairman of Innovative Interfaces, states, “No other ILS vendor has been more successful in guiding its customers through major technology advances; and we’ve been working very hard to ensure that the transition to Sierra will be as trouble-free as possible. Most importantly, 100% of Millennium functionality will be available to Sierra libraries, so Millennium libraries will see no loss of functionality when they migrate.” For libraries using other ILS systems, Innovative’s professional services team will design, deploy, and scale a solution that fits the specific needs of the library including new services and training programs tailored to Sierra.

Services Oriented Architecture and Open Access

Sierra has been designed with a modern Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) optimized to facilitate:

  • Increased opportunities for open development with Innovative’s partners and customer libraries; flexibility in determining their priorities and development options; integration of web-based and web-scale services; and multiple device support (browser, mobile, tablet);
  • Flexibility in deployment of resources from a single local Sierra instance to cloud-based hosting; and
  • A platform for rapid application development, device adoption, and resource independence.

Sierra’s SOA-based design has four layers, each of which exposes applicable services and provides an independent, distinct set of functionality. The services architected within each layer are loosely-coupled with well defined, highly functional interfaces.

Sierra Roadmap

Neil Block, President of Innovative Interfaces, comments that “Sierra development has been underway for some time with many of the technical underpinnings already in place.” Each release will offer a combination of Open Services and enhanced staff functionality. The initial release—scheduled for late 2011—will be a major foundational release that includes exposure of the industry-compliant PostgreSQL database and Lucene index structures, as well as a new integrated staff application that simplifies the routine functions and provides a single interface from which critical library functions can be managed. The new application has an easy to use, attractive user interface optimized for library staff.

Subsequent releases will include enhanced e-workflow functionality, continued API development, and the release of a thin web application.

In conjunction with the functionality and services development that is underway, Sierra will also provide opportunities to engage library-developers in new ways. The Sierra roadmap includes specific deliverables to address exciting opportunities to engage library-developers such as a Developer Sandbox and Developer’s Community.

Block adds, “Innovative has the reputation of delivering on its promises and I’m particularly excited about Sierra as it sets the next stage to serve libraries and their rapidly evolving technology needs.”