As Featured in ALA TechSource Smart Libraries Newsletter | May 2015, Volume XXXV, Number 5
Boopsie for Libraries, a company specializing in mobile-friendly products and services for libraries, has recently launched a new service to assist publishers of content and other product developers to easily integrate with the integrated library systems used by their customers or subscribers. This service enables other businesses to leverage the infrastructure that they have created to support their products for libraries.
Boopsie has become established as a major provider of mobile apps for libraries. These apps enable libraries to offer access to their collections and services to community members who use mobile devices even if the libraries’ online catalogs or other content products are not optimized for mobile access. The company found a foothold in the library mobile arena long before many of the providers of online catalogs and discovery services addressed this capability.
The Boopsie mobile apps follow a similar data strategy to other discovery interfaces. Bibliographic records are harvested from and periodically synchronized with the library’s integrated library system and indexed on Boopsie’s platform as the basis for its catalog search feature. As patrons view individual items or make requests, the Boopsie platform obtains real-time status information from the ILS. Harvesting metadata and indexing on a separate platform provides opportunities to develop search and retrieval features more sophisticated than those offered through the native search of an ILS.
The creation of these mobile apps requires the development of connection mechanisms to each of the major ILS products to support data harvesting and interactive requests. Each ILS product requires a different set of protocol interactions, API requests, page parsing, or other techniques to support the metadata harvesting and real-time interactions required by a discovery interface.
Services supported include:
• Interactive search queries of the catalog according to keywords, by standard identifiers including ISBN, or bibliographic record key.
• Current shelf status and circulation availability for each item as identified by a unique barcode number.
• Ability for a logged-in patron to view current items on loan, items currently on hold, and any fines due.
• Ability for a patron to request an item be held or to cancel a hold previously placed.
• Direct self-service for charging or returning library materials without the use of a library-provided kiosk.
• The white-labeled Boopsie mobile app provides a standard set of capabilities to all libraries, delivered with their brand-
ing and customized presentation options. The customized app displays the library’s logo, background image, and color scheme. The library-branded app also incorporates library-specific info such as photos, opening hours, and other textual descriptions.
• Presents content beyond that directly cataloged, such as those from e-book lending providers.
• The app can also be enabled to include third party databases to which the library subscribes in search results.
• Boopsie also offers a responsive website with basic features to libraries subscribing to its mobile app and platform.
In most respects the data and platform architecture developed by Boopsie resembles that of other discovery services.
Ex Libris Primo, ProQuest Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, VuFind, Blacklight, and SirsiDynix Enterprise all har-
vest records from the ILS and provide real-time interactions through specialized connectors.
Mobile discovery requires specialized interface techniques due to the small screen dimensions and other limitations. In addition to the accommodating mobile devices through appropriate page widths, font sizes, and spacing of touch points, Boopsie has also created a proprietary search technology. A search component called “Smart Prefix” performs type-ahead opti-
mized for mobile devices that presents search suggestions based on small numbers of letters across the words in title. This technique differs from type-ahead features in search engines, such as Google, based on full words or stems. Boopsie reports that this technology results in 2.4 times more searches being performed on smartphones or tablets compared to traditional keyword search with whole-word type-ahead recommendations.
Business Revolving Around Platform-as-a-service
Boopsie for Libraries offers a platform-as-a-service as the basis for its offerings to libraries. This platform provides the technical infrastructure that underlies the customized and branded apps it creates for libraries. It resides between the mobile apps it creates in software and the library’s local servers. Each library’s data are loaded and indexed on the platform as well as the mechanisms for real-time interactions with library servers for current status of content items and for patron requests. This platform-as-a-service strategy allows Boopsie create mobile apps for libraries much more efficiently than if these apps targeted the individual integrated library systems and other servers.
Another part of Boopsie’s strategy centers on its capacity for app development. The customized apps are based on standard elements of functionality, which can be assembled for any library’s implementation. Boopsie simultaneously creates native apps for each of the major families of mobile devices, including iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle, and Windows Phone. It also manages any required verification or certification needed for approval and distribution through the app stores, such as the Apple App Store, Google Play, or Amazon Appstore.
The Boopsie platform includes AccessILS, which translates requests made by a Boopsie mobile app to the native mechanisms
appropriate for each integrated library system. AccessILS includes a set of connectors for each of the major ILS products,
programmed to accommodate the specific mechanisms required by a given ILS, enabling support for any library using that product. The platform also communicates with the APIs of e-book lending platforms, discovery services, databases, and other content sources.
Supported products include:
• Carl.X ILS from The Library Corporation.
• Library.Solution or LS2 PAC from The Library Corporation.
• Encore discovery interface from Innovative Interfaces.
• Evergreen open source ILS.
• Aleph ILS from Ex Libris.
• Voyager ILS form Ex Libris.
• Millennium and Sierra from Innovative.
• Koha open source ILS.
• Polaris ILS from Innovative.
• Horizon ILS from SirsiDynix.
• Symphony ILS from SirsiDynix.
Especially for public libraries, integration with e-book lending services ranks as an essential feature for a mobile library app. Libraries want their patrons to be able to discover, check-out, download, and read e-books on their mobile devices through the fewest number of steps possible. Interactions with the e-book lending platforms, such as those from OverDrive, 3M
Cloud Library, or Axis 360 from Baker & Taylor should happen behind-the-scenes and not require cumbersome hand-offs to those services.
Boopsie offers an option for OverDrive e-book integration, taking advantage of the OverDrive API to enable patrons to directly search the library’s catalog, select an e-book, and read it without leaving the app. The patron does not need to download and install the OverDrive Media Console, but will need to log into their MyOverDrive Account.
Integration partnerships were reached with 3M Library Systems for its 3M Cloud Library in January 2013 and with Baker & Taylor for Axis 360 in February 2015. An agreement with ProQuest to integrate e-books from its eLibrary service was completed in June 2014.
In addition to features that enable patrons to access library services remotely, Boopsie also offers features that expand options for those visiting the library in person. Boopsie BookCheck allows patrons to use the camera on their smartphone to
scan the barcode of items to perform self-check. For libraries which use electromagnetic theft detection strips or RFID security, patrons will need to have the books desensitized. Mobile phones lack the hardware capabilities to perform that part of the check-out procedure.
AccessILS Now Open for Business
Boopsie for Libraries developed the AccessILS set of middleware connectors to facilitate its own needs to communicate
with a diverse set of ILS and content products. Its apps need only transmit a request to AccessILS, which then sorts out the
communication with the ILS associated with the library of the patron and presents the current status of an item or completes
a request within the app. Connectors can be added or modified without the need to change the programming of the apps themselves. Should a library change its ILS, its mobile apps will continue to function with only a change to its profile configuration.
To further leverage the AccessILS middleware, Boopsie is now making it available to publishers and other content providers.
While Boopsie uses the AccessILS middleware to support its mobile apps, third party developers may use it to support
other systems or interfaces. The API is agnostic relative to the type of device for which it services requests.
This offering provides the ability to communicate with any supported ILS through the single API of the AccessILS
rather than having to address multiple and divergent APIs of each product. AccessILS obviates the need for a developer to
write their own connectors for each ILS product. A single set of requests can be programmed to address the AccessILS API. As
new versions of ILS products are released, Boopsie makes any needed changes in AccessILS, benefiting its own mobile apps as
well as third party applications using the middleware.
Specific pricing for the AccessILS service is based on the number of transactions serviced and other factors. Developers
interested in taking advantage of this service can contact Boopsie to negotiate pricing and receive documentation and a developer’s key for technical access to the APIs.
In its earliest years in business, Boopsie focused on providing its mobile products to academic and public libraries, but has
since expanded its customers to include K-12 schools, corporate, government, legal, and military libraries. The company
reports that over 4,000 libraries have subscribed to its mobile services. Consistent with increased concern by libraries to provide optimized services for mobile devices, Boopsie reported that it saw a 30 percent growth of new customers in 2014 over
the previous year.
Boopsie has also expanded internationally. It recently formed an agreement with iGroup to distribute its products to libraries in Asia.
Boopsie, Inc. was originally founded in 2006 by Greg Carpenter and Dr. Tim Kay.
Tony Medrano joined Boopsie in June 2013 as CEO, bringing a background as an educator and as an executive and in business development for other Silicon Valley companies involved with software-as-as-service, including Reply.com and SmartDrive Systems. Nicholas Wehr joined the company in April 2014 as its Executive Vice President for Technology. Wehr previously held positions at PRIMO Cinema, a secure content delivery platform for the movie industry. The original founders continue to be involved as non-executive advisors.
Boopsie is an independent Delaware corporation privately owned primarily by its founders and CEO. All thirteen individuals
employed by the company have stock options. The company operates entirely from operating revenues and has no outside
investment by venture capital or private equity firms. Medrano reports that this independence from investors has enabled the
company’s business strategy to focus on developing library-centric products and services instead of seeking short term profits or paying down debt. He continues, “Boopsie continues to grow into new markets, retain a very high percentage of its libraries as customers, and be rated by thousands of users surveyed as the library app platform with the best user experience.”
ILS Providers Ramp Up Mobile
Boopsie found its niche of providing mobile interfaces for libraries well ahead of the integrated library systems and discovery services having adequate built-in support. In recent years, most of these providers have re-worked their patron facing interfaces to follow responsive web design or to offer native mobile apps. The company continues to maintain and expand its customer base through its ability to deliver mobile user experience, increasingly critical to libraries, superior to what is available from the provider of the library’s ILS or other patron-oriented services. Even as its customer libraries implement new mobile-friendly responsive online catalog or search products, many will continue to offer their Boopsie mobile apps as an additional option.
In the current period, while an increasing number of ILS and discovery providers now offer either responsive interfaces or native apps, many still do not. Mobile support may available only in later versions of online catalog or discovery products,
which may not yet be widely deployed. Online catalog modules that follow a responsive design that automatically detects and presents a mobile-friendly interface include BiblioCommons, Ex Libris Primo, ProQuest Summon 2.0, Innovative’s
Encore 4.x and the open source Evergreen and Koha ILS products. Responsive catalogs have also been deployed using the open source Blacklight and VuFind discovery interface software. Table 6 lists sample implementations of the major online
catalog and discovery products, indicating whether these live sites support mobile devices via a responsive design. We observe that these products are either responsive or that their providers instead offer mobile apps.
As ILS, discovery, and content providers increasingly offer their own mobile-friendly patron-oriented products, libraries
may eventually be less dependent on specialized providers such as Boopsie. Others may prefer to continue to offer a
native mobile app even if they have responsive interfaces. In the meantime, the demand to provide an excellent experience to library patrons with mobile devices is higher than ever and often unfilled by their currently installed products.