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Purchasing an ILS (Part 7): Request references and conduct interviews

Try to find the time to incorporate these activities into your selection process. It was through this process that I acquired important information about how each system under review was fitting within libraries. Through this process, you will hear from other consumers. Their perspectives will not be available from the vendor and they will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the system.

Request References

Start by requesting references from the vendor, and ask for references for libraries that are similar to yours. I was looking for Canadian special library references. All of the vendors that I worked with were willing to share this information.

References can also be found if the library has an OPAC. For many OPACs, the vendor’s product name is part of the library catalogue’s URL. For example (where “[…]” constitutes information specific to the particular library):

If you do an Internet search for “sirsiweb” or “inmagicgenie”, a number of library systems will be retrieved. If one fits your criteria (e.g. in my case a Canadian special library), consider getting in touch with them.

Develop Your List of Questions

Develop a short list of questions to guide you during the interview process. Doing so will also ensure that you’re asking all of the references the same core set of questions.

I asked the following questions:

  1. What systems did you review when choosing an ILS?
  2. Did you migrate from another system to [system under review]?
    • If so, what prompted you to migrate to another ILS?
    • What system did you migrate from and how did you find the migration process?
  3. How has your experience been so far with using [system under review]?
  4. Is your library publicly accessible and your catalogue available online?
  5. What problems have you experienced with [system under review]?
    • Is there any feature that you don’t like? Please describe.
  6. Were [the vendor’s] training and support materials sufficient for your needs?
  7. Are there any other libraries that you are familiar with that are using [system under review]?

Schedule and conduct interviews

People were happy to share their feedback and perpectives on the systems we were reviewing, which was excellent and much appreciated. If possible, try to have a telephone conversation with someone. If this isn’t possible, email correspondence also works quite well.


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