Library Management Systems – a roadmap for regional LMS

Published on 28 January 2022, by Helene Gorring

Library management systems, Resource Discovery

About the plans for regional library management systems

What’s the current picture nationally and what do we want to achieve?

There are 93 separate library management systems (LMSs) currently in use by NHS knowledge and library services in England. Some of these are regional or shared by a small number of services, but the majority are single-service systems, each with their own OPACs.

The benefits of shared LMS include enabling access to a greater pool of resources, consistency and simplicity of end-user experience, time-savings and workflow streamlining opportunities for library teams, and cost-savings for the NHS.

As with any type of sharing, economies and opportunities must be balanced against the need for collaborating partners to have influence and ownership, and there isn’t a formula for determining the optimal number of library services to include in a shared system.

Regional collaboration has always been important to NHS library services.  We think it makes sense to work towards about seven regional systems across the country, fully integrated with the national discovery layer to further reduce the number of multitude of search platforms. So that’s our aim for the next five years.

To date there have been regional differences in the extent to which HEE or its predecessors have contributed to the cost of library management systems. So another goal is to achieve equity.

The Knowledge for Healthcare Board has agreed that HEE should assume responsibility for the library service delivery infrastructure and move to fully funding the hosting and management of regional LMS going forward.

A programme of work to achieve these goals began in 2020:

South West, Thames Valley and Wessex

The longest established region wide consortium comprising 27 library services, the SWIMS network, has implemented new LMS from Infor (now Axiell), replacing legacy software which had been used for many years.

The SWIMS catalogue has been integrated into the NHS Knowledge and Library Hub, so Hub users in this region can find the print books - and more easily discover the e-books - available to them.

East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Work is currently underway to implement replacement shared LMSs for 16 library services in the East of England, and 12 in KSS, following a procurement exercise which resulted in a contract award to PTFS Europe for their Koha system.  This is due to go live in May 2022.

London and the Midlands

The work undertaken by one of the 2021 Senior Leadership Programme project groups and the enthusiasm of library service managers have combined to build commitment to expanding the existing South London Koha consortium to include other London libraries.

Three services will have joined by the end of March, and two further expansion phases planned.  

A similar development is taking place in the Midlands, where a consortium of 10 library services in the Birmingham area have used a shared Koha system for some years.

Following engagement with other services in the Midlands, a further 12 services will join during 2022 and 2023.

HEE has used the Government’s G-Cloud Framework to directly procure Koha from PTFS Europe for both regions, and from April is fully funding the implementation costs as well as the ongoing hosting and management costs.


Last but definitely not least, the north, where the seven North East library services which have been using a shared system provided by OCLC are looking to be the next to have their shared catalogue integrated into the NHS Knowledge and Library Hub.

To date, most library services in the North West and in Yorkshire and Humber have continued to use existing local LMS  – a wise move given the amount of system change which has taken place recently and impacted on library services. 

The introduction of a new library system is undoubtedly a significant change project) and the benefits of waiting to learn from others’ experience.

As above, though, equity is one of our principles, and we don’t want any region to miss out, so we will continue conversations with northern service managers to progress regional LMS.

Who’s making all this happen?

In each region with an LMS implementation, extension or integration taking place, the managers of participating services are on steering groups with team members variously involved in project and module groups.  We have also been fortunate to secure dedicated time from library staff who have stepped up as project managers and system managers and administrators.

We have recently established a community of practice for everyone operating in these roles, for peer support, to share practice and experience, and to avoid duplication.

One of the members of the group, Jenny Toller who is the SWIMS Lead in the South region, comments:

"On-boarding a library into an existing LMS might seem like a technical exercise of moving records from one system to another, but there is so much more to it than that.  One main learning point from recent experience is to get Information Governance and IT on board right from the very start of the project."

Emily Johnson, Project Manager for the Midlands notes:

“The work in the Midlands has very much been a collaborative process. We have been working hard to develop shared Circulation and Cataloguing rules. This has brought challenges at times; the proposed Midlands LMS includes close to 50 different libraries, many with their own historical rules which have been debated and worked through. We have now managed to gain a consensus which we believe will work best for library users in the region.”

For further information about any of these projects, please contact your regional resource discovery lead.