Cornell University

Cornell University Library and FOLIO: An Open-Source ILS Using EBSCO as a Service Provider

At a Glance

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Institution Type:   Academic Libraries
Related Products:   EBSCO FOLIO

cornell open source image


For more than 20 years, Cornell University Library used Voyager by Ex Libris as its integrated library system (ILS). As time passed, its limitations were exposed, especially since both libraries and information technology changed significantly over the years. In order to meet its current needs and anticipate future requirements, the library was poised for a complete rethink of its ILS.

Cornell University is made up of about 24,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff. The library also supports community members beyond Cornell as part of its land grant mission. Its library collection is composed of nearly 8.5 million print volumes, 1.7 million e-books, 140,000 electronic serials, and 8,500 print serials.

In 2016, the library became one of the founding members of the FOLIO community and have played a substantial role in helping to rethink and create workflows in the new system.


When library leaders decided to consider new options for managing their collections and operations, they formed a committee to choose their next library management system. The committee considered factors that were critical to the library, including:

  • Core library management functionality
  • High-volume production workflows
  • Ability to access and modify source code
  • Broad metadata options (MARC, non-MARC, linked data, etc.)
  • Integration of E-Resource Management functionality
  • Ability to support a great patron experience
  • High-performance access to data (Discovery, SOLR, SQL, API, etc.)

In the end, FOLIO stood out in part because it is open-source. “The open-source and collaborative nature of FOLIO aligns with Cornell University Library’s commitment to open access and the wide sharing of knowledge,” said Simeon Warner, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology.

The library also appreciated FOLIO’s improved functionality and greater freedom and flexibility. “It’s a very dynamic system,” said Warner. “We are not at a vendor’s mercy for how it’s going to work, and we’re also not locked into the way that it works right now. We can request that the FOLIO community develop a new feature, or we can develop it ourselves and contribute it to the community.”

In addition to selecting FOLIO, the library chose EBSCO to provide implementation, hosting and support services. “EBSCO’s experience and implementation/migration services were a large factor in our choice to go with a hosted solution,” shared Debra Howell, Director of Information Technology Operations.

The Move to FOLIO

Cornell University Library launched EBSCO FOLIO ERM in January 2020 and migrated fully to FOLIO in July 2021.

The library created an implementation team with membership from each key area across Cornell University Library including reporting, finance, metadata management, access services, user testing, acquisitions, serials processing, cataloging, eResource management, training, infrastructure, integrations and discovery. Additionally, two key data migration staff members partnered with the EBSCO Implementation Consultants for data migration, including identifying what data to migrate and what data to warehouse.

The library has customized integrations to a myriad of other applications including GOBI, EBSCO Discovery Service™ (EDS), CaiaSoft, BorrowDirect, Ares, Aeon and ILLiad; open-source software such as Blacklight and ArchivesSpace; and several internal systems including the Cornell Bursar and Financial systems and LTS Workflows.

In addition to FOLIO, the library also made the move to EDS for article search. Howell shares that the existing connection between FOLIO and EBSCO’s Holdings Management system was a factor in the decision to implement EDS and other services that rely on the EBSCO e-resource knowledgebase.

To prepare staff for the eventual move to a new system, the library provided multiple training opportunities, including FOLIO Fridays, FOLIO Demo Days, EBSCO’s Explore Sessions, targeted functional training, and participation in FOLIO community Bug Fests. FOLIO Fridays occurred for several years leading up to the move to inform staff about FOLIO functionality and Cornell’s implementation. The library also sent weekly “This Week In FOLIO” emails that included fun facts, training opportunities for that week, and project updates.

According to Howell, the library’s switch to the open-source system is a milestone not just for Cornell but for the global library community.

“Cornell is the first large research library in the world to go live with FOLIO, and others are learning from our experience,” Howell said. “In implementing a software system of this size and complexity, we had a very smooth go-live experience,” she added. “This is attributable to the dedication of our staff from every part of the library. Our EBSCO Implementation Consultants have been invaluable partners during our migration and implementation. They have provided support and guidance throughout the process.”

Manager of EBSCO FOLIO Consulting Services, Anya Arnold said: “Working with Cornell gave us the opportunity to refine and hone our implementation process and be able to support a large, academic research library. Together with the Cornell implementation team, we were able to put plans in place to mitigate issues before they even arose. Because of these plans, they were able to smoothly transition from Voyager one day to FOLIO the next.” Arnold continued: “I am looking forward to seeing how Cornell shapes the future of FOLIO – I’m glad I was a part of it.”

The Outcome

In the end, an open-source ILS with EBSCO as their hosting and service provider was the right fit for Cornell University Library.

“We decided to implement FOLIO due to our belief in and support for open-source,” says Jason Kovari, Director of Cataloging and Metadata Services at Cornell Library. “We were tired of vendor lock-in and even more tired of having a lack of agency in the development of the system that is so critical to functions across our library. Further, we saw this as a means to support an ever-evolving system that will develop as our needs develop. FOLIO is built on this ethos. We did not decide to implement FOLIO for any one set of functionalities; instead, we selected FOLIO so that we can decide the direction of development along with an amazing community of peers.”

Learn more about EBSCO FOLIO