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Horizon Integrated Library System Product Review

Kristi B. Robb
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
February 27, 2014


This report will examine the Horizon Integrated Library System, a proprietary product of the
SirsiDynix Cooperation. It will give a description of the product, as well as one automation
librarians opinion of the product as reported in a personal interview. This report will also make
first hand comparisons between the Horizon Integrated Library System and the open source EOS
International Integrated Library System.


Horizon Integrated Library System Product Review
Integrated library systems (ILS) are a necessity in todays library world. Every library
needs to utilize one to some extent in order to function on a daily basis. While there are many
ILSs available, both in open source format and by vendors alike, this report will focus on one in
particular, Horizon. Overall, this report utilizes information and insight based on one automation
managers experiences with the system in a large library consortium, as well as literature and
documentation regarding the Horizon system.
Horizon ILS History
The Horizon ILS is a proprietary product managed by a company or vendor known as
SirsiDynix (SirsiDynix, 2013a). However, Horizon has not always belonged to this company; in
the past, both Sirsi and Dynix were two individual companies, and the Horizon ILS originally
belonged to Dynix (Breeding, 2005). It was in 2005 that Sirsi and Dynix merged, or technically
when Sirsi acquired Dynix, and became SirsiDynix (Breeding, 2007). Breeding (2007) notes
that in 2007, the SirsiDynix company announced that it would no longer develop the Horizon
system and instead would focus on one system. However, upon further investigation of the
company website, SirsiDynix is still supporting libraries that use the Horizon system, and it also
seems as if they are still developing the system regardless of past statements indicating they
would not (SirsiDynix, 2013a). This is further corroborated by an interview conducted with the
Automation Librarian of Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO), Donovan R. Lambright.
According to D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014), the company is
apparently still supporting and developing Horizon, and while it was announced that Horizon
was to be phased out, not as many libraries migrated to their other system, Symphony as

SirsiDynix had anticipated. However, many libraries and librarians consider the Horizon ILS to
be a legacy system.
Horizon in General and its Modules
According to both D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014) and an
article by Savage and Wilkinson (1999), the Horizon ILS is a relational database that utilizes a
client/server design. Additionally, Savage and Wilkinson explain that the system relies on tables
embedded within it in order to make this relational idea viable. Regarding the implementation of
Horizon in a Polish library, the author states this of the Horizon ILS:
Horizon is a fully integrated client/server library management system, providing a
graphical user interface for the library, and offering the functionality and standards
required for an open system, including Web access, Z39.50 standard for information
exchange, the TCP/IP communication standard, UNIX and Windows NT for portability.
Horizon uses the SQL database management system, available from Sybase or Microsoft.
(Poplawska, 1999, pp. 255-256)
In general, the relationship of the SQL tables within the database is what allows Horizon to have
such great power. D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014) explained that
some systems do not allow the user to have access to the guts of the system but Horizon does
through its SQL tables.
There are several modules present that comprise the Horizon ILS. According to what is
available in SELCOs implementation of the Horizon ILS, these modules include searching,
acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, inventory, serials, and administration. The searching
module seems quite simple. In the Horizon Manual 2004 (n.d.), the screenshots of the searching
module look identical to the implementation currently found at SELCO. According to the

Horizon Manual 2004, the four main options in this module allow the user to do a new search,
view new additions, view requests, and utilize the Z39 option. Using the new search option
brings up a list of indices that a user can search with in order to find the necessary item, and this
type of search is outside the online public access catalog (OPAC) (Horizon Manual 2004, n.d.).
Utilizing more documentation materials, the SirsiDynix (2013b) SirsiDynix Horizon
Acquisitions Basics Training Guide provided a detailed description of the many aspects of this
module which are far outside the scope of this report. The acquisitions guide provides basic
training on the features of the module such as creating selection lists, recording purchase
requests, creating purchase orders, approving purchase orders, transmitting purchase orders,
receiving items, and recording statements (SirsiDynix, 2013d, p.4).
In Horizon, the cataloging module is used to create records so that patrons will be able to
find what they are looking for in the catalog. According to the SirsiDynix (2013f) SirsiDynix
Horizon Cataloging Basics Training Guide, the cataloging module allows the user to create
items, create bibliographic and authority records, as well as make sure that the work done in the
module follows the guidelines set forth by the user organization.
The circulation module in Horizon is used to check items in and out to patron accounts,
but there is much more to utilizing this function than might appear at first. While some of the
various intricacies are outside the scope of this paper, the Horizon Manual 2004 (n.d.) explained
that staff members are able to use this module to create new borrower records for patrons, etc.
D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014) explained that for member
libraries of SELCO, Horizon allows individual libraries to tailor the system to meet their needs.
Since SELCO is a federated consortium, the fact that Horizon is so customizable is important (D.
R. Lambright, personal communication, February 27, 2014).

The inventory module that is found in Horizon allows the user to see if the available
items on the shelf match the bibliographic data, call numbers, collection codes, and item status
found in the Horizon database (Dynix, 2003). This module allows the library to account for their
items and generate reports based on the data collected in order to resolve errors within the
collection (D. R. Lambright, personal communication, February 27, 2014).
The serials module within the Horizon ILS consists of two sub-modules, serials control
and serials check-in (Savage & Wilkinson, 1999). The serials check-in:
tracks serial items that you receive and expect to receive, but which are not yet held by
your library. Checking in serials is the process of integrating new serials materials into
your librarys materials.
Before you can check in serials, a copy record must exist in Serials Control for
each subscription to a title. (SirsiDynix, 2013b, p.1)
Based on this quote, it is necessary to have a copy record in the serials control module before a
serial can be checked in.
The administration module is used by the Horizon ILS system administrator. According
to SirsiDynix (2013e) SirsiDynix Horizon Administration Training Guide, the module includes
table editor and view control, day end processing, circulation administration, cataloging
administration, and reports, (p.1). While this module is mostly for the system administrator, it
is important to note that it exists and only some users should have access to it.
Pros/Cons of the Horizon ILS
There are both many pros and many cons of the Horizon ILS. The features of the system
that make it a worthwhile choice as an ILS are numerous. One significant aspect of the Horizon
ILS is that it is a relational database (D. R. Lambright, personal communication, February 27,

2014). This means that the database is made up of many tables which are linked together
(Miller, 2009).
According to D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014), another
important feature of Horizon is that it is very consortium-friendly because it permits for the
customization that is needed for the federated nature of the region, which allows each library to
have its own policies and procedures with the ability to accommodate them all through
configuration of the various settings. Additionally, Horizon is user-friendly in that it offers a
graphical user interface so staff members are able to use the system without needing to know
SQL or command line tools. However, the ability to use SQL within the database is also seen as
an additional advantage. D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014) stated
that some systems do not allow access to the inner workings, such as the SQL tables, and he
believes the ability to use the SQL tables to create reports and query data on an ad-hoc basis is an
advantageous feature that not all ILS systems make available.
There are also a few cons of the current Horizon ILS system. The first con of the system
is that the system is aging and the design of the interface is outdated (D. R. Lambright, personal
communication, February 27, 2014). In addition, the fact that SirsiDynix is no longer developing
the ILS is another disadvantage (Breeding, 2007). Eventually, this system will be discontinued
and libraries still using it will need to migrate to SirsiDynixs flagship ILS, Symphony, or
another ILS vendor option. In fact, the literature surrounding Horizon encourages libraries still
using it to migrate to another ILS option sooner rather than later (Khurshid & Al-Baridi, 2009).
Additional Products/Add-on Features
According to D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February 27, 2014), there are
other products that work well with the Horizon ILS. He listed the current discovery layer

SELCO is using, AquaBrowser, as well as the future discovery layer, Enterprise, which is
managed by SirsiDynix (D. R. Lambright, personal communication, February 27, 2014). Both of
these allow for superior searching ability by patrons. The Horizon OPAC is different than a
discovery layer because the discovery layer is not built into the ILS like the OPAC, but instead
sits on top of the ILS, which makes it an add-on to the system (D. R. Lambright, personal
communication, February 27, 2014).
Another product that works in combination with the ILS is OverDrive. OverDrive is
used by library patrons as a way to download eBooks. According to D. R. Lambright (personal
communication, February 27, 2014), OverDrive and AquaBrowser work together to give patrons
a more seamless experience; currently, a patron can find a title to download for their eBook
device and click on the link to go to the OverDrive website where the content has to actually be
downloaded from. While it is seamless, it is also cumbersome. With the new edition of
Enterprise, this process will become much simpler with one-click downloads (D. R. Lambright,
personal communication, February 27, 2014). This feature that is integrated into the catalog is
an additional product that is available.
In addition to the aforementioned features, another add-on to the Horizon system is Web
Reporter (D. R. Lambright, personal communication, February 27, 2014). This product is web-
based and allows the end user to run pre-canned reports on modules such as circulation,
acquisitions, and serials (SirsiDynix, n.d.). Additionally, the user can create customized reports
specific to the needs of the library, as well as schedule reports to kick-off at routine intervals
(SirsiDynix, n.d.).
Overall, the AquaBrowser/Enterprise discovery layers, OverDrive, and Web Reporter are
all features of the system that are not core to the Horizon ILS. Instead, they are external to the

system and for that reason can be counted as add-ons, as well as products that work with the ILS
to improve access to materials both electronic and otherwise.
Horizon and the Consortium
As was stated earlier in this report, D. R. Lambright (personal communication, February
27, 2014) said that the Horizon ILS is very consortium-friendly because it is so customizable,
and the settings can be configured and tailored to the needs of each individual library that is a
member of the SELCO organization. Finding other documented sources to support this claim
made by Lambright was difficult. However, upon looking at Breedings (n.d.) Company
Directory: SirsiDynix page, which shows the number of Horizon libraries still in existence, it
was clear by clicking on the individual links that many of the public libraries were consortiums.
This lends some credibility Lambrights comments.
The SirsiDynix Company provides support and training resources for the ILS systems
that they offer, which can be found by going to the support tab on the top of the SirsiDynix
website. The URL for the support feature is After successfully
logging in, the user can initially see messages and alerts from SirsiDynix on a range of topics.
This support center allows the user to see unresolved issues that the individual user has open
with the company. Knowledge base articles are available to browse, as well as a training tab
that provides the actual text training documents for the particular ILS that the library is using. In
this case, the training documents for Horizon seem to be quite extensive, with some aspects
having more than one training document available.
What seems to be lacking on the website in terms of documentation is information on
searching in Horizon. While it may be a part of another document, it seems as if this

documentation does not exist and would be something a user would look for as a stand-alone
document. Like the lack of stand-alone documentation on searching, product presentations on
this system are not present on the company website since Horizon is a dying product (SirsiDynix,
Comparisons between Horizon and Others
Many ILS systems have similar core modules. Since Horizon is now considered by some
a legacy system and many libraries are facing or are going to face a migration, it is important to
compare Horizon to other ILS systems, in particular open source systems, such as EOS
International. This comparison is particularly valuable due to the fact that SirsiDynix has now
assimilated the EOS International company into itself (SirsiDynix, 2013c).
Upon first comparison, the modules in the EOS International system are also present in
the Horizon system. These include a searching module, a cataloging module, a circulation
module, a serials module, and an acquisitions module. While Horizon contains all of these
modules, it further includes an inventory module, as well as an administration module.
The organization of the two systems is similar in that there is a navigational interface, but
the two do not contain the same information in these navigation bars. While Horizons main
modules are along the left-hand side of the screen, they are along the top of the window in EOS
International. Within each module of the EOS International system, the features that are
available are named differently than in Horizon. For example, there is no feature in Horizon for
authority control that is present in the same way it is displayed in EOS International. Instead,
authority work takes place in the background of the system without a feature specifically
designed to attract the user to it as in EOS International. Lastly, Horizon does not have an
extensive reports feature like the EOS International system does for each individual module.

In terms of presentation, Horizon and EOS International differ greatly. Because Horizon
is a stand-alone system and EOS is a web-based system, they seem to present information in a
different fashion. When working within Horizon, it feels as if the user is in a distinct system,
which is made clear by the user interface. In the EOS International database, it feels as if the
user is not in a database at all, but instead is just on an interactive Web 2.0 website. Both
systems seem very clean and uncluttered however.
When it comes to the functionality of the two systems, the same major functions are
present in each system. Searching is an important feature of any library database, but the way in
which the two systems do this differs drastically. On the staff side of Horizon, the search is
limited to a specific set of indices available, and on the other hand in EOS International, a simple
and advanced search is present like a user might expect to see on the patron side of a catalog or
on a web page. In that sense, the EOS International system seems more user-friendly. In both
Horizon and EOS International, patrons can create and save lists and searches they have
The cataloging module in the Horizon system looks very different than the EOS
International cataloging module. Cataloging materials in Horizon forces the user to know the
MARC fields, subfields, and correct International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD)
punctuation. In the EOS International system, EasyMARC is an option that does not require the
user to know very much about MARC tags, subfields or ISBD punctuation. In Horizon, there is
no EasyMARC system as there is in EOS International. EasyMARC allows the user to simply
put information into predefined boxes clearly labeled as title, author etc. This feature makes the
EOS International system more user-friendly but may mean less quality data.

The circulation module between the two systems is similar in that the user is able to scan
the barcode of the library card and the item barcode in order to check materials out. Also, the
check-in process is similar in that the user simply has to scan the barcode of the item. This is
true in both the EOS International system and the Horizon system. Horizon and EOS
International both have the ability to check materials in using the bookdrop and inhouse check in
features as well. Information needed in order to create patron records in the two systems is also
The serials module for both systems allows for the creation of a serial record, as well as
the serials check in option. The acquisitions module in each system works in much the same
way by allowing the user to create purchase orders, line items, etc. While presented differently
via the graphical user interface, these modules essentially perform the same functions even if
their method of getting there is slightly different.
Horizons Major Markets/Types of User Base
In general, Horizon was originally intended for use by academic libraries but is now
utilized by a significantly larger number of public libraries than academic libraries (Breeding,
2005). According to Breeding (n.d.), who maintains the Company Directory: SirsiDynix page,
there are approximately 490 public libraries utilizing the Horizon ILS, 209 academic libraries,
and 39 school libraries.
Horizon Implementation Examples
Implementation on an ILS system, no matter what system a library chooses, is a large
undertaking. Both the Nicholas Copernicus University Library in Toru and the Parke-Davis
Pharmaceutical Research Library implemented the Horizon ILS system in their respective
libraries. At the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research Library, their migration process was a

learning experience for SirsiDynix since this library was one of the first to implement the system
completely; there was no roadmap in place for the installation (Zorn, Logan, Murphy, &
Williams, 1995). According to their article on the implementation of Horizon in the Parke-Davis
Pharmaceutical Research Library, transferring the MARC bibliographic and item information
from their old system Dynix Classic to the new Horizon ILS was not an easy or quick process
(Zorn, et al., 1995). When it came to acquisitions data, the choice was made to only transfer the
vendor file, however, in hindsight the authors state that it might have been better if no
acquisitions data had been migrated and the vendor file had been rebuilt as needed (Zorn, et al.,
1995, p. 139). Approximately 90% of serials data transferred with few issues; however, those
serials with more detailed prediction patterns did not have a very clean transfer to the new
system (Zorn, et al., 1995).
Another implementation process of Horizon happened at the Nicholas Copernicus
University Library in Toru. This article focused on the cataloging module as the author
believes this is the most important module in any ILS system (Poplawska, 1999). The catalogers
believed the new Horizon cataloging module was a bit complex; however, with more experience,
they gained a better understanding and the module became easier to use. Additionally, they
touted its ability to have multiple records open at one time (Poplawska, 1999). In general, these
two Horizon implementation examples show an overall user satisfaction.
The Horizon Integrated Library System has been a strong and powerful ILS over the
years. Unfortunately for those libraries still using the legacy system, they will face the simple
fact that they will need to migrate in the coming future since SirsiDynix has discontinued
sustained development of the system. Even so, the system in general is a consortium-friendly

relational database that affords users the ability to customize and configure settings to meet the
needs of individual libraries. With knowledge, a user can utilize SQL to work with the tables
that are present in the system allowing for a more customizable return in data. Also, the Horizon
system compares favorably to other ILS systems, including the one consulted in this report, EOS
International in terms of its modules; however, it may be slightly less user-friendly. The Horizon
ILS is powerful and while it may not be the flagship system of the SirsiDynix Company, it
certainly has and still continues to work well for those libraries utilizing it.


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