University of Essex Turns to Hosting for Sierra, Gives Library and IT Staff More Time for Patron Service

It’s no surprise that IT staff are busy—especially at a large university. For the University of Essex, an Innovative library partner since 1995, the decision to move to a hosted solution came easily as it meant their IT department would no longer need to support the library’s hardware or maintain their server.  Additionally, it would help staff gain space in the building by moving equipment to an Innovative private cloud located in Dublin.

Given these efficiency improvements and the university’s long-standing relationship with Innovative as a supportive, forward-thinking library vendor, the university concluded that an upgrade to Sierra with hosting was the best solution to support their strategic plans.


“Because of our long-standing relationship with Innovative, and the value they bring as a forward-thinking library vendor, we knew we wanted to upgrade to Sierra. With Innovative’s extensive knowledge of library workflows and the details they put into their solutions, Sierra has enabled our staff to truly excel and better serve our university.”

– Clare French, Assistant Director (Information and User Services), The University of Essex


More Time To Raise The Library’s Profile

Hosting has enabled Essex staff to access their data in a shared location, and review analytics for data-driven decisions around acquisitions and collection deployment. With Sierra’s robust RESTful APIs, the library is able to integrate with other systems throughout the university, becoming an integral part of the faculty and user experience. What’s more, staff has the extra time to focus on the services they provide, spending less of their day on manual tasks. In turn, faculty and students have greater access to a more attentive staff – a benefit that fulfills the university’s mission to remain committed to excellence in teaching and excellence in research.


Localised Software Support Where and When They Need It

Based in the United Kingdom, having localised support is extremely important to the University of Essex, especially since moving to a hosted Sierra solution. With an Innovative office in Dublin, the library has peace of mind knowing they can speak with the support team in their same time zone. This is particularly important, as Sierra is hosted in a Tier4 security collocation facility in Dublin.

Caroline Checkley, Digital Systems and Services at the University credits Innovative’s support as a key reason for the Sierra upgrade. “The technical support we’ve experienced with Innovative over the years has never faltered, and we trust them to manage our upgrades and ensure our applications are performing well.”


Workflows That Personalize the Experience. For Everyone.

Every person within the library plays a different role in the sustainability of the institution and the success of its students. The ability to create new workflow efficiencies was key for the Essex library staff. Sierra fulfilled that essential need through role-specific functionality, enabling better workflow across all departments. With a personalized interface for each staff role, each system displays the key information necessary to support that staff person’s responsibilities. And when updates are made, the entire system reflects those changes.

Sierra has also made it much easier for the circulation staff to get out from behind their desks to assist students anywhere in the library. Essex now uses the Sierra web application to support a roving help desk where “rovers” patrol the library to see if anyone needs help, using tablets to access the web version of their catalogue to answer questions and issue books from the stacks.

Innovative also brings greater efficiencies to the Essex library catalogue with Encore Duet, the discovery layer that provides users a more efficient way of searching for scholarly articles, books, and local digital collections, in one interface and in real time.

“As a long-time Innovative partner, we were under the impression this functionality was standard for all discovery layers, until we heard other libraries who were not using Innovative’s integrated discovery solution were struggling, ” Checkley explained  “Innovative set the expectation for real-time discovery, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Overall, the hosted Sierra solution allows the University of Essex to better communicate with faculty, students, and other systems, all while becoming a more efficient, effective resource on campus.