An Interview with Talis Aspire's Alison Spencer

Alison Spencer, CEO of Talis Aspire, looks at the importance of open infrastructure in libraries.
An Interview with Talis Aspire's Alison Spencer

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Talis is a part of Technology from SAGE, and provides technology solutions designed to enhance teaching & learning outcomes, globally.

Talis Aspire is an online Resource List Management System that integrates seamlessly with any Learning Management System and Library Services Platform. For more information about Talis, please visit

What was your route to CEO of Talis?

I have always been motivated by focusing on how to impact end users through the use of technology; being able to positively impact so many teachers and learners has been a very strong motivation for me during my time at Talis.

I joined Talis in 2008; as a project manager to implement the library management system that is now owned by ESS (Alto).  Since joining Talis I have had a vast array of opportunities, enabling me a wide breadth of experience across the company. Focusing on the customer enabled me to grow the Talis experience as the services and community have developed and evolved.

I became CEO January 2021, after being appointed CEO designate in 2020; it has been a challenge at times, but I love that everyday I am learning, and continue to work with (and be supported by) the amazing people who make Talis, Talis!!


As the CEO at Talis, you are very familiar with the importance of open infrastructure, what is your perspective on this as it relates to reading lists?

Universities choose the systems that they want to work with to shape the experience they want for their teachers and learners. This is defined as the ecosystem of choice. Talis has focused on ensuring seamless integration, to enable a smooth experience for the end user within the university ecosystem.

Talis Aspire has well defined integration points with university systems which have developed over time as a result of university needs. These touch on many areas including the Library Management System, authentication system, Learning Management System, local copyright clearance solutions, and many others.

As an example of how the integration works for Talis Aspire: academics are already using the learning management system (for example Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle etc), so building in the ability to manage the Talis Aspire resource list (sometimes known as a reading list) from within this university system reduces the number of steps an academic needs to work through to create a resource list for their learners to engage with. This integration has been achieved using Learning Tools Interoperability standards developed by the teaching and learning community.

When FOLIO came to market, Talis started working with EBSCO to identify how the integration could effectively work, so that when we had our first mutual customer (Okanagan College -, we were able to implement the integration with FOLIO and Talis Aspire in a timely manner, providing full integration, and enabling learners viewing a Talis Aspire resource list, to be able to see availability of an item in the library or online.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you see libraries are facing today?

The pandemic has fast tracked the digital evolution, with some feeling that their library service has fast forwarded 5 years!  We have all had to learn how to manage in a remote environment, but equally, I think we have all found a new appreciation for the importance of social interaction and engagement.

In conversations I have had with University Librarians, it feels that one of the biggest challenges will be how to shape (and report on the success of) a library service that is meeting both the remote and on-campus learning experience.

As universities (and their libraries) shape their digital experience for their teachers and learners, I expect to see a greater number of systems and services being used. Interoperability will therefore increase in importance (and not just from the systems that we expect to work together today).

This evolution of service will drive greater focus on ensuring the right materials are being purchased, in a format that the students can access, for the right point in time, and at the right price. Resource lists will really help library management systems like FOLIO manage these requirements and drive effective acquisition decisions.

Data has been a key focus over recent years for libraries, and I expect we will see continued focus around using data to make decisions. This won’t just be data from a single system. Data from multiple systems can be used effectively to lead to insights to help further evolve services to students, ensuring that people are comparing like for like data points.


In your experience how did the Okanagan College Talis | FOLIO implementation go? What does their choice tell you about the FOLIO and Talis integration? What lessons can be learned from this experience that can be applied in the UK and beyond?

Talis and EBSCO had done the preliminary research into how Talis Aspire and FOLIO could integrate, so both were clear on the required integration work prior to Okanagan College becoming our first mutual customer.

This led to a timely integration experience, with us working closely with EBSCO and Okanagan College to tailor the integration, while meeting Okanagan College’s timeline for implementation.

The FOLIO Talis Aspire integration is now available for all, with a proven implementation approach for others to benefit from. If you would like to learn more about this contact me, and I will connect you with one of our Technical Consultants who worked to enable this (

What are you most excited about going into 2022?

From a social perspective, I am most looking forward to being able to connect with colleagues, customers, and peers again. An example of this is not yet having had the opportunity to meet the team at EBSCO face to face, despite talking to them monthly in 2021 to deliver the integration!

From a work perspective, I’m looking forward to continuing to work with libraries to drive impactful services, working with them to implement systems that will make a difference for their teachers and learners.

Talis created the first resource list management system to meet the needs of the library. As part of the Technology from SAGE Publishing - of pioneering digital services that make learning and research easier, I am excited to be able to amplify the library's value on campus, with the backing of a trusted name.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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