During the 1977-78 academic year, Dr. Garry Hays, chancellor of the Minnesota State University System, established an Advisory Committee on Libraries and Media Services. In July of 1979, as a result of this group’s work, the State University Board, the University Presidents, and the University Library Directors made the joint decision to proceed with a project that would focus on the automation of library systems. This decision was based on the premise that a cooperative, computer-based bibliographic system would be a foundation for achieving many of the committee's recommendations, and would enable each individual institution to significantly enhance its ability to meet the information needs of its students and faculty. This was the beginning of the PALS organization. The name PALS was originally an acronym for Project for Automated Library Systems.
The goal of the new organization was automation of the existing labor-intensive library operations of acquisitions, serials control, interlibrary loan, indexing access, and circulation. The PALS Office was charged with the development of automated library systems that would provide the following:
- Improved access to information resources for students and faculty,
- Management data not previously available,
- Improved routine clerical efficiency, and
- An interface between existing manual and automated systems at both the institutional and inter-institutional levels
Developed first for the state universities, as the functionality of the PALS software grew, so did the consortium of libraries using it. The community and technical colleges were added, as well as state government, private college, special, public, and school libraries, establishing a public-private partnership for library services. The consortium established its own governance structure, which advises the Executive Director of PALS on future directions, priorities, and financial planning, including annual membership fees.
In 1996, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities joined with the University of Minnesota to seek funding from the Minnesota Legislature to obtain a new automated library system. In 1997, the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office was awarded funds by the Minnesota Legislature to acquire and implement a statewide library system. Ex Libris’ Aleph was the software selected, and a contract was signed in 2001. The PALS Office completed the implementation of the Aleph software for its member libraries in May, 2006. The new system is known to library patrons as the MnPALS library system.
PALS began working with online learning and customer relationship management software in 2003. The relationship with RightNow Technologies began in that year with two pilot projects. By the end of 2003, PALS had a full time employee dedicated to support in this area. In 2006, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities signed an enterprise-wide contract with RightNow Technologies, which provides customer relationship management software to the MnSCU System’s institutions at a reduced cost.