Back to school for Clearwater


Clearwater Corporate Finance advised on an £8 million secondary management buy-out of Micro Librarian Systems Ltd (“MLS”), the leading provider of library management systems to the UK education sector, based in Marple, Stockport.

MLS was established in 1981 and now almost 9,000 schools use its two main packages, Junior Librarian and Eclipse. Junior Librarian is aimed at primary schools as a self-service system allowing children to manage the library on a day-to-day basis. Eclipse is a sophisticated, yet user-friendly system for secondary school libraries. It is its ease of use which has made Eclipse so popular in this market and this is one of the main reasons why so many librarians have converted to it from other systems.

The management systems have enabled teachers and school librarians to ignite children’s enthusiasm for using their school library, bringing books to life with additional features such as allowing children to watch video clips of authors talking about their books. Teachers are also able to employ the technology as a teaching tool and can utilise the stored data to identify, for example, which pupils need more encouragement to read.

Livingbridge, which was introduced to MLS by Clearwater Corporate Finance, was successful in winning the mandate due to its track record in, and understanding of, the software market and its previous working relationship with MLS’s chairman, Richard Beaton. MLS represents the third investment by Livingbridge in the IT sector in just over 12 months.

James Hall, who led the deal for Livingbridge alongside Andy Gregory, will represent Livingbridge on the board. He commented: “We were attracted to MLS by its market leading position in a sector where there is still much to go for. The government’s commitment to investing in improving ICT and literacy standards in our schools, combined with MLS’s drive into new technology areas such as biometric user identification, will further fuel market growth”.

MLS Managing Director, Andrew O’Brien, commented: “The size of the UK market means there remains significant opportunity for growth. We are also at the leading edge of product development and, with Livingbridge on board, we will be continuing to invest in this area as well as looking carefully at new markets such as overseas”.

Simon Henderson, assistant director with Clearwater Corporate Finance added: “This is the second deal we’ve advised management on. MLS has achieved considerable success since the MBO in 2004 and are now in an excellent position to further expand in the UK and overseas.”