Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Future of Integrated Library Systems: Moving Toward New Models and Open Systems

The first session of a the Spring Conference, feels like a new pad of paper on the first day of school. The crowd is bustling, everyone chatting... If you've spent anytime in the cataloging world in Massachusetts, you would be recognizing the the faces of the heads of Cataloging Departments, those representing regional systems, and staff members from all over the state and then before you emerges one of the gurus in the field of library automation:
Marshall Breeding of Vanderbilt University. Aside from many other contributions to librarianship, he writes a monthly column in Computers in Libraries. For seven years, his column has collected information about library automation from vendors.

Breeding's experience makes him an ideal speaker to reflect on integrated library systems, open source systems, and where the two are going. He sped through way too much material, but in a very professional and insightful talk.

Breeding said: "Not much luck in 2nd generation systems" "We need to get beyond discovery" of just a title. We need to: ."Search -> Select -> View". That is our goal! It is not easy, but it is the ambition that we should have. Libraries can add a set of values... a search engine that retrieves "best and most interesting".. "not thesites that are going to sell best." Search engines that reflect our values. Good grouping is a good thing. Building collections that are not "the whole world", butsearching limited to a good collection.

Presently, he sees a dis-integrated environment, where we all need to work together. Core ILS's are generally supplemented by OpenURL Link Resolver, Metasearch, ERM, Next Generation Library Interfaces, RFID/ AMH.

Breeding sited how many people start their with the Library Catalog:

2% - go to a library catalog first to start their research in an academic setting
1% - go to a library catalog first to start their research in the general setting.

Breeding quipped: "University libraries are doing twice as well as the general libraries!"

Met with the big laugh, he continued:
"Help people discover!" he encouraged and asked how can we get a more rapid response and results that are visually rich "We live in a new environment where there are millions of books scanned. You have to be able to search all of those books all at once!We are moving beyond ....book chapters, and in the text...(Google Search). [As an old reference librarian, I thinking that has always been the challenge of librarianship.]

He continued saying: " the library world doesn't have search-inside-the-book option (Google and Amazon do!)". He wondered: How do you get good results searching through millions of things?

Breeding laments the trend of integrated library systems not being truly integrated. Seems to be getting worse as more vendors are added to provide the services needed. Fragmented industries with overlapping products developed during print days, now the industry is emerging into a highly consolidated market with less choices in the a hybrid environment. Breeding advocates more comprehensive systems, easier to install, more elegant, more efficient, and ones that save staff time.

Breeding advocates getting rid of modules for different types of materials....that's not how the library staff work! Change the model to reflect how libraries really work. Incorporate the global environment (Worldcat, Google, Amazon, etc.)

He envisions a system of smaller web systems to reflect the way library workflow evolves. We need to work with our vendors through partnerships to develp what libraries need. He feels that vendors need to succeed if libraries are to succeed.

According to Breeding there are amazing automation gaps in all automation systems:
Interlibrary loan
Collection development
Preservation: print and digital
Book Binding
Remote Storage

Unfortunately, Breeding rattled through the the slides on innovation on what ILS, but his handout provided links to major vendors: Ex Libris, Endeca, Innovative, AquaBrowser,OCLC WorldCat, SIRSIDynix, VUFind... but he covered a great deal of material in a short time.

"What we need is more openness, not necessarily Open Source"

He suggested demanding open acess to data and more customization.

1 person raised her hand in response to his question of who could actually write source code. So at least among the audience there were few that would be actually contributing to the expansion of OpenSource Software.

Yet, the audience responded with a large knowing laugh when he asked if they considered their vendors creative.

Breeding advocates librarians help building the architecture and standards that promote better systems. He got a big chuckle from the audience when he mentioned that it has taken"20 years not to complete Z39.50 standards!"

Yet, he sees that libraries are spending as much money as ever on integrated library systems and that companies are showing growth. Judges growth by whether they are adding staff. He gave some stats, which included that SIRSI Dynix and Library Corp decreased staff.

Many smaller libraries still have no automation (20 to 30% nationally) mainly due to price and where no regional systems exit.

Large libraries in a "wait and see" mode

He sees some problems. Some of these can be changed by librarians, others may not be in our hands. Examples: RFP are lists of 1980s technologies! can be changed. Tough economic times are upon us and cannot easily be changed.

Librarians change their ILS when only when they absolutely have to, when forced by vendor abandonment, need to move towards consortia system, or when they have a bad relationship with vendor or consortia

Breeding mentioned these new direction in integrated library systems:
Electronic content
Better User experience
Federated searching

Future - What to think about

Breeding mentioned some innovative companies. An example was Cambridge Information Group including Proquest and Bowker, which he felt may move toward an ILS

OCLC starting with technology acquisitions seem to be bringing them closer to an ILS
Risky alternatives, Breeding still considers Open Source a "risky" alternative.
He mentioned Andrew W. Mellon Foundation soliciting proposals for new systems.
Open Source is supplemented by those willing to assist.

Yet, Breeding did consider Open Source's positive effect on the library market:
It has created competition for the the ILS market as a whole
May create innovation
May decrease costs
May make the market more open

Breeding encouraged: Let's play by the same rules - Important to ask the right questions
Open source has to "be good" not just "feel good" philosophically
Do we offer more slack to Open Source companies?
Can open source survive the RFP checklist?
Total cost of ownership over a long period needs to be compared to established vendor fees.
Is this truly different software or is this just the same old software with a different business model?

Breeding hopes to see better interfaces:
Redefine "library catalog"
Question what's in the "library catalog"
Comprehensive environment, set pretty high by the Internet environment
Electronic resources can't be an afterthought in the library catalog
How can we harvest all the articles, all resources.
He mentioned that one can judge a system by how do it responds to a bad inquiry.
He feels that political and economic reasons exist for not consolidating resources, but the technology is there.
He is looking for web tools and technology that foster collaboration, tagging, social bookmarking, user rating, user reviews, community interaction.And all that with a single point entry.

Great talk! So much to do, so little time....

No comments: