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Perspective and commentary by Marshall Breeding

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Automation Marketplace 2009: Investing in the Future

Library Journal April 1, 2009 issue

For the last eight years, I have authored the “Automation Marketplace” feature published by Library Journal, which appears in the April 1 issue. This article reflects my attempt to characterize the state of the library automation industry, identifying product and technology trends that libraries need to know as they develop their automation strategies and acquire products from this slate of companies. Libraries spend significant portions of their resources on technology and need to shape their plans armed with as much data as possible. The Automation Marketplace articles rely on information received from the companies in response to a structured survey that that requests data regarding many aspects of their business activity. I work hard to ensure that the data represented in the article are consistent and provide the best measures reasonably possible, given the tremendous variations in the ways that each of these organizations package their products and services. The article is also informed by other information that I collect on the library automation industry from many sources throughout the year.

One of the most difficult tasks in developing the article involves creating its tag line, a phrase that attempts to capture the main theme of the year in a few words. This year’s tag “Investing in the Future” latches on to the unexpected increase that many of the companies made in their capacity for development and support despite an incredibly difficult economy. Most of the companies involved seem to be working hard to meet the increasing expectations that libraries have for more innovative and effective automation products.

In a year where the general economy presented enormous challenges, libraries continued to make investments in automation, especially in products that help improve what and how they deliver to their end users. Access to electronic content remains a key driver. In response to anticipated needs for new approaches to library automation, many companies have invested to expand their development capacities. Trends this year include the sharply increased growth of Software as a Service, as well as the release of application programming interfaces and data access models by proprietary software vendors. continue reading...

I maintain a resource page of these reports on Library Technology Guides.

Apr 22, 2009 10:29:42
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WorldCat Local: moving into ILS territory

Library Journal April 1, 2009 issue

OCLC has begun to unveil its plans to develop full library automation capabilities through WorldCat. The initial announcement talks about WorldCat Local quick start to allow any library that subscribes to FirstSearch to get a taste of OCLC next-gen discovery interface. The more interesting part of the announcement describes the larger strategy to extend WorldCat Local with capabilities that include circulation, delivery, acquisitions, and license management, effectively putting into WorldCat Local the functionality that libraries otherwise receive from their ILS and ERM products. This strategy changes the game in the ILS arena. It introduces a radically new option relative to the traditional approach of integrated library systems, electronic resource management, link resolvers installed and maintained library-by-library. OCLC wants to move these functions to the network level, which is, freeing libraries from the burden of installing and maintaining these unwieldy applications. This model places library automation into the realm of cloud computing. It also leverages the cooperatively created data in WorldCat to the problem of library automation.

This move will not be without controversy. OCLC has both its supporters and detractors. Some will view the move as a positive opportunity, others will worry that it places OCLC in a position where it wields too much power and control over libraries.

I see this move stirring up the mix of options and opportunities for libraries. Anything that provides new alternatives to libraries is welcome relative to the state of affairs of recent times where libraries feel frustrated by too few options. So we’ve seen open source come in to challenge proprietary systems; we’re seeing initiatives to fundamentally rebuild library automation systems. Now OCLC adds Web-scale, WorldCat-based library automation to the mix. The library automation scene is getting to be more interesting.

I have written an article for Library Journal that provides some additional details and perspective.

Apr 23, 2009 10:40:39
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Name: Marshall Breeding

Title: Publisher

Organization: Library Technology Guides


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