In my Systems Librarian column for the February 2009 issue of Computers in Libraries I address the issue of making library automation systems more open. I frequently hear libraries express concern that their software provides too many constraints on their data. We often need to express library services in ways not delivered within the functionality of the traditional ILS. Connecting to new discovery interfaces, courseware systems, institutional financial systems, mobile applications represent just the most common needs libraries have to deliver their content and services beyond the library’s own internal infrastructure. Libraries demand that they have the flexibility to use their data in any way that they please rather than be restricted by the functionality delivered directly by the ILS. In this column I look at several of the alternatives emerging to give libraries more control of their data and not be held captive by proprietary software. These alternatives go beyond the basic library standards to include application programming interfaces and open source software.
One of the major themes that I've observed in the recent era of the library involves the demand for more openness in all aspects of the technology infrastructure. Libraries often articulate frustration at automation systems that fail to offer adequate access to the data and functionality of their automation systems. Libraries increasingly resist rigidly closed automation products that do not provide flexible access to the data and provide ways to connect to other products. Today's library automation environment favors systems that can deliver, in one way or another, products that break away from closed, proprietary systems to allow libraries more liberal access to their data. Open source software has caught on in a big way within the library automation arena, but we'll see that this is not the only approach possible as libraries seek options to gain more access and control over their data and other aspects of their technology environment.
The need to protect a library's investment in its data provides one of the key drivers for increased openness. The data that describes the collections and reflects the operations of the library represents one of a library's most important assets. The value of the cumulative investment of library personnel to create a database that accurately reflects its collection probably outweighs the value of the software used to produce and maintain that data. Likewise, data endures longer than any given software product. In the course of a library's automation history, it will likely migrate through multiple automation systems, yet the data created should pass intact from one to the next.
An interest in interoperability with other software products and information systems also fuels demand for openness. Libraries increasingly expect to do more with their data than simply use it within a single automation product. A typical library technology environment includes multiple interrelated systems, many of which need to access data and functionality from others. In order for multiple systems to communicate with each other and work together efficiently, library automation products need to embody a high level of interoperability. continue reading...
(The full text of my Systems Librarian columns are available on Library Technology Guides 90 days following thier original publication in Computers in Libraries magazine.)
Marshall Breeding May 24, 2009 09:18:01
Link to Posting: Opening up library automation software