BiblioCommons announced in January 2012 a major initiative to integrate e-book lending into its socially-oriented library discovery platform.
The goal of the integration involves bringing the entire e-book lending experience into the library's online catalog, including discovery of e-book and other digital content within the catalog and the ability for patrons to borrow and download content items currently available or to place holds. Rather than offer e-book collections and lending as a separate facility, BiblioCommons aims to deliver to library patrons a more unified experience across all library materials and services. BiblioCommons President Patrick Kennedy reported that they have surveyed their customers and found an overwhelming interest in providing a unified discovery environment for their patrons, including access to e-book lending.
BiblioCommons completed an initial version of its integration of e-book content involving OverDrive's services for three of their large public library customers —Boston Public Library, Seattle Public Library, and New York Public Library (NYPL)— successfully providing access to the libraries' e-book collections through a unified patron experience. This functionality was offered as a live service for a limited period in early 2012.
This integrated interface, however, was withdrawn after a short period at the request of OverDrive. At that time, OverDrive did not yet offer APIs into their platform. BiblioCommons engineers were able to accomplish the desired integration using a Web proxy that essentially intercepted the HTML stream between the library and OverDrive's servers to extract the data needed to bring these features into the BiblioCommons interface. This technique was implemented as an interim measure until it could be reworked using the more standard procedures of executing calls to the APIs after they were released by OverDrive. The Web proxy approach increased resource demands on OverDrive's servers, however, and no business agreements were in place to govern this type of access. The integrated approach was suspended until these issues could be resolved.
In February 2012, BiblioCommons and OverDrive resolved the server load issues using a hybrid approach of Web Proxy and APIs. As of April 2012 the original three libraries that implemented this integrated interface—NYPL, Boston Public, and Seattle Public —were working with OverDrive to reinstate the integrated interface. As OverDrive completes the release of the full set of its APIs, BiblioCommons will transition away from the interim Web proxy methods and will then be able to offer OverDrive e-book integration to any interested customer libraries. The transition will not only involve technical changes, but also one of establishing a legal framework for access to the OverDrive APIs, where the libraries themselves gain access to the APIs or provide access to organizations such as BiblioCommons or other third parties to operate as agents for the library to implement functionality on their behalf.
The work to create the interfaces, APIs and other technical infrastructure for the integration with OverDrive will pave the way toward working with other content providers. BiblioCommons anticipates the development of similar capabilities with other e-book providers such as the 3M Cloud Library or Access 360 from Baker and Taylor, though no specific announcements have been made to date.