As part of its efforts to provide resources to enable libraries to fully exploit the technical interoperability of its products, Ex Libris has launched new platform for developers. Ex Libris, whose customers include some of the largest and most complex libraries in the world, has long offered the ability to extend and customize its products through APIs and other mechanisms through what it calls its Open Platform Strategy. In 2008 the company created EL Commons as a central repository to share program code created by its customers, documentation, and other technical resources related to the APIs of its various products.
The products of Ex Libris were created during a wide date range, with some, such as Voyager and SFX, originally created by external organizations. While each of these products generally offered some level of programmatic access, the APIs involved were not consistent among products and may follow quite different technical methods. Some were implemented in SOAP, others through a set of X-Services created by Ex Libris, and some were based on REST. EL Commons provided a collaborative space for library programmers to work with each of these different products. (See the October 2008 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter for more details on EL Commons.)
In April 2014 Ex Libris launched the next generation site for aggregating resources related to the APIs of its products. Called the Ex Libris Developer Network, this site carries forward the content and resources of EL Commons delivered through a new interface, with a new navigation structure, tools, and resources. Some of the components of the new Developer Network include: comprehensive documentation for the APIs for all of the major products of Ex Libris; a Tech Blog where Ex Libris technical personnel post tips and advice on exercising the APIs for specific tasks or projects; a repository hosted through GitHub for code contributed by customers and by Ex Libris; and discussion forums.
The Developer Network also includes an API Console that allows programmers to work with the APIs interactively. Programmers can select the product, the API of interest, the specific parameters, and then provide any needed data to explore its capabilities and test their coding approach. The site also includes a dashboard presented to logged-in users that organizes work performed on the site, displays usage analytics, and provides other personalized information.
Ex Libris currently emphasizes RESTful APIs. Although its previous products have also implemented access through SOAP and its own X-Services protocol, any new APIs will be based on REST. Even Alma originally offered SOAP-based APIs, which are now being migrated to REST.
Ex Libris allows open access to the Developer Network for customers and non-customers alike. Ex Libris does not charge additional fees for access to the APIs for any of its products. Even non-customers can use the guest sandbox provided in the new portal to explore and test the APIs in a live environment.