When Innovative Interfaces announced its new Sierra library services platform in 2011, it described one of its key features as a services-oriented architecture allowing for RESTful APIs that would provide open access to its data and functionality. Innovative now has released the first set of REST APIs for Sierra. The REST API v 1.0 package, released in April 2014 represents the first phase of a broader initiative to provide broader programmatic access to Sierra. The provision of APIs has been part of the roadmap since the inception of Sierra. Although this initial set comes relatively late, according to Brad Jung, Innovative's VP for Product Management, the company plans a faster delivery of additional APIs and related resources going forward, with additional sets planned for release later in 2014.
Prior to releasing these REST APIs, Innovative has offered two other products, including the Patron API and Item Status API, based on the more complex SOAP architecture. These APIs were initially developed for Millennium, but can also be used with Sierra and are available to customers as optional added-cost products. The Patron API is used especially by sites with requirements to perform authentication based on credentials. These API packages will continue to be supported.
The new APIs delivered for Sierra will follow the REST method, previously known as Representational State Transfer, which uses standard Web technologies such as HTTP for network transport and URIs for the encoding of requests and responses. REST has become the preferred approach for the delivery of APIs for technology products in the library arena as well as other business sectors.
The initial Sierra REST API v.1.0 is oriented to the support of discovery layers, providing read-only access to bibliographic and item data from Sierra. Innovative has been actively working with EBSCO Information Services in the integration of EBSCO Discovery Service into Encore, and these REST APIs will facilitate blending bibliographic information and item status information. Other discovery service providers, including BiblioCommons, have integration projects underway that will use the more reliable, modern, and efficient model of APIs, rather than intercepting and parsing Web pages as was previously necessary.
Through the directives available in the API, bibliographic information can be harvested from a Sierra system for inclusion in a discovery index. Complete bibliographic information and current status or availability can be presented interactively. These APIs also can be used to populate any other third-party website or application that benefits from specific selections of bibliographic data derived from the library's Sierra system.
A subsequent set of APIs, expected to be made available later in 2014, will expand the directives to include those that also involve writing to the Sierra database. These forthcoming APIs will enable tasks expected in basic discovery interface integration, such as the ability to place and manage holds and to view and update data from patron records through a discovery interface or related application. Innovative reports that this initial, read-only REST API will be made available to libraries using Sierra at no additional cost. The business model for the subsequent API packages able to perform “write” as well as “read” operations has not yet been determined.
The APIs themselves are only one component of the package, which also includes documentation, a sandbox environment where programmers can experiment and test requests and responses, and a development community site. Innovative plans to launch a Developer's Community later in 2014 so that using the APIs may collaborate, sharing experience and code, and gain access to technical resources.
The company also plans a Third Party Developer Program in which organizations outside the direct customer base can license access to the APIs, documentation, and support that constitute a typical software developer's kit (SDK). Polaris, acquired this year by Innovative, had established its own infrastructure for supporting APIs in October 2011. The Polaris Development Network provided access to the Polaris APIs, documentation, and collaborative resources, without additional fees to their customer libraries. Polaris also offered a fee-based subscription to the Polaris Developer Network to commercial vendors to enable the creation or integration of add-on products that could then be licensed to its customers.