I'm especially interested in exploring what I've been calling the because effect.
This is what you get when your new business isn't just about inventing
and controlling technologies and standards, but about taking advantage
of the new opportunities opened up by fresh new technologies and
standards. For example, making money because of blogging, or RSS, or desktop Linux, or whatever — rather than just with those things.
The because effect is a kind of jujitsu. While other people look to make money with something, you're finding ways of making money because of something.
Prime example, because of search, Google and Yahoo make money with advertising. Another: because ofRivendell, Salem Communications saves money with its core buisness, which is broadcasting. Because ofhis blogging, Thomas Mahon makes more money with his tailoring business.
I'm not quite sure how this fits with my world... perhaps: because of SOA and web services libraries are able to extend their holdings and services well beyond their traditional means and are able to work together to enable better service for their patrons?
Or: because of SOA, libraries are no longer dependant on siloed vendor systems and are able to make their technology infrastructure service their true needs in a digital world.
It was only a one day affair, but was jam packed with quality information, an informal atmosphere, and populated with the most important part -- like-minded people. Before I ramble on for too long, I'd like to followup on Eric Lease Morgan's suggestion on creating some sort of statement -- a Windsor Manifesto if you will. I don't think we were able to come to a consensus on all issues, but there are some areas that I think the group would have agreed upon (please correct me if I'm wrong):
The ILS, as is, does not serve our current nor future needs.
The vendors are partly to blame, as are ourselves. In many cases we got exactly what was asked for.
We'd like to continue this dialogue to seek a good common path forward.
If the vendors don't provide what we need... we must provide what we need for ourselves.
Now, some things I believe, based in part on my thinking, and the thoughts of others at the symposium:
Architecture -- SOA in particular -- is a good path forward for libraries. Let's disintegrate the ILS into it's basic functions.
The "Integrated" portion of ILS is a large part of the problem. We don't want an Integrated Library System (ILS), we want a Library System (LS) that works. That works in general, and for a specific libraries circumstances.
Most libraries can agree on a basic set of needed library services. I think Peter Murray suggested a number approaching 80%. To be determined I would say.
For these common services, let's have a common framework and standards to move us forward.
As I've said before, the coffee breaks are the best part of a conference. At this symposium, one thing was clear, the frustration with vendors and ILS systems is universal. It's old technology, with an old business model thats not serving libraries well at all. We need these functions, but not only these functions anymore. Libraries are more than books, yet trying to cram these new functions into an ancient, siloed, title-based database is never going to work without some serious intervention. We want API's! We want access to the data. We want it now!
The day consisted of basically 4 talks, and a panel session including all speakers at the end. I will not provide a play by play -- attend the next symposium for details -- but I will highlight some of the key issues.
Art Rhyno started the day with one of his classic metaphors on library thought entitled "The Trip So Far - a journey with the ILS". I love Art's talks, they're always fun and thought provoking. In particular Art mentioned open source efforts (Koha, Evergreen, Lucene) as a key to moving forward, as well as some of the work being done in Europe.
Peter Murry gave, much to my personal delight, a really good and comprehensive talk on SOA for Libraries. SOA is a very new area for libraries, and I'm very glad to see the word starting to spread. Perhaps a Library SOA symposium would be a reasonable event in the future?
The PINES team spoke about their efforts on the open source and built from scratch ILS software Evergreen, including technical details as to its operation, and a high-level view of how they made this work for the public library system in the state of Georgia. It's just wonderful. I usually concentrate on the architecture of things, thinking services and functions... but I must admit, in this case the thing I was ultimately most impressed with was the interface. It's so simple, and so rich at the same time.
Finally, Alan Darnell provided his thoughts from the OCUL perspective on moving forward with the ILS in future. Alan provided what I thought was an interested data-oriented perspective on how catalogue data, augmented with all sorts of other data could be used to move our universe forward.
The panel, consisting of all speakers, then managed to successfully answer a barrage of questions from the audience. A better overview than I could ever produce can be found on Blogwithoutalibrary.
I'm an Enterprise Architect in a library. I confess.
I've been doing a lot of reading, thinking, and attending of library conferences, I get the distinct impression that the library technology community is still on the windward side of the SOA curve. For many library technologists SOA is an unknown concept, or just some new hype trend they've been reading about.
For years, both small and large libraries have been supportive of ILS (Integrated Library System) vendors and trying to build a better and better all encompassing library mousetrap. They've come a long way from card catalogues, but not nearly far enough. The progression of the ILS in this manner was a mistake, fostered by the very human problem of asking for what we want, instead of what we need.
And now libraries are feeling stuck behind a medieval, centralized, dependant, and archaic model of running a library, and a technology support system that matches.
OK. Here's the good news. It's not too late. This can be fixed. Plan and build what you need, not what you want, or what you think that you need. And tell those vendors to get on board, or go to hell. By the way, EA and SOA could help a lot with that task.