Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Library Information Systems Quicksand

When the Internet came of age over ten years ago libraries had few information systems choices. Creating software applications back then required fairly complicated development tools and a relatively high degree of programming skills. It was rare for a library to have staff with such skills. Libraries had little choice but to license technologies from vendors.

As the paradigms have changed so have the tools and protocols of application development. They have become very accessible. Still, from my vantage point libraries seem to continue to fall further behind. As a profession we seem to be stuck in information system quicksand.

One of the problems is that most of the vendors used proprietary technologies instead of those that support open standards. These closed systems which our vendors have provided us have made solutions such as federated and metasearching quite complicated, if not impossible, primarily since our systems can not talk to one another.

While libraries have embraced consortia solutions for most large scale purchases, the collective vision of library leadership has failed to see the potential for open systems development that would result in new library systems based on open standards. These systems could be built using an open architecture and shared with the library community. Community source, if you will.

At the very least, I believe our library leadership and professional organizations need to begin demanding that vendors begin using open standards and opening up their APIs. By continuing to embrace proprietary vendor solutions - as they decide to build them - we may be destined to remain two or three years behind the technology curve.

I do applaud those libraries that have abandoned traditional library ILS vendors like Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, and SirsiDynix and instead have embraced systems like Endeca and AquaBrowser. While the later are still vendor solutions at least they are offering solutions that libraries need now, not just talking and planning for "future enhancements." Sphere: Related Content

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