Monday, July 23, 2007

Service-Oriented Library Systems Pt. 5: Final Comments

The web as we currently know it has been built using relatively simple technologies which have been proven to have scalability, efficiency and utility. The next generation web that is emerging will be an 'operating system' on which developers can create reusable and constantly updated information systems. Functionality that has been traditionally performed on systems installed and run on a local computer in a single application will be performed on the network involving many applications running on many computers.

The resulting information systems architecture is not the 'self-contained' single application structure that we have been used to. Instead, it is a Lego-like design of 'loosely coupled' systems referred to as service oriented architecture.

There is an agreement in the more general information systems world that the SOA approach is the way that applications need to be built. The adoption of SOA will not only make our library systems more flexible and agile, but will allow organizations to modernize their legacy applications.

In the “Introduction” of the 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports entitled “Web Services and the Service-Oriented Architecture” Marshall Breeding writes:

"If, in the future, libraries want to be isolated islands in the ocean of content and information, they can ignore Web services. But because much of what libraries do centers on providing information to library clientele and because information is increasingly more electronic—which causes libraries to overlap with many other organizations in the information sphere—it is necessary for libraries to cooperate and interact with a broad set of other organizations and their technical infrastructures. Web services provide mechanisms that allow libraries to expand their services in many important ways"

In order for libraries to take advantage of the benefits of SOA, some things will have to change. First and foremost, our library leaders need to refocus their collective vision. We need to rethink the services our libraries now offer and how those services are delivered. We need to realign human and fiscal resources into the development of new systems that can change and adapt as fast as our environment.

Libraries in general also need to reduce our reliance on proprietary systems. Sure, libraries can still have vendors build our systems, but we need to demand that they adopt a more open and modular approach in their designs. Our library leadership and professional organizations need to begin demanding that vendors use open standards and open up their APIs. Our library leadership and professional organizations also need to begin viewing open / community source products not only as alternative solutions, but as leverage to force vendors to adopt SOA.

For libraries to retain their market share in the networked world we need to embrace the SOA information approach, now. If libraries do not begin to adopt SOA soon we will not only remain three to five years behind the technology curve, we may never catch up.


Part One: Introduction
Part Two: What We Have Today
Part Three: Where Are We Heading?
Part Four: Challenges Sphere: Related Content


Roger Hiles said...

Great series! I revisited it before passing on the links to others.

We simply must join the mainstream-- I think you're right that moving in this direction will require a combination of some libraries (those who can) moving to open source solutions and others threatening to in order to motivate the vendor community to open up the proprietary ILSs.

Eric Schnell said...

Thanks, Roger!