Marshall Breeding is the:
Director for Innovative Technologies and Research at Vanderbilt University
What is Happening Now in the ILS World?
- Marshall created a self published library survey on the satisfaction level of different vendors and ILS systems.
Thoughts From Me
While the survey is interesting it doesn’t get at why people are satisfied/dissatisfied. Since Marshall focuses on innovation, I was curious to know if those that are unhappy with their ILS are more innovative than those that are happy with their ILS. So I posed the question to Marshall, he responded that its hard to get at they why people are dissatisfied since it can be for a variety of factors. for example, one library may be happy with their ILS because they came from a significantly older ILS. While maybe small libraries are happy with the same vendor because of the service the company provides.
But i think my retort to that would be (if there had been enough time), don’t those examples all come down to innovation. If you just implemented a web opac, you’re not innovating. And small libraries can’t innovate like large libraries due to money, staff, etc., restrictions. After all Wheaton College doesn’t have the same number of systems staff that NC State has. Its not possible for me to do all the projects that NC State’s library can do because I’m only 1/20th of the department.
He also indicated that to add more questions would be problematic since people don’t fill out long surveys; however I think adding the question “How innovative would you rank your library on a scale of 1 to 10″ isn’t going to make or break the survey.
- He also discussed the great number of companies merging, and wonders when we’ll end up at ALA just going to one big booth. He mentioned that innovation at the companies is lower than expected. I was unclear as to whether or not he felt companies merging are causing less innovation. He indicated that vendors are inevitably moving toward just having one product.
Thoughts From Me
First, I would like to say that I may be a bit biased; I used to work for a library vendor. That being said I think mergers force vendors to become more innovative, that’s right I said more. Having lived through a merger, I know that when Ex Libris and Endeavor merged, Ex Libris took a long hard look at Endeavor’s practices and adopted quite a few of them, a lot more than most people might be aware of. Training and implementation (the department I worked in) began taking a good hard look at web based training because Endeavor was doing it and customers really liked it. Support, which was all web-based took a good long look at phone based telephone support, because again Endeavor did it and customers really liked it. Ex Libris was forced to innovate (in terms of its services) because of the merger.
As for products, we took a good look at each of the products Endeavor had and found the best parts of their products so that we could merge them into Ex Libris’ existing products. Now Marshall is right, to a degree, vendors that merge are looking to only own one product, but I would like to say that prior to the merger, Endeavor’s parent company Elsevier had made the decision to axe a number of their products, so some of them were on their way out anyway. But I think indicating that all merged companies want to have only one type of product makes fear rampant. Ex Libris is NOT getting rid of Voyager anytime soon. And if you disagree, then I’ll ask the question: do you want to migrate the Library of Congress to ALEPH?
So I would like to see some proof that there is a lack of innovation in merged vendors, because I haven’t witnessed it. But I have seen a lack of innovation in companies that have never (or rarely ever) merged with another, it allows them to become stagnant and avoid growth outside of their comfort zone.
- Integration of social networking is hung off to the side of library websites. He’s hoping to see libraries making it an integral part of the library website.
- open source v. open system
- open source: lots of interest in moving toward it
- open system: different than open source, this is a proprietary software with the ability for you to muck around.
open api — allows you to get to the data without having to get into the code
“depth of openess” — translates into the usefulness you need. does you vendor have it?
What will Happen Next?
- right now we’re using systems and interfaces to “fix” the problems with the traditonal ILS by:
- placing a burden on personnel
- constant procurement/installation/configuration/maintenance cycles
- inadequate interfaces for what our users need/want
- we are moving away from metadata and toward deep searching.
- we are using SOA (service oriented architecture) to create a usable model
- some of the new models out there are:
Thoughts from Me
First, I’ve heard a lot of flack from the library community about the OLE Project (not from Marshall…he’s working with it). Many people think that its just another open source catalog. I’d like to emphasize here that it is NOT a new open source catalog. Instead they are trying to make our processes easier by creating a system that follows those processes. For years libraries have been adapting their workflows and business to work with the system, but that’s not what software should do. And to be honest, I think libraries are so ingrained in these awful business practices, they don’t even see how bad they are anymore.
But the OLE Project does; it seeks to make software that works with the way a library should function. Hopefully such a system will allow libraries to be more efficient and more productive in the future.
Additionally, the OLE Project isn’t focused just on print materials, it seeks to create a system that will incorporate all materials and mediums, not just print. And let’s face it, every catalog (whether open source or not) is based on the antiquated print catalogs of yesterday (don’t get me wrong…I used to love it, but it doesn’t work in today’s society…just look at my post below about David Weinberger’s talk). In essence, the OLE Project seeks to create a system that replaces all the systems a library currently uses for its daily business practices.
Second, Marshall pointed out that this is 2-3 years in the making before we begin to see anything at all out of these projects. I’d like to point out that prior to working for Ex Libris I thought I had some great ideas, but when I started there, I realized the ideas I was just beginning to formulate were products they were already developing. And the difference between Ex Libris and the OLE Project, is that Ex Libris has people dedicated just to organizing and developing the URM, while the OLE Project is still trying to figure out what it will look like. All I’m trying to say is don’t underestimate the innovation level of a vendor.