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Name: Marshall Breeding

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LITA Top Technology Trends: it's all about openness

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the LITA Top Technology Trends panel at the ALA conference in Anaheim.

Here are some of the trends that I plan to mention:

The last year has been one of altered trajectories in the field of library automation. Several of the trends that have been steadily heading one direction have taken a new turn. This new course presents new opportunities and challenges for existing products and technologies. I believe, however, that it’s beneficial to see some disruptions in the standard way of doing things to break us out of the molds of complacency.

LITA Top Technology Trends

The open source software movement has hit the library automation arena in a big way—especially among public libraries. As I monitor the announcements of system commitments for new library automation systems, the majority are going to open source systems such as Koha and Evergreen.

Not quite as much progress among the academic libraries. About 21 academic in the United States have announced commitments to implementing Koha. Only one academic library has gone into production with on Evergreen: the Richardson Library at University of Prince Edward Island implemented Evergreen following a dramatic four-week sprint from decision to switchover. The WALDO consortium has committed to Koha with a pilot library by fall and others to follow in the next year or so. A group of libraries in Canada plan an eventual migration to Evergreen, dubbed Project Conifer. .

The standard model of licensing library automation software from specialized development firms has seen some intrusion by a new clique of companies providing support services for open source software. LibLime has grown to be the largest company supporting open source software with Equinox Software also gaining customers at a quick clip. Index Data stands as the veteran company in developing open source software, serving essentially as the research and development partner for many other companies. Care Affiliates, with Carl Grant at the helm, is the new comer with plans to help libraries with federated search and institutional repositories.

Other aspects of openness prevail as well. It’s great to see movement toward open APIs (application programming interfaces) for library automation systems. The specific development worth noting involves the ILS Discovery Interface working group charged by the Digital Library Federation. This group has developed proposals for ways for library automation systems to interoperate with the new breed of discovery layer interfaces. The group developed a document that suggests specific bindings that might comprise such a protocol. The committee met with a group of potential implementers, including developers of both ILS and discovery-layer products. Some modest agreement emerged out of the meeting, now often termed the “Berkeley Accord.” I mentioned this effort in an earlier blog post.

A multi-institutional effort, led by Duke University, plans to flesh out the “Open Library Environment” working toward the requirements for a next generation of library automation based on modern digital and print workflows in libraries expressed anew in the service-oriented architecture. A longer term effort, but one looking toward an open source library automation environment shaped much differently than the current slate of open source and traditionally licensed products. The Duke project is seeking funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This new path toward openness can’t help but benefit libraries. In a time where we have seen an uncomfortable level of narrowing of viable products through business consolidation, it’s an inevitable reaction to see new options emerge. No one is complacent. Open source efforts are blustering forward. Traditional companies and products strive to compete in an environment that demands openness on many levels.

Jun 26, 2008 22:29:22

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