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Technology & Industry IG, notes from inaugural meeting at ALA Mid-winter

LITA Technology and Industry IG – Inaugural meeting

January 21, 2012

ALA Mid-winter


In attendance:

Bloom, Jabe                                           TLC

Bonner, D                                               IndexData

Boone, Cecelia                                      Minitex

Breeding, Marshall*                           Vanderbilt University

Brown, Robert                                      Auto-Graphics

Carpenter, Todd                                  NISO

Chachra, Vinod                                     VTLS

Charbonnet, Clark                               Biblionix

Condron, Melody                                Montana State Library

Cope, Paul                                              Auto-Graphics

Cornish, Al                                              Washington State University

Daniels, Tim                                           LYRASIS

Dugas Hughes, Jill                                Connecticut Library Consortium

Gallagher, Brendan                             Bywater Solutions

Goetz, Christine                                   Serials Solutions

Goldner, Matt*                                    OCLC

Grant, Carl                                              Care Affiliates

Jackson, Lamar                                     GGC

Jesse J. Saunders                                 Southwestern University

Kastellec, Mike                                     NCSU

Keith, Paul                                              Chicago Public Library

Kirk, Gary                                                TechLogic/MediaSurfer

Leonard, Kirstne                                  PALNI

Marcus, Simon                                      TLC

Meggs, Melia                                        Bywater Solutions

Nagy, Andrew                                       Serials Solutions

Nelson, Jim                                            TechLogic/MediaSurfer

Rapp, David                                            Library Journal

Reese, John                                           Backstage Library Works

Ruschoff, Carlen                                  U. of Maryland, College Park

Sydnor, Gar                                            TLC

Zulick, Deb                                              Connecticut Library Consortium

*Interest Group co-chair



Major themes as seen by Matt Goldner:

  1. Better understanding of APIs and their use
  2. Need for vendor cooperation on use of their APIs
  3. Difference between customizable systems and cloud based systems using APIs
  4. Educating librarians on what can, could and cannot be done

Marshall Breeding opened the inaugural meeting of this LITA IG with a brief explanation of its intended purpose and noted there had been a forerunner to this group that dissolved. Some shared that the previous group’s meetings had been more of an update of what different vendors and libraries were doing with standards without a specific meeting agenda. There were also mini presentations from vendors on new things they were doing.

Marshall talked about fact that systems have evolved and most now have APIs to open them up and put forth the issue of how do we bring cohesion among all these various APIs. Gary Kirk noted that TechLogic has seen a shift in the last year from libraries purchasing end to end solutions to wanting to get pieces from various vendors and use APIs to make the complete solution.

Carl Grant pointed out there are political issues when one vendor uses another vendor’s API followed by Marshall saying there is a possible role for this group in advocating for partnership and cooperation between vendors. Vinod Chacra stated that this advocacy must be an advocating for interoperability. Paul Cope agreed the idea of advocacy was a good one, that a person has an idea for a widget using various systems and this group could be some type of facilitator to get agreement and partnering. He felt this group could have a role in creating best practices to help facilitate openness.

Clark Charbonnet extended the discussion to the need for an open interchange method for moving data between systems. He told the group that Biblionix had created an interchange package for open interchange of all types of library data.

At this point Matt Goldner said it felt like a starting point for the group could be a white paper outlining the various needs for data and service re-use. Carl added that we also need to be forward looking on cloud computing and what it means to move data around. He pointed out that issues of bandwidth become important and possibly expensive as we move into more complex data such as multi-media being supported by libraries.

Marshall raised the question of the business model expectations for vendor to vendor relations in the use of APIs. Do they charge each other? How can this group facilitate defining business models that will work for vendors? Brendan Gallagher then asked how he even starts talking with other vendors about access to data and APIs and Vinod pointed there are also legal considerations on restrictions of moving data across borders. Matt asked if it is worth considering trying to create a catalog of vendor APIs, who can access them, what are the restrictions, etc. Marshall cautioned that we want to not duplicate work being done by other groups and should look at collaboration with groups such as Code4Lib.

Carl responded that this group could set forth recommendations representing all parties on how to best use APIs. Considerations such as how has a specific library implemented a vendor’s system? Do they have the hardware and bandwidth to support external interoperation with their system?

Marshall did a brief summary at this point stating he is hearing what are the barriers, the impediments? How do we educate the library community on the reality of APIs and system interoperation? Paul added that there are levels of the question what does the library want to do? Do they want to change the user interface, change the business logic of an application, change the data structure?

Kirsten Leonard stated that for PALNI it is about making it easier and simpler, that right now it is very complex to get products even from the same vendor to work well together. PALNI faces the challenge of educating members of a single group who are at very different levels of understanding the what and how of systems working together.

Al Cornish brought up the issue of what the expectations are for documentation of APIs and suggested this could be part of a white paper.

Marshall then focused the discussion on the fact that libraries are moving away from wanting customized implementations of systems (building on earlier comments from Kirsten), but they want to implement a standard system used by all the vendors customers and then use APIs provided with the system to adapt them as needed locally. Carl pointed out that the profession at large needs education on what the impact of moving to the cloud means to customization of systems. Marshall said this looks like a key topic, what is the relative reality between customizing systems and using APIs?

Kirsten said one thing that is needed to move libraries away from customized implementations is some best practices for accomplishing needed workflows without replicating old complex workflows.

Going back to documentation of APIs Carl said we should look outside to others like Amazon and how they document their APIs. Clark asked the group to not leave the small libraries out of our thinking that aren’t in meetings like this and don’t know what APIs are. Marshall responded the question we need to address is how you lower the threshold to automation in the small library space?

Simon Marcus asked if a role of this group could be to amplify and solidify the use of standards, be a forum for vendors to publish their use and adherence to standards.

At this point Marshall directed the conversation to next steps coming out of this discussion.

There was general consensus that a white paper to get discussion and future action outlined would be useful. Matt volunteered to chair the group and Paul Cope, Kirsten Leonard, Todd Carpenter, Brendan Gallagher, Carl Grant and Clark Charbonnet all agreed to work on this. The first step will be to flesh out what should be covered in the white paper, its purpose and intended audience. It was raised that we might need technical and business cases part of this entire puzzle to decide appropriate content for the paper and those businesses cases could be used to help educate the library industry.

Carl wondered if we could get it published and ask for comment. Marshall suggested we get a draft out for comment and asked if we should try to do this before ALA Annual. Matt felt we should have a solid draft out by the end of May so it could possibly be part of the focus of this group at Annual.

Marshall then turned to what the group should do at Annual. It was noted it is too late to submit a session proposal but that we do have a slot set aside for our group. This means we could plan that to be a session for the public and we would need to self advertise it. Marshall suggested we might have a panel to discuss the difference between customizable systems vs. cloud systems with APIs. There was some agreement this could make a useful session for libraries.

Andrew Nagy then said he believed we need a mission statement for this group. Marshall volunteered to chair a group to draft one and Matt Goldner, Cecelia Boone, Robert Brown, Tim Daniels, Jesse Saunders, Andrew Nagy and Simon Marcus all volunteered to help work on this.