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Daniel Freeman (staff)'s picture

Library Systems and Customization--Who is Driving the Discussion?

In the most recent issue of Library Technology Reports, Marshall Breeding tackles the trend toward making Integrated Library Systems more customizable through APIs and the Web:

In today’s environment, systems that are perceived as being “closed” have diminished appeal. It sure sounds better to characterize an automation system as “open” and flexible, but what do the terms really mean? We will explore some of the techniques that provide increased access to data and internal functionality, focusing especially on Web services and other application programming interfaces.

Many libraries might say that they do not want a “black box” system that restricts users to the functionality in the interfaces provided by the vendor, with no access to the internals of the system. Yet many libraries need a turnkey system that helps them carry out their work without the need for any local programming or intervention. We should emphasize that APIs offer additional opportunities for those that want to do more with their software, but do not impose any technical requirements for libraries that choose not to use them.

When it comes to the purveyors of proprietary software, claims of openness are also everywhere. The emphasis on openness may have been accelerated by the open source movement, but it has been a steady theme for many years. Press releases and product literature gush with the language of openness. The means to this openness are the adherence to standards and Web services and other application programming interfaces.

Clearly, along with most other software and technology, with Library Systems, the next decade is not going to be about working within the confines of the software; it will be about making the software work for you. While the expert-analysis of scholars like Breeding and the product development work being done by software vendors is certainly a huge component the library software future, the most important players are everyday librarians—the people who work with these systems every day and who know their strengths and limitations better than anyone else.

One of the great things about Web 2.0 is that it gives everyone with access to the Internet a vehicle to help drive these discussions. With tools like ALA Connect, people who might not publish prolifically or hold a senior position as a software developer can make their voices heard.

So what do you want from your ILS?

Do you have specific ideas about how a library system could help your library run more efficiently?

If you’re currently involved in discussions about purchasing and implementing a new ILS, what are your criteria?

Make your voice heard—no one is more important in this conversation than the people who will work with the Systems every day.

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