IL2011: Future of the Catalog

Imagining a Future for the Library Catalog
Walter T Nelson, RAND Corporation; Marshall Breeding, Vanderbilt University Library; Andrew K Pace, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

Walter – The Future of the Integrated Library System?

Predictions: if we continue as we are, there is no future for the ILS. If we free it from current limitations, it will be free to evolve & maybe have a future.

OPAC is a destination. A place you go. Does not go to our customers, they have to go to it.

Library as a place – a place where all the stuff is kept ?

OPACs are good at books – digital analog of paper catalog. Great at tracking monographs. No good for journals – people want articles. Not good with digital content, most of the research is imported as an afterthought.

ILS integrates with itself, inward facing. Artifact of pre-Internet days. “Splendid isolation.” Real innovation is integrating with stuff OUTSIDE your system. Like your website, other data sources, discovery tools, HR systems, communication systems, social networks. Vendors are doing some, but not enough.

ILS contains multiple systems cobbled together. All very different, none “best of breed.” Sharepoint UGH.

User Experinee – do your customers or staff prefer your OPAC search to Google? [BWAHAHAA] Does the design meet current UX standards? Is it the first place your customres look? First place YOU look? Is it the best tool for hte job? DOes it talk to that tool? Does it look and feel anythign at all like your website? Does any of it display on your site? Do you use workarounds and spreadsheets and databases to fill in the holes? Does yoru ILS interact well (at all) outside of itself?

Is your OPAC increasing or decreasing in relevance to users? Is the cost a big part of your budget? Can you forsee a future where the cost exceeds relevance? Are we already there? Does it address your needs? Is it an appropriate use of your money? What else could you do with that cash?

Catalog is good at clean data. RAND needed metadata about their own publications. Pubs dept has kept records since the beginning (’47), but very messy. Their data was crap and twice getting it out onto the website failed. Very expensive. Oh wait! Talk to the library! We had standards, taxonomy, complete data. Data extracted from ILS and used to populate website, YAY! Information was useless in the OPAC. Only useful to the corp. and customers when it left the catalog. Extremely difficult to export it though.

Your OPAC is a database driven website. Content in tables, queries assemble it, stylesheets format. The difference between the OPAC and any other db-driven site is design choies. [Or lack of conscious decision making?]

“Exquisitely crafted data is trapped in an obscure and ignored corner of the web.” OPAC search lacks flexibility and utility to meet varied needs, percieved as inferior to Google.

Predictions: Discovery and content management systems will replace the ILS. The competition isn’t other ILS vendors, it’s other ways of managing data. The ILS becomes a CMS. (Boeing has done it.) Focus on integration of the whole web experience – data sharing should be easy.

Is the ILS the glue that holds the library family together? Are we a cohesive unit that can identify as a library without it? Otherwise all a bunch of hired guns scattered to the research winds.

Vendors! It’s possible. Flexible, easy to use tools out of the box.

The Geek Gap – libraries with API programmers and coders can beat their system into submission and be awesome. Those without will “stagnate and die.” But what if the geeks decide they don’t need us? (Us = ILS or Us = librarian)

Andrew – Imagining a Future for the Library Catalog

Always be mistaken at the top of your voice. If I cannot find a way, I will make one.

The future of the catalog is hindered by:

  • Irony
  • Irrelevance
  • Innovation
  • Identity

Irony: Power – great for powering some stuff for 20 stuff. We bought another generator for digital, a third for eresources. Libraries want more power. Global. Unintended outcomes – vendors squandered our money doing what we asked them to. (Pace) we got the systems we deserved (Clifford Lynch)

Irrelevance: We will continue to tweak our local interfaces .. . but SEO and TONS of massively aggregated data required to drive the traffic. Search engines aren’t going to crawl every little libraries data. Core business is delivery of content, not creation of the discovery tool? Quote from Maruice B. Line.

Innovation: SysLibs are reduced to hacking, cracking, ransacking the black box. Wizards! Doesn’t work, blame the environment. Where are the standards? No, vertical integration is no good. Communities grow, share users, new affinity groups. Price people will pay for data will continue to decline. Apps are disposable. Value is in the platform.

Identity Management: What do Amazong, Google, ebay, etc know that we don’t? They know who their customers are. We pretend like we don’t know this. Emphasis on privacy means we aren’t providing the best possible experience. Privacy, cloud, expectation of patrons are not mutually exclusive.

Directions : Irony – data will live in the cloud. Reintegration will occur.Future requires more technology. Irrelevance – “cult of MARC” must be subverted. Manage at the collection level, not record level. Linked data might save record by record? Back office systems will be merged. Innovation – open development platforms. not a read-only API. shareable apps, workflows, services. This will scale library business intelligence – real information about our libraries, not just stats. Identity: Guard privacy/anonymity but offer services at a level peopel expect. Content creation into the flow of working libraries. Think about the customers beyond their due dates.

Marshall – The State of the Art in 2015

Customers want a unified experience. Don’t care about Amazon MP3 vs regular Amazon, but at the library we make them care about OPAC vs research database vs institutional repository.

Undergrads mostly love discovery services. They can get a sampling of what they need form the library. Librarians want it to be the right stuff, they want consistent results, sophisticated search capabilities. Not ideal for serious researchers.

Our search tools have to meet a high standard. Optimistic that we’ll get to a place where discovery services can work better for all constituents.

The indexes can get past the problem of how the review articles come up before the book, the articles citing the seminal articles come first, etc.

Comprehensive indexes – you’re not in the discovery services, you’re marginalized. If the publishers contribute their metadata, it’s good for everyone. Data used more, good investment for libraries, discovery services provide a valuable service. Transparency – need to be able to see what is in each what. Which one indexes my stuff the best?

Relevancy – good, not great. Keyword match algorithms need weighting for material types and considerations like the primary work coming up in front of derivative works.

Today we have mostly loosely-coupled systems. Discovery services are decoupled from ILA. There will be some reintegration here. Decoupled because front end was so bad we didn’t have time to wait for the backend to catch up before we could fix it. Scope of search has changed.

Discovery services are another silo within a website that hosts many silos – need to consolidate the content and the services. Some models in Europe are going this way — a discovery service that is also your website.

In 2015: no visible handoff between silos. Library site is unified into an organic and unified whole. Hard work is behind the scenes – got to make it look simple and easy-to-use for the library customers.