Thursday, June 4, 2009

CUWL Notes

The CUWL conference began with a welcome from Dr. Rebecca Martin, the UW Sytem Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Then Marshall Breeding delivered the keynote address looking at the library automation systems environment. It seems like the point that many people carried from his presentation was that the costs for commercial products and open source solutions are equivilant but show up in different areas. Overall the commercial ILS systems have not kept up with the migration from print to electronic resources. He reaffirmed librarians' widely-held frustration with current OPACs and bundled front end discovery systems. What I found interesting was his description of current business software solutions that rely on Service Oriented Architecture. I'm not sure I can write about this coherently but as I understand it, this architecture offers much more flexibility and uses a "Lego-like" middle structure that allow business and librarys the ability to mix our services in a way that is more adapted to the current environment. He remarked that the current model is based on rigid silos. and redundant data sources. Breeding thinks that new systems can be built to better allow libraries to provide access to electronic resources at the same level we provide access to our print collections.

Highlights that I took away from the talk:
  1. An anecdote about the Harry Potter book he keeps on his coffee table. He was giving a presentation where he demonstrated Amazon's one-click purchase service. In doing so he accidentally bought the Harry Potter book and it arrived on his doorstep a couple of days later. He wondered how it is too bad that libraries don't have that kind of problem. Point being that many of our processes for getting from discovery to delivery are very cumbersome.
  2. Discovery should be decoupled from the back-end automation system and should expose the entire spectrum of our collections. Discovery should be based on havesting to create indexes searched locally not by going out to our databases one at a time and returning a small subset of information. In other words we would continually or at least often download bibliographic records from our shared catalogs, the entire fulltext data from our database vendors as well as our government publications, digital archives and institutional repositories.
  3. Two discovery products that he talked about were Summon - Serials Solutions' product in development and OCLC's WorldCat Local. Both are making arrangements with journal aggregators to provide access to physical library collections as well as fulltext journal articles.
Later in the day I attended a presentation on RDisco, a project being developed at UW Madison to create a de-coupled discovery system that would provide one place where users could discover books from the UW catalogs and digital material from our digital repositories. There work is in the very early stages of development but provide a glimpse at the possibility of developing a home grown discovery tool that addresses some of the needs that Marshall Breeding discused.

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