One of the white papers that we released last week for Insight was a first iteration of Do Libraries Matter: the rise of Library 2.0 [PDF download]. This was written by Ken Chad and myself, but incorporates ideas being expressed every day across Talis.
The paper is a work in progress, as we engage with the widest possible community in order to capture a range of expectations and requirements for the ways in which Library 2.0 can challenge current models for delivering library services.
It has been picked up on various blogs, including Michael Stephens‘ comprehensive post at ALA TechSource, Chris Keene’s post at nostuff.org, Michael Casey’s post to LibraryCrunch, Jenny Levine’s Shifted Librarian post, and related discussion around Whisper (see my next post) from Tim Hodson, Lorcan Dempsey, and others.
On the whole, feedback has been positive and constructive, and we are moving discussions forward around the issues that are being raised in order to improve our explanation of the Library 2.0 space, the potential that it offers, and the current models that it inevitably challenges.
However, a number of comments raise the oft-repeated concern that ‘vendors’ are not to be trusted, that we should not be involved in the community of thought leaders exploring this area, and that we are somehow trying to capture and control the Library 2.0 concept to our own nefarious ends.
To be as clear as I can, and more polite than my first pass at this sentence, this is simply not true.
As mentioned in my rather oddly formatted comments to Michael Stephens’ post, I am a recent arrival at Talis. I have been here two months, having previously worked exclusively in the public sector with organisations such as the Common Information Environment, UKOLN, the ADS, and a few universities.
I joined Talis, not to fleece poor unsuspecting libraries, but because I was persuaded (and still believe) that I stood more chance of delivering on some of the principles I’ve been arguing in favour of for over a decade from within Talis than in my previous role as Director at the CIE. Everything I have seen from my enthusiastic, knowledgeable and committed new colleagues assures me that I made the right choice.
Of course, as Chris Keene suggests in his post, there is a lot to do in carrying new ideas and new functionality through to existing products. As a Talis customer, he should ask someone to show him the demo of Prism 3, where some of these features have a prominent place. We are also looking, as the white paper argues, at ways to ensure that the library is everywhere. Prism, and other OPACs, represent a point in time in the development of library systems. They have a role to play, but library content and services should equally be available in a whole range of other interfaces from your course management system or portal to your television, your mobile phone, your search engine, and your favourite electronic book store or auction site. In many of these contexts, the library needs to be delivered in a wholly new way, far removed from an explicit “look for interesting books about this” option. How do we deliver better library services to those who already use them in other ways? How do we make library services welcoming and relevant to the many who either don’t use them at all, or who have a rather narrow perspective on the types of help that a library might provide?
There is a great deal of work to be done in maintaining current services whilst Talis and those such as the bloggers already commenting on our paper prepare the wider library sector for the disruptive changes that new user expectations require and new technology makes feasible. Much of the community’s work in this area is not yet sufficiently robust or full-featured to wholly replace existing mission-critical library systems. But it will be, and it will get even better. Talis believes that there is a role for a company such as ours in maintaining current types of system until people are persuaded of the value in radical change, in assisting the realisation of that change, and in delivering services that our current and future customers will value and therefore pay for. We do not force people to buy our systems. We will not force people to pay for any chargeable new services that we might wish to offer in future. Rather, we seek to participate fully in building an open platform along with customers, competitors, and others. We will then argue and demonstrate the additional value that any chargeable components deliver above and beyond the participative platform, and persuade you of the cost-effectiveness of our added value components as opposed to those built by competitors, or those that you might very well seek to build for yourselves. Just because software can be downloaded off the web for free, doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone can construct, run and maintain a zero-cost service on top of it.
An open, interoperable, Platform shifts the goalposts, and dramatically reduces the costs of participation. It fundamentally alters the model in which libraries obtain access to and gain benefit from software and services provided by third parties.
Read the paper [PDF download]. Read the comments from those who already have. Think about how it fits with where you want library services to go. Believe that Talis genuinely wants to work with you, and join us in the debate. Submit your comments here, blog them yourself and trackback to here, or send them straight to me.