Panlibus Blog

Free to SRU

When you approach things in a different way things just start dropping in to place.

Paul in his post yesterday commenting on Peter Murray‘s latest episode of his excellent series of posts around Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), referenced some of the work we are doing here at Talis…

Programmatic access that means the user need only interact with a library user interface if they want to? Programmatic access that means software can pull this stuff together and act upon it on our behalf? Bring it on! Which, of course, we are… :-) Platform APIs. Talis Keystone integration pieces. Large, scalable and affordable stores of data, freely contributed, freely shared and freely consumed by the wider community. Watch this space for the next piece in a puzzle that looks more fascinating every day.

Most of the developments Paul references are major broad advancements in the way library services and library data can begin to interoperate with other library and non-library systems and services. But its not all just about the big picture, As an old colleague of mine used to say, “remember that screen full of information is just a cunning arrangement of individual pixels!“.

Like the morning mist rolling away from the rising sun, the approach that is delivering the Keystone Sandbox, Platform APIs, and open development community is rolling across the way we, in Talis, approach everything we do. We not only talk, and in my role evangelize, about what is currently termed the Web 2.0 or Library 2.0 way – we practice what we preach.

The latest example of this comes from something called Project Lyra. [For the Talis customers reading this, switch off for the next couple of sentences as you are probably Lyra’d-out by now and will be glad when its all over!] For the rest of you, Project Lyra is the process to migrate the Talis customer base on to two new [to them] standards – ISBN13 and Marc21. Much easier to type than do, without disrupting the daily operation of those libraries. As the bibliographic core of a library system is based around the local flavour of Marc, changing the version of Marc is not a snip. The approach to the developments required for the Lyra enhancements, to our Library Management System product, was different to he way we have previously approached this sort of thing before. It has been about cross team cooperation, componentised developments, and disparate modules of the product suite sharing APIs to common components. For instance the cataloguing component needs to find bibliographic records to edit; the OPAC needs to find bibliographic records to display to users; the Z39.50 target needs to find bibliographic records to deliver to other library systems. Somewhat radically, in historical terms, we now using the same searching and indexing component to support all that functionality.

All very interesting, but what is the benefit/lesson for me in all this, I hear you say. Well [sticking with the searching and indexing bit], if that component can support three disparate internal system operations, it certainly should be able to support other external requirements. So why not make that component externally accessible for others to use.

That is why as Talis customers take the latest upgrades in the Lyra program, their systems will by default and for free become Z39.50, SRU & SRW capable. This addition dramatically increases the interoperability capabilities of those systems. For the uninitiated, SRU & SRW are Web Service based standards which make it far easier, especially for the non-library community, to integrate library search in to other applications than it ever was with Z39.50. Show Z39.50 to mashup developer and they will run a mile!

Although great for the users, and potential users, of the Talis Library Management Suite in UK & Ireland Libraries, that wasn’t the point of giving you a little insight in to how changing your approach in this way can have many unanticipated benefits.

My point is that the world is changing, whether we like it or not, and the products we and you use will have to change to enable you to reap the benefits that will flow from this gear-change in the power of the Internet.

Putting a sticker on the box in which the software is dispatched saying “The contents of this box conforms to the aspirations of Library 2.0“, or firing up a token blog won’t crack it. To do their bit to help the whole library community realize it’s potential in the increasingly information rich world, the vendors, the open source community, the library system managers, and the librarians need to start thinking differently. (I’m glad to say at least some are already).

To lift a quote from Roy Tennant talking about OPAC developments, it is not about “Putting lipstick on pigs”. There is a fundamental shift in the application of technology and the thinking behind it going on, and I for one am enjoying the ride with an organization which understands it.

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