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Archive for the 'OCLC' Category

OCLC Talk with Talis about Draft WorldCat Rights & Responsibilities

OCLC logo In late 2008 OCLC proposed a new bibliographic record record reuse policy to its membership with a large amount of criticism from many.  At the time we covered it in a Talking with Talis podcast, and Panlibus and other blogs covered it heavily

Some eighteen months later, the Record Use Policy Council setup to review and report on the issue have just published “WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative” a document for review before being recommended for adoption by OCLC.

Record Use Policy Council Co-Chairs, Barbara Gubbin & Jennifer Younger and OCLC’s Karen Calhoun joined me in this conversation, on the day the document was released to the OCLC membership, to fill in the background and thought behind the document as well as answering a few of my questions.

It is clear from the conversation that the dozen members of have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing, the issue and purpose behind the original reuse policy, and the many submissions and comments they received.  It remains to be seen how the community react to this document.

OCLC’s Karen Calhoun Talks with Talis

sm_calhoun_karen british library I caught up with Vice president of OCLC WorldCat and Metadata Services, Karen Calhoun, in the lobby of a hotel across the road from the iconic British Library building in London.  Karen was preparing for her presentation at the 2009 OCLC Tech Forum to be held in the Library conference centre.

I took the opportunity to talk to her about the last twelve months since the announcement about changes to the OCLC record reuse policy.  We then moved on to discuss how new entrants, Biblios and SkyRiver, in to the record supply sector may alter that landscape.

As well as discussing the themes for her presentation later that morning, we also explored the blurring of the boundaries between OCLC’s traditional record supply focus and the ILS vendor community offering library automation software.

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Opening the Walls of the Library – SOA & web services

It doesn’t happen often, but it is really nice when when you receive something produced for one purpose to find that it has been produced so well that it is good for so much more.  Let me explain….

My colleague Andy Latham has been pulling together a white paper Opening the Walls of the Library – SOA and web services at Talis[pdf].  It’s main purpose is to support the marketing effort behind Talis Keystone, our SOA platform that underpins Talis Library Integration Services.  To help explain those services, to the not necessarily technical people in library and other departments considering integration, he needed to explore the history, principles, and practical considerations of this approach.  It is in this explanation, I believe that he has produced a document that is a great introduction to the application of SOA and library web services in general.

Because of it’s original purpose, and the fact that for obvious reasons the examples and case studies come from Talis products and customers, the document could be considered by some as being a bit marketingy.  Nevertheless, if you want an overview of real-world issues (many of which are to do with people not technology), or business models, or web service functions, or why choose REST in favour of SOAP, in library SOA I can recommend this White Paper as an informative easy way in.

As Andy says in the conclusion:

SOA is not all about technology; SOA is a business journey that needs to follow a path with small commercial and technical steps towards a known vision of business maturity. Commercial and Open Source technology has paved a way for businesses to begin introducing an SOA strategy. Introducing an SOA strategy is as much of a technical challenge as it is an operational challenge as the technology will break down silos between teams, departments and organisations and conflicting business processes which worked well in the silo will need to be redeveloped to meet the new needs of the more agile business.

The release of the OLE’s report, which I commented upon previously, plus vendor initiatives such as OCLC’s Web Services and Ex Libris’ URM, have served to raise the prominence of web services in the world of libraries.  On a recent Library 2.0 Gang show about the OLE project it was clear, in the discussions between Andy, OLE’s Tim McGeary, Marshall Breeding and Ex Libris’ Oren Beit-Arie, that there is much more to integration than just technology.

I think it is fair to say that Libraries as a sector have not been at the leading edge of the SOA/web services debate.  It is also fair to say that for whatever reason the UK seems to been a few years ahead of some areas in reaping the benefits of such integration in libraries.  As Andy’s document shows, there is the potential for significant financial and organisational benefits when undertaking integration in this way.

“The 25,000 students at one of the largest Universities in the UK are now able to pay their library charges online using either debit or credit cards, enabling further efficiency savings for library staff and improving student services.”

“Getting relevant information from Voyager into personalised portal sites has been a key requirement for the University for some time…..  By building a SharePoint integration we are maximising the positive impact of our new VLE and enhancing elements of the Library service.”

“The University of Salford is in the process of transforming the way that the identities of its entire user population are managed across all key systems in the organisation. An essential part of the solution employed (using Sun Microsystems’ IdM suite) is the transition and management of up to 23,000 Talis LMS borrower identities via Talis Keystone.”

To reap these sort of benefits in a sustainable way a library has to be aware of, and have, a SOA strategy.  There is much in this white paper that can help those new to the subject to understand the issues.  As someone who thinks he knows about these things, I also found it very useful for checking and clarifying my assumptions.

So as I say, a recommended read….

The Library 2.0 Gang – the vendors view on OCLC Web-scale

On the Library 2.0 Gang back in May we discussed Cloud Computing, an architecture in which you use your web browser to access your services on computers hosted by your system provider. 

Unlike traditional hosting, where you would expect to identify which system is running your application, cloud services appear as one big application servicing everyone’s needs spread across many computers and often data centres spread around the Internet.  The conversation last month was prompted by OCLC’s announcement they are developing such a service for delivering library services such as circulation, acquisitions, and license management.  The introduction of library services from the cloud, in a market where the vast majority of libraries host their own systems, could be potentially game changing and we speculated on what the reaction of the current suppliers would be.

In an attempt to answer some of that speculation I brought together a gang for the June show consisting of representatives of some of those suppliers – Carl Grant from Ex Libris, Nicole Engard from LibLime who support the Open Source system Koha, and Rob Styles from Talis.  We were joined by a new guest to the show Boris Zetterlund from Scandinavian and now UK supplier Axiell.

Technical issues, potential costs, applicability for smaller libraries, and openness of data & APIs all got an airing in this interesting conversation – have a listen.

OCLC Dumps New Record Reuse Policy

Jennifer Younger OCLC logo Jennifer Younger, Chair of the OCLC Review Board of Shared Data Creation & Stewardship announced in a presentation on May 18th [video stream and presentation slides here] that they are to “Formally withdraw the proposed policy

From her presentation:

  • We affirm that a policy is needed, but not this policy
  • Formally withdraw the proposed policy
  • Until a new policy is in place, reaffirm the existence and applicability of the Nov. 16, 1987 “Guidelines for the Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records”

She goes on to explain how they are to move on to “Discuss the role and value of WorldCat in the information ecosystem, and ways in which it can be leveraged” – “Devise a process for drafting and maintaining a new policy” [quotes from slides]

In her speech [from 16 minutes in] she indicated that the process for drawing up a new policy “must involve the governance structure of OCLC – the proposed policy is fundamental to the functioning of OCLC

The development of this policy without sufficient consultation has led some to the conclusion that members are not successfully influencing the directions of the organisation; which in the eyes of some weakens OCLC.  It’s certainly not in our best interest

An announcement, and honest admission of getting it very wrong, that I suspect nobody at OCLC expected to be making only a few short months ago.  It is now up to their membership to influence and help the organisation get these fundamental principles right.

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What ‘is’ Web-Scale?

Cloud%003F It will have been difficult to miss OCLC’s recent Cloud Computing announcement.  If you have, the headline is that they say they are building an architecture capable of handling all the transactions of all libraries, meaning that they can add circulation, acquisitions, license management and several other aspects of library management to their WorldCat shared discovery capability.

As you can imagine, all this built upon racks of computers hosted at OCLC’s data centre combining their power to deliver a service to many users at the same time.  A well proven technology as used by Google, Sun, Amazon, Salesforce.com, and even here at Talis where the Talis Platform underpins our Engage, Aspire, and Prism products. The rest of the computing world describes this as Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud Computing.

For some reason OCLC are determined to come up with their own term – Web-Scale.  OCLC’s Andrew Pace in his recently published Talking with Talis podcast [highly recommended if you want an insight in to this initiative] tries to explain why the library world needs such a term.  The inaugural post on the OCLC Engineering blog, by Mike Teets also goes in to much depth as to what Web-Scale is.

Having read and listen to all this I must admit I’m still unconvinced.  It still sounds like engineering has be brought in, to support the marketing folks’ desire to be different, with technical description.  There are enough confusing terms hijacked by marketeers in the computing and Internet worlds. So I’m sure OCLC will forgive me if I continue to describe their approach as a cloud based software as a service – Cloud Computing.

OCLC’s Andrew Pace Talks with Talis about Web-Scale ILS

andrew_pace To find out about OCLC’s move in to providing hosted, Web-scale, Software as a Service functionality for managing libraries, who better to ask than the person responsible for the programme.

Andrew Pace, Executive Director, Networked Library Services has been working on this for the last fifteen months, and as you can hear from our conversation is pleased that he can now talk openly about it.

Our wide ranging conversation takes us from the epiphany moment when Andrew announced he wanted to be a librarian through to the strategic, and architectural decisions behind this significant OCLC initiative.  

Andrew’s answers to my questions add depth and background to the brief details so far released in his blog posts and OCLC’s press releases.

The Library 2.0 Gang on Cloud Computing Libraries and OCLC

L2Gbanner144-plain OCLCcloudsAs commented previously OCLC recently announced a bold move in to providing hosted, Web-scale, Software as a Service functionality for managing libraries.  Joining other library cloud computing initiatives, such a SerialsSolutions Summon product, and Talis Prism, this is the first to venture in to the realms of circulation, and acquisitions.    

In light of this and at a time when Cloud Computing is gaining acceptance in the wider Internet and computing worlds, now was a great time for the Gang to focus their thoughts and comments on the topic.

In this month’s Library 2.0 Gang, new Gang member Frances Haugen from Google, joined Marshall Breeding and our guest Dr Paul Miller to explore what Cloud Computing is, and to speculate what the OCLC announcement should be viewed.

OCLC Take aim at the library automation market from the Cloud

OCLCclouds Over the last few years OCLC the US based not –for-profit cataloguing cooperative has been acquiring many for-profit organisations from the world of library automation such as PICA, Fretwell-Downing Informatics, and Sisis Information Systems. 

About fifteen months ago, Andrew Pace joined OCLC, from North Carolina State University Libraries, and was given the title of Executive Director, Networked Library Services.  After joining OCLC Andrew, who had a reputation for promoting change in the library technology sphere, almost disappeared from the radar.  

Putting these two things together, it was clear that the folks from Dublin were up to something beyond just owning a few non-US ILS vendors.

From a recent post on Andrew’s Hectic Pace blog, and press releases from OCLC themselves, we now know what that something was.  It is actually a few separate things, but the overall  approach is to deliver the functionality, traditionally provided by the ILS vendors (Innovative, SirsiDynix, Polaris, Ex Libris, etc., etc.), as services from OCLC’s data centres.   This moves the OCLC reach beyond cataloguing in to the realms of acquisitions, license management, and even circulation.

The idea of braking up the monolithic ILS (or LMS as UK libraries refer to it) is not a new one – as followers of Panlibus will know. Equally, delivering functionality as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been native to the Talis Platform since its inception.  It is this that underpins already established SaaS applications Talis Prism, Talis Aspire and Talis Engage.

Both OCLC, with WorldCat Local, and Talis with Prism have been delivering public discovery interfaces (OPACs) as SaaS applications for a while now, ‡biblios.net have recently launched their social cataloguing as a service [check out the podcast with Josh Ferraro], but I think this is the first significant announcement of circulation as a service that I have been aware of.

The move to Cloud Computing, with it’s obvious benefits of economies of scale and the removal of need for libraries to be machine minders and data centre operators, is a reflection a much wider computing industry trend.  The increasing customer base of Salesforce.com, the number of organisations letting Google take care of their email, and even their whole office operation (such as the Guardian) are testament to this trend.  So the sales pitch from OCLC, and others including ourselves here at Talis, about the total cost of ownership benefits of a Cloud Computing approach are supported and validated industry wide.

So as a long time predictor of computing transforming from a set of locally managed and hosted applications to services delivered as utilities from the cloud, mirroring the same transformation for electricity generation and supply from a century ago,  I welcome this initiative by OCLC.   That’s not to say that I don’t have reservations. I do. 

The rhetoric emanating from OCLC in these announcements is reminiscent of the language of the traditional ILS vendors who are probably very concerned by this new and different encroachment on to their market place.  There is an assumption that if you get your OPAC from WorldCat (and as a FirstSearch subscriber, with this on the surface ‘free offer’,  you are probably thinking that way), you will get circulation and cataloguing and all the rest from a single supplier – OCLC.

The question that comes to mind, as with all ILS systems, is will you be able to mix and match different modules (or in this case services) from different suppliers, so that libraries can have the choice of what is best for them.  Will OCLC open up the protocols (or to be technical for a moment, the hopefully RESTful APIs) to access these application/service modules so that they can not only be used with other OCLC services but with services/applications from Open Source and other commercial vendors.  Will they take note of, or even adopt, the recommendations that will come from the OLE group [discussed in last month’s Library 2.0 Gang], that should lead towards such choice.

Some have also expressed concern that a library going down the OCLC cloud services route, will be exposing themselves to the risk of ceding to OCLC control of how all their data is used and shared, not just the bibliographic data that has been at the centre of the recent storm about record reuse policies.  Against that background, one can but wonder what OCLC’s reaction to a library’s request to openly share circulation statistics from the use of their OCLC hosted circulation service would be.  

This announcement brings to the surface many thoughts, issues, concerns and technological benefits and questions, that will no doubt rattle around the library podcasting and blogosphere for many months to come.  I also expect that in the board rooms of the the well known commercial [buy our ILS and a machine to run it on] providers, there will be many searching questions being asked about how they deal with the 500lb [not-for-profit] gorilla that has just moved from the corner of the room to start dining from their [for profit] table.

This will be really interesting to watch…..

The composite image was created using pictures published on Flickr by webhamser and Crystl.

OCLC gets $5 Million from Gates Foundation

OCLC  Bill Via OCLC Press release.

OCLC to get $5 million from the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation ….

    to develop a public information campaign ….

    to help public library leaders ….

to heighten awareness of the needs of local libraries.

A couple of thoughts come to mind:

Well done Bill & Melinda, local libraries are important and should be supported in economically challenging times when their services are need more than ever.

Why OCLC?  My, no doubt naive, understanding of the US library structures would have thought that there were significantly more libraries, especially fitting in the category of ‘local library’, that were associated with ALA than membership of OCLC.

Although very quick in getting things organised terms, the piloting of a campaign “in select areas of Georgia and Iowa starting in the summer” followed by “making available community awareness campaign materials and other guides to assist library leaders throughout the country in their efforts to strengthen support for local libraries” – later in the year – may feel a bit late by many libraries predicted to experience “deep state and local funding cuts in 2009

Still, this is a very important and welcome announcement for all in support of libraries not only in the USA but everywhere.  It is promoting a message that should be echoed globally.  Public Libraries and the services they offer are of incredible importance to the public in challenging economic  times.  Their funding and support should be increased not squeezed as a recession bites.