The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) here in the UK, a principal funder of my old role at the Common Information Environment, has issued an Invitation To Tender (ITT) for a strategic review of their Resource Discovery Services;
“The purpose of the review is twofold: it will assess potential for convergence and economies of scale in the underlying technologies used to deliver the services; it will look at how the services may be enhanced with new technologies in order to support flexible integration across the services and within the wider resource discovery environment such as library management systems, digital repositories or search engines.
It is anticipated that the review will begin in April 2006 and will provide the evaluative report by the middle of May 2006. A final advisory report will be expected by the end of July 2006. The recommendations from the review will inform decisions about the provision of services and also development activity that might be required to enhance the services or their use.”
Specifically, the Review is meant to consider the Archives Hub, COPAC, SUNCAT and Zetoc, and to consider related non-service activities such as the central OpenURL Router, GetRef, and others.
I wonder about the extent to which end users continue to find the distinction between the types of resources offered by these services and those from something like the Resource Discovery Network (RDN) sensible? Is it time to go further than ‘simply’ seeking “convergence and economies of scale” across such similar services as these? Indeed, before I opened the Word document, I’d assumed that the ITT probably was for (yet another) review of the RDN…
Discovering RDN-type resources (web pages, etc) probably needs to fall within scope somewhere along the line. As, surely, does request fulfillment. If I find a book in COPAC or a journal in SUNCAT or Zetoc, how do I quickly, easily, and affordably lay my hands on the thing? How can we leverage the stock sat idle in libraries around the country? How can we leverage request data to ensure that out-of-print materials that are in demand get reprinted? How can we offer informed choices to searchers about the availability and relative merits of borrowing, buying new, and buying second hand? How do we make it easier and more efficient and reliable to shop around?
A few of the terms of reference do appear to point in particularly interesting directions, however;
“whether there is potential for increased takeup of services for example by opening them for contributions across the community”
Participation in the population of national infrastructure. Now that could be interesting. It would also be valuable to look beyond JISC and the mentioned stakeholders (the BL and RIN) to think about how some of these services might become embedded in other domains. I spent some time in my last job, for example, exploring whether or not Zetoc might sensibly be opened up to public libraries, taking a short-term revenue hit on subscriptions to the charged equivalent in order to deliver a better service and – I reckoned – to actually earn loads more in terms of document supply transactions down the line. It still seems like a good idea, but the people I talked to at the BL were never convinced. Short-sighted money grabbing, or a more profound grasp of the issues than I managed?
“how the services might be further enhanced by working with others or by making use of provision offered by other organisations for example OCLC , library systems vendors such as TALIS or search engine providers”
And, presumably, questions about whether or not one of these is actually going to solve the problem for your users, whether you build something else or not. Google, for example, could throw a lot of effort behind any number of these problems. So could some of the others mentioned. At Talis, we’d much prefer a cooperative approach by which we all get to recoup far higher levels of our various ways of measuring value on value-add services, rather than wasting resources on building innumerable competing Big Buckets of essentially value-light data. The value is shifting. We all just need to work out where it’s going, and at least keep up with it.
So we’d certainly like to talk to whoever does the work.
“whether the services can be offered in a modular fashion in order that they might for example be integrated within other systems provided to learners and researchers, such as virtual learning environments (VLEs), library portals or catalogues or other examples of managed learning environments (MLEs)”
Web Services. APIs. Portlets. Yes!!!
“how services might better support personalisation, in particular with reference to the JISC personalisation report”
Some of them could start by supporting it at all. It’s a real shame that some of the good work in the Personalisation report hasn’t been more widely picked up upon.
If you’re interested, you have until 9 March to submit a proposal.
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