Panlibus Blog

Utility Library Services

Over on the Amazon Web Services Blog, Jeff posts to dispel the ‘it must be more difficult than this‘ mists around subscribing to, consuming, and [in the case of their S3 simple storage service] paying for Web Services from Amazon.

With this post I would like to make clear just how easy it is to use this type of web service. I’m writing this because some of the developers that I talk to seem to think that it really has to be harder than it really is, and I want to correct that notion as soon as possible.

In previous Panlibus postings from Paul & myself; in Library 2.0 Gang conversations; in Library 2.0 white papers [1][2]; in conference presentations; and in Paul Miller’s latest D-Lib Article on Library 2.0, you will find a theme behind the technological part of Library 2.0 – small pieces loosely coupled.

The Lego brick analogy, that Paul used in his CiL2006 presentation, seems to have helped people get the Web 2.0 principles behind what is being discussed.

Stretching the analogy a little further – assembling/orchestrating your [Library] Service from smaller bricks [bits of library] that easily interconnect is fine, provided that it is easy to get hold of the bricks [bits of library service] in the first place. If you need a very special [but still standard] brick to finish your Model Library, you just pop to Toys R Us to get it. So where to you go get the [bits of library] Web Services? – today, the answer is all over the place, and at the moment they are not very Lego-ish.

That is why we, at Talis, believe that a Platform of, and for, Library Services must and will be established to deliver the cross institution and cross vendor standardization [Lego-ness] and ease of consumption [Toys R Us – ness]. This second attribute is of equal importance to the first. You may have the best Web Service in the world, but if a potential user has to jump through several hoops, sign loads of agreements, and send you a cheque before they try to use it, they almost certainly won’t.

Whilst building services on the Platform we [the Vendors and the Libraries] need to take this, and Amazon’s example, in to account. Consuming a library service, regardless of the Library or the Library System Vendor, should be as easy as consuming an Amazon/eBay/Google/ service – sign up and away you go. The consumers of the services will expect the full subscriber experience [thanks again Amazon for the example] – to be able to manage their accounts, get reports on usage, etc. And if some of the services incur usage costs, that should be simply be via their normal account management.

If we get this right, consuming Utility Library Services should be as easy as consuming any other utility computing services. Then the creative Librarian 2.0 community can concentrate on the what, instead of the how of Library 2.0.

As has already been identified by many, this will be a disruption to the way we all provide and consume systems and services. It will be an interesting journey. Join the open community and the discussions to help shape the route.

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