End of August I attended the Technological Developments: Threats and Opportunities for Libraries module of TICER – Digital Libraries à la Carte 2008 at the University of Tilburg, The Netherlands.
One of the speakers was Marshall Breeding. His presentation “Library Automation Challenges for the next generation” consisted of three topics, one of which was “Moving toward new generation of library automation”.
He discussed “rethinking the ILS”. The old I(ntegrated) L(ibrary) S(ystem) was about integration of acquisition, serials, cataloguing, circulation, OPAC and reporting of print material. Now we are moving towards a completely elecronic information universe, so new means of integration (and also dis-integration!) are necessary.
Developments until now have been targeted at the front ends: new integrated web 2.0 user interfaces that can also be used in a “dis-integrated” way (by means of API’s that allow embedding portions of the user interface in other environments), such as Primo, Encore, WorldCat Local, AquaBrowser, VuFind, eXtensible Catalog, etc.
Keyword here is “decoupling” of the front end from the back end. But with these products that is not really the case: there is always a harvesting, indexing and enrichting component integrated in them, that moves at least part of the content and also processing to this front end environment.
A new direction here is what Marshall Breeding calls “Comprehensive Resource Management”: the integration of all types of administration (acquisition, cataloging, OPAC, metasearching, linking, etc.) of all types of library resources (print and electronic, text and objects).
One and a half year ago (February 2007) I wrote an article “My Ideal Knowledge Base” about this in “SMUG 4 EU – Newsletter for MetaLib and SFX users” Issue 4 (page 14), targeted at Ex Libris tools Aleph, Metalib, SFX, DigiTool. I ended this vision of an ideal situation with: “Is this ideal image only a dream, or will it come true some day?“.
According to Marshall Breeding it will take 2-3 years more to see library automation systems that follow this approach and 5-7 years for wider adoption. He also said that traditional ILS vendors were working on this, but that no public announcements had been made yet.
Exactly two weeks later, at IGeLU2008 in Madrid, Ex Libris announced and presented their plans for URM (Unified Resources Management) and URD2 (Unified Resource Discovery and Delivery, meaning Primo). Eventually all of their existing products will be integrated in this new next generation environment. The first release will focus on ERM (Electronic Resource Management).
Short term plans for existing tools are focused on preparing them for the new URM/URD2 environment. For instance SFX 4.0 will have a re-designed database ready for integration with URM 1.0.
MetaLib will see its final official version with minor release 4.3 spring 2009. After that a “next generation metasearch tool” will be developed with a completely re-designed back end and metasearch engine, and Primo as front end. Existing customers will be able to upgrade to this NextGen MetaSearch without paying a license fee for Primo (remote search option only).
Interesting times ahead….