Monday, February 6, 2012

Serials Solutions pre conf seminar part 2

Next was Jane Burke to talk about Intota - a work in progress at Serials Solutions, but before I talk about it let me relate a recurring theme in my job.

Maybe once a year it will come up. An informal discussion at management level about what we are going to do about our Library Management System.  Is there something better out there? How much would it cost?  How many psycotherapy sesssions would I need to recover from a tender process and needs analysis?  How many cases of PTSD would conversion to a new LMS cause?  Tongue in cheek I often say 'if we hold off a bit longer people will stop reading paper books and we can stop worrying about it.

Well who would have thought other people think about this stuff too - although from a more intelligent and pragmatic standpoint.  And this is where Intota comes in.  I won't do it justice, and it is still in phase 1 of a three phase development, but basically the problem with an LMS is that it's stuck in old way libraries used to work.  We used to by books and other physical objects and so we it was reasonable for the acquisitions, cataloguing, searching and circulation functions to sit in one 'Integrated Library System' (ILS)

But things have changed. Clients still look for information objects (although increasingly these are virtual and Summon is a response to that need)
Around 80% of our budget is on electronic resources now and most of those are bought as packages not individual objects, but we still try and squeeze this metadata into an ILS ill-suited to it. 

What's more is that every institution is maintaining it's own store of metadata usually managed by an arcane series of accident-prone batch exports and imports that very skilled people spend much of their effort in maintaining.  Often we end up  duplicating certain types of information and workflows just to make things work - as an example entering financial data into our ILS and separately into our corporate finance systems.

Intota is intended to be a web scale management tool. Relying on open standards, an API, being SaaS, utilising shared data and linked data.

I so get that I am explaining this badly but maybe you'll get an inkling by considering one scenario Jane used.

Imagine you searched Summon - and got nothing, so you expanded your search to 'Outside your Library's Collection' and found something that looked great - AND it had a 'Request this item' link - and when you clicked on it authenticated you as part of your institution and created a request (that included your preferred format and maybe other things relevant to the type of user you are e.g. an academic might get to choose how many copies and which campuses, a student could request an ebook over a print copy)  and  you could automate the acceptance of these requests by a set of rules, so that only exceptions ever required human intervention. 

Now the order is sent to your preferred supplier automatically and the metadata record is tagged as in your collection (on order) still without human intervention - when it's available the requester is notified. That's just one scenario, but imagine no longer having to do monthly Marc loads into a cantankerous ILS - that the appropriate records appear in your 'catalogue' instantaneously, not having manually add holdings to your union catalogue, not worrying about authorities or even backups because it's all SaaS, and any data corrections are done once and shared by all.

Further more because of the SOA approach realtime data interchange with authentication and finance systems is possible.

I am so not doing the potential justice.  But what the measure of success of Intota will be is the ability to unlock the money currently used to maintain your ILS. Secondary to that is freeing up highly skilled staff from the intricate mundanity of data quality and maintenance to focus on service development and delivery.

It might seem a little pie in the sky, but as Jane freely admits they are not the first player to enter into this and their three stage overlapping development plan ends with the development of a circulation model in 2013 - that's not that far away.

And it would all be web based - no client software required.

I wish them well.

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