Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA 3 -- federated searching, RFID, and supervision

I took in the new developments at Webfeat over breakfast. They are building on their core of federated searching to add remote access and ERMS. As you know we have gone with Serial Solutions for our initial foray into federated searching, but Webfeat remains the market leader in this area and it is interesting to see what they are doing. I am getting a real sense of convergence at this ALA. In the exhibits I visited the OCLC booth because I am interested in Worldcat Local and the beta test at the University of Washington. OCLC is thinking about this as a single interface that sits on top of your Integrated Library System (ILS, in our case think Sirsi) and it can do the same for multiple databases. I also took a look at AquaBrowser because so many people are talking about it. It is a web based search interface that sits on top of your ILS and can also do the same for multiple databases. See a pattern here.?

Bibliographic and inventory control is being decoupled from discovery and access. The former will remain with traditional ILS vendors (for now, though look for more generic database vendors to step up in this area and also for open source solutions to appear) and the latter will be dealt with by these new single interface solutions. So our job in the library becomes both simpler and more complex. Simpler because we no longer have to compromise between control and discovery in selecting just one integrated library system, and more complicated, because -- well -- we can no longer rely on just one integrated library system.

Then I caught a session on recent developments (standards, security, minturization, etc.) in RFID for libraries. This session was packed which surprised me, but this is one of those issues that libraries are very concerned about and, according to some people, are very actively implementing. RFID helps with logistics -- check in, check out, stack maintenance, and inventory control. A library really gains from economies of scale so it makes lots of sense for large consortia or systems with high circulation and many locations. It doesn't make much sense for low volume, high-touch operations like Rollins College. The start up costs are too high. I would contend that we have to move in an almost diametrically opposite direction. We need to find ways to squeeze costs out of our print operations so that we can use those resources on digital resources.

After that it was a session designed for new Technical Services supervisors. Not that I am one, but we now have one, Darla Moore, and I wanted to see if I could pick up any tips that might help her. I didn't, but I did have an idea I want to pursue when I get home. Or at least float it by the managers in the Olin Library and see what they think of it. I am wondering if a monthly supervisors' discussion group might be helpful. Over coffee we could discuss a particular issue a manager is facing in our library and solutions we might have. It would have to be very open, non-evaluative, and strictly confidential, but it might help us overcome what I am coming to think of as our "management deficit" and enable people to concentrate on the skills of management and learn from each other.

Finally it was dinner at Kanlaya Thai Cuisine with friends. John Pollitz has become Director of Libraries at UW Eau Claire and shamelessly copied my idea for a blog. Steve Ostrem has cut off his pony tail (the sixties are over!) Sue O'Dell continues to prosper at Bowdoin. It was good to see them all.

1 comment:

John Pollitz said...

I shamelessly copy all good ideas. Its much easier than coming up with them on ones own.