A Web presence for every library

| | Comments Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0) | Bookmark or Share
In April of 2010 OCLC started the Innovation Lab, a small team focused on the exploration of new technologies in uncharted spaces to enhance the products and services offered by the OCLC cooperative. Examples include the beta WorldCat mobile offering at http://worldcat.org/m and the social network integration Ask4Stuff.

The Innovation Lab also explores new services focused on the needs of specific segments of the library community. We are ready to share our work to date on a very early, experimental service aimed at providing a low cost and easy-to-use Web site service for small and rural public libraries and are looking for feedback and direction from the library community. Investigations into this type of service have started before at OCLC and elsewhere, but have often stumbled due to the challenges inherent in starting with an existing service and adapting it. Understanding this, we took a different, non-traditional path to exploring this opportunity.

In our first rounds of analysis, we wanted to start by visiting the Web sites of the types of libraries we wished to partner with--public libraries with 10 or fewer staff which represents roughly 25% of the U.S. public library community. It was a surprise to me that most of these 2,000-or-so libraries have no working or discoverable web presence. A full 20 years after the invention of the Web, every library deserves to have a presence on the Internet. This became our inspiration. In parallel with the initial analysis, we started a set of staff prototyping efforts. At the beginning of each week, for four consecutive weeks, various staff brought prototypes of software but also of service models and even new service announcements. At the end of the four weeks, we selected some of the most compelling ideas and set out to develop an experimental release by January.

As an experimental service, this is intended to be suggestive of future possibilities. It exists, at this stage, to attract feedback, advice and contributions from the community for the community (YouTube introduction). Anticipated initial features could include:

  1. A pre-populated, template driven Web site for every public library in the US.
  2. Every library can claim their site and modify its contents.
  3. A mobile presentation for every library.
  4. Access to a selection of open access, electronic full text content for users with no staff effort.
  5. Simple inventory management in the cloud based on the power of WorldCat.
  6. Simple patron management service (for those without a current solution).
  7. Simple lending functionality (check out, check in, hold, cancel, renew).

Our hope is that this will be an affordable way for small libraries to participate in the OCLC cooperative and leverage the value of our members' combined resources.

To see the experimental service, come see us at ALA Midwinter on Sunday, January 9 at 5-7 pm in the OCLC Blue Suite in the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. We will release a publicly accessible (still experimental!) version at that time. Remember, this is really, really early. Some things will work, some will not. To provide feedback, please email directly to the OCLC Innovation Lab at innovation@oclc.org. We hope to find some early adopters that are willing to push the limits and represent their small library in this environment and define a sustainable future.

It is now up to you to help us answer "Where should we go from here?"

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: A Web presence for every library.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://community.oclc.org/coop_config/mt-tb.cgi/36

Comments 3 Comments

Judy Van Acker said:

I did not attend ALA, but wanted to ask about existing records being pulled into the web site. How does that happen? Maybe that was discussed, but again I may have missed it. From personal experience with rural libraries, some of these folks have automated ILS systems and some don’t. Some libraries are hanging on to their antiquated circulation systems with no support, which is scary because they could lose their data if they don’t have a system to back up their records. Some libraries want to jump to another more reliable ILS, but do not have the funds to migrate. How this system help these libraries?

Thanks, Judy

Umberto said:

Are there projects to do this around the world? It'll be a good thing, to find a library using geoprocessing, etc.

Mike Teets said:

Thanks very much for the comments, ideas and thoughts on the project. I would like everyone to keep in mind that, at this stage, it really is an “experiment,” meaning that we do not have something even close to a product ready to launch, even as a beta or test service. We’re investigating all aspects of the idea, including what features might be in the service, pricing options, availability, etc.

We are looking for feedback and conversations around the idea (which we’re trying to centralize on the WebJunction discussion group here: http://www.webjunction.org/923/-/resources/discussion), and are excited that so many people think it may be worth pursuing.

@Judy: While at this stage of the experiment we've discussed the possibility of some limited lending functions, the service would in no way replace or even augment an ILS; that's not its purpose. The idea is to provide a Web presence for the library itself; a good, clean, helpful "home page" as it were, making it easier for users to find and use other library services, including more full featured lending functions.

The new Web-scale Management Services (WMS) that OCLC is rolling out would be more in line with what you're discussing. See this page for more info: http://www.oclc.org/us/en/webscale/default.htm

@Umberto: At this stage, we're not sure of what geographies the service might cover. We'll keep your comment in mind, though... thanks.