Innovation: August 2010 Archives

Building Community

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On occasion, I still get asked, "Why did you go to OCLC?"  That combined with "What and Why is Web-scale Management Services?" comprise my top two FAQ.   In fact, I recently recorded an answer to the first two questions for inclusion on the OCLC Web scale site. (The third most-asked question is, of course, "Why Ohio?" but that is bit off-topic and a whole 'nother story).

Back to OCLC and Web Scale--every story has deeper roots than can be articulated in a 3 1/2 minute video.  Since I was a kid, I always liked taking things apart.  But I'm not much of a mechanic or an engineer, so putting things back together again was never my strong suit.  Software product management afforded better opportunities for putting things back together in new ways.  

As I've said before, library online catalogs were an easy place to start--with the bar so low, how could a library or service provider fail to improve the state of the art?  Library management  systems, though, present a tougher challenge.  Replicating existing workflows and functionality in a new technology stack would not suffice--libraries need (deserve!) a more meaningful sea change.  So anyone can dismantle a library resource management system, but few could put one back together in a way that introduces efficiencies, reduces total cost of technology ownership, and opens up the doors to a robust developer community.

I came to OCLC because it had three things no one else did in combination--WorldCat, a proven track-record of scalable and cloud-based services (before "the cloud" we just called it "the network"), and the biggest community of libraries in the world.  Data, technology, and community--the perfect combination for defining a new future in library automation.

But it's the community I love the most and it's the part in which I see the most value.  And I'm thrilled by three fantastic community activities in which OCLC is involved coming to fruition all in one month.

First, the launch of a new website for the OCLC Developer Network.  Karen Coombs and many, many others have been working feverishly to put up this new Drupal site for support of the Developer Network.  I encourage folks to register at the site.

Second, it's always good for the left hand and the right hand to be in synch...getting four hands in synch is a remarkable success.  I was very excited this week to see the coordination of an effort between the DLF ILS-DI task force, the eXtenisble Catalog (XC) developer group, the OCLC Developer Network, and the product developers of the Web-scale Management Services software.  OCLC will contribute an implementation of version 2.0 of the NCIP standard, derived from the OCLC Web-scale Management Services codebase, to the eXtensible Catalog's open-source NCIP Toolkit. I for one hope that this will give interop developers a leg-up on implementation of the new version of the standard.

Finally, every community starts with a first member.  The WMS project that is a large part of my work here at OCLC has been blessed by the contributions of its advisors, pilot testers, and dozens of people at OCLC who have been part of this important development effort. Nevertheless, someone from that community will stand out.  Forgive the undeserved and arguably blasphemous ecclesiastical spin on software development, but I still love the quote: "Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go first."  So huge thanks to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga for going live with WMS. As their semester starts, they are very, very close to one of the fastest migrations that I have ever witnessed for a library of their size and scope.

I see the beginnings of a wonderful pioneer community that will grow larger and larger, harnessing the collective innovation of that much larger library, service provider, and user community of which OCLC is a part.  I will resist the urge to go crazy with this metaphor.  Suffice it to say that I am very excited to see the beginning of something new.

About the Author

Andrew K. Pace

I am Executive Director for Networked Library Services at OCLC. I am also a past President of LITA. On occasion, I am known for pontificating "on stage, in writing, and via the web" on a variety of issues important to libraries.

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