Saturday, January 16, 2010

Library Automation Vendors Discuss Bicycles at ALA Midwinter

For the last 20 years Rob McGee, a library consultant, has run a "president's panel" at ALA Midwinter. I try to go whenever I can, because you can go and talk with the people who run the library automation industry and hear what they're thinking. Yesterday's was typical, interspersing a fair amount of tedium with a few lively and enlightening moments. I won't attempt to cover what was said, but I will tell you about the liveliest moment.

Last year, in Denver, I sat in the audience next to Andrew Pace, who has often been a questioner. In past years, he would write about the panel in his American Libraries blog, Hectic Pace. This year, he was behind the podium, representing OCLC. He's not been made President or anything, but he has been leading OCLC's effort to produce cloud-based library managment services. (Disclosure: I worked with Andrew when I was at OCLC.)

Andrew woke me from my Twitter-distracted slumber with a story about his bicycle. It seems that when Andrew was a boy, he had a bicycle, and it was a plain Schwinn without the banana seats and gears that all the other boys had. (I apologize for inaccuracies in my account, Andrew managed to make it sound un-dorky.) His next-door neighbor was about 2 years older than he was, and suggested that he could make Andrew's bike much better by taking it apart and putting it back together.

Andrew's parents came home to find the driveway covered with bike parts. It took a while to get the bike back together again, but once that was done, it was pretty much the same bike.

"We don't need a next generation integrated library system", Pace went on. That would be like taking apart my bike and putting it back together again. No matter what you do, if you have the same pieces, you'll get the same bike. What we need, according to Pace, are entirely new pieces that work together so that libraries can manage their libraries at a lower cost.

Suddenly, everyone in the room was awake. Gary Rautenstrauch, CEO of SirsiDynix, quickly responded "You know, I had the same bike". Rautenstrauch said that he took his bike, and stuck a playing card in between the spokes, which made a really cool sound, and then added some streamers to the handlebars. And that was a really good bike.

Next up with the bike story was Catherine Wilt, President of Lyrasis, the nation’s largest regional membership organization serving libraries and information professionals. She said that Pace was not really wanting to have a bike at all, he wanted a Razor.

"No" said Pace, "what I really wanted was a jet-pack".
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1 comment:

  1. I'm all for a jet-pack as well but the Koha and Evergreen projects are serving a very important purpose even though they are still ILSses. Namely, it is moving us from a state of learned helplessness, giving us a chance to develop new skills, and starting to generate a sense of excitement and hopefulness in libraries. In order to determine whether we need a Razor, a jet-pack or a unicycle, we need to build up our atrophied muscles and brain cells and take responsibility for ourselves. Outsourcing that piece to someone else has not served us well. We need to bring it in house and/or work much more closely with our vendor-partners.